My phone rings and when I answer it, I hear Melissa Etheridge’s distinctive voice come on the line.
We chit-chat for a few minutes—the Super Bowl just took place and she’s excited that the Kansas City Chiefs won—and you immediately feel like she’s a close friend. She’s warm and friendly, joking around easily.
She tells me that she’s always been drawn to singing.
“I’ve just always loved music and always felt really drawn to being on a stage and having people share in an energy of something I created,” she says. “And as I got older, I learned to play the guitar, I learned to write, and I just got on this sort of path, this sort of dream and it kept coming true, and so I just didn’t have any reason to stop.”
In fact, Etheridge left college to move to Los Angeles and pursue her dream.
“I just wasn’t built for sitting in a class and learning about music when I wanted to get on with my life and play the music,” she says.
That leap of faith paid off, and today, the beloved singer and songwriter has two Grammy Awards (from 15 nominations), and an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "I Need to Wake Up" from the film An Inconvenient Truth (2006)—amongst other accolades. She’s released eight albums, and her hit songs have included “Come to My Window,” “Like the Way I Do/If I Wanted To,” “I’m the Only One,” and “I Will Never Be The Same.”
As to what inspires her music, she says, “Life. Over all these years, when I started to dream this dream in the ’70s, I always thought that songwriters were to live life and then write about it … write about what you know. And the best [songs] I have, that’s what I’ve done. You just do what you can, and you write what you know.”
From growing up in Kansas to moving to Los Angeles to coming out to batting breast cancer—and everything in between—Etheridge has had her share of life experiences.
“I’ve lived long enough now to know that however things are in the moment, they will always change, so no matter how bad it gets, it will always change, and also, no matter how great it gets. There’s this beautiful wave of motion that keeps us moving and moving forward, so every day is a new, different, exciting possibility. So, I don’t get stuck in the past. Everything I want is in the future, so I just keep moving and that’s the fun of it all; that’s the joy.
Part of her joy is touring. Etheridge appreciates what she does and enjoys being on the road, she says.
She’s been to the Valley many times before—"It’s kind of like in the backyard of California, so really close. Everyone out there really loves rock ’n’ roll”—and is looking forward to her stop in Chandler at Chandler Center for the Arts on April 23.
Attendees will hear the hits, as well as songs you haven’t heard before.
“If you’ve seen me before, you know [my shows] are always different, but always guaranteed to be a great time celebrating music,” she shares. “You’ll probably hear one or two things you haven’t heard before, but the others will be things you know and love.”
In addition to touring, Etheridge has been busy with other projects on the horizon. She’s working to get her one-woman Broadway show back for this fall in New York City. She also has a book coming out the end of this year, as well as a film.
“It’s a lot of stuff!” she says, laughing. “But right now, I’m just going out and making some music.”
I ask what she’d be doing if she wasn’t a musician. She pauses a moment, and then says, “A teacher. My father wasn’t a teacher. If music wasn’t in my life—which I cannot imagine—I think I’d still want to be in front of people and educate and learn and share ideas.”
I ask her, if she looks back, is there anything she would have changed about her career?
“Well, I’m sure there’s stuff, but no, I’m very, very fortunate. I’m very blessed with how my career has gone, and I still go on the road and people still come to see me, so no, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Melissa Etheridge will perform at Chandler Center for the Arts on April 23. Tickets are available at ChandlerCenter.org.