Melissa Etheridge. Courtesy photo
Last year, the Pepsi Amphitheater brought Sheryl Crow to town for a fun sing-along kind of rock show. Crow emerged in the mid-1990s among a bumper crop of female singer-songwriters finding success in the era of the all-woman Lilith Fair and indie and major labels promoting more female artists.
This year, the amphitheater brings another big-name female singer first arising from that era: Melissa Etheridge. Etheridge turned into a chart-topping superstar with her 1993 album Yes I Am. It spent 138 weeks on the Billboard 200 charts and yielded two top-20 hits with “I’m the Only One” and “Come to My Window.” The album went platinum six times over.
She followed that up with the album “Your Little Secret.” It went double-platinum and included two top-40 singles with “I Want to Come Over” and “Nowhere to Go.” She has won two Grammy Awards as well as an Academy Award for the song she wrote for the 2007 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” called “I Need to Wake Up.”
Etheridge will play the amphitheater on Sat, June 23. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $92.50 for reserved seating or $50.75 for general seating (including all fees). Special lawn tickets for county residents are available for $25. Learn more at www.pepsiamp.com and www.melissaetheridge.com, or call 214-6485.
She agreed to a phone interview ahead of her show to talk about the tour, her upcoming album and her ongoing career.
Melissa Etheridge: This is a let’s-keep-in-shape tour. This also is the international part of the Fearless Love tour. I hadn’t been to Europe in a while, and this tour also includes New Zealand and Australia. It has kept me in such great shape to do some shows, take a break, and then head back out on the road again.
No, that’s not something I’m doing with this tour. I believe the best thing I can do for the things I believe in such as health, nutrition and freedom for sexuality is to remain healthy, happy and fearless.
I feel I’ve done the best I’ve could for gay marriage. Really, the best thing I can do now is to be available to talk about it and to be thoughtful about it—to have an opinion … It’s a great thing to celebrate all diversity. It’s really diversity that makes America great, and I think we have to remember that.
The band I have now is one I hired in 2010 when the Fearless Love album came out, with Blair Sinta on drums and Brett Simmons on bass. And we’ve added Peter Thorn on guitar. It’s a bare band, really, but it’s rocking … it’s a big sound.
No matter where I am, I have quite a few songs I have to play. But I don’t have to do all of them every night. I also get to deeper album cuts. I think bringing that balance is what makes a healthy show.
There is a spine of songs I do every night. There’s maybe five or six of those. Then, I have these spaces that I fill between those songs. I look at the timeframe I have for the show. Then, I look at the region where I’m playing. There are songs that resonate in different parts of the country and the world. In Arizona, I’ll think of songs that fit this region or place. Then, I think about what kind of mood I’m in that night and that can play a factor. [Putting together the set list] is something that I really enjoy doing.
I think this album is fresh in its down-to-earth portrayal of me. I’m playing all of the guitars on it. I really let myself play the guitar this time. I seem to be rocking harder and harder the older I get, which is opposite of how I thought it would go. I’ve gotten to be a better songwriter, too … With this new album, the fans are just going to love it.
The funny thing is that I’m 50. But I look around me and I see that a lot of the musicians out there making it happen are younger than I am. But then I see many who are older than me but are still going at it. I see Mick (Jagger) and Bruce (Springsteen). So, there’s nothing telling me that I can’t do what I want to do and that I can’t keep doing it. I can still spend an evening playing rock ‘n’ roll.
I think like everyone I fell in love in Adele. There’s true emotion in her singing. And I have really enjoyed the wave of folk-rock stuff such as the Decemberists and the Head and the Heart. I also love Kings of Leon. I like this music that has rock roots but is still thinking outside of the box.
Each of the albums comes from a different time in my life. They show what I’m learning and what I’m going through. The songs are really the outcome of personal experience.
The biggest lesson I have learned is to do what you love. I am not going to do something because someone else tells me to or it’s something I feel pressured to do. If I stay in the moment and focus on the intention of creating only what I love, it doesn’t matter what else happens. That’s my biggest lesson.