Photo by James Minchin III.
Rocker Melissa Etheridge hits Chicago November 10th for a gig at one of her favorite venues, The Chicago Theatre. She spoke with Our Town about everything from her pre-show rituals to her emotional evolution.
OT In terms of your own songs, you’ve been writing since you were ten. How has your writing process changed?
ME It’s definitely changed since I was ten. The process is kind of always the same. It’s from inspiration and inspiration comes from all kinds of different places--I can sit down with a guitar and just play and that inspires me, or it can be lyrics that come to me, or a situation, like, “oh, I want to write about this,” it can be a rhythm, a painting can inspire a feeling in me. After I’m inspired, I just have to be alone with my instrument to write. That’s all that’s required.
OT On the new album, “A Disaster” seems to be about someone so caught up in their anger over a relationship’s demise that they refuse to acknowledge its positive aspects. What was your inspiration?
ME It’s no secret what I’ve been going through the last couple years. “A Disaster” is just me throwing down the white flag, saying you know what, let’s just call this. Let’s say, this is horrible, it was awful, and let’s walk away. You can’t fix it. No more, she said, she said; let’s just call it a disaster and move on.
OT Is letting go of things something that’s gotten easier for you over the years?
ME Yeah, in that I’ve realized that the sooner you can let go of things, the sooner healing can happen. When you’re hooked into them and you’re reacting over and over, you just stay in that and you can’t get over it. So letting go, taking a deep breath and saying, “that’s the past, it is what it is and I can’t change anybody else. I know my truth and where I’m standing, so I’m just going to let that go.” That took me a while, but it keeps me happy now.
OT You cultivate a sense of intimacy when you’re performing. What goes into achieving that?
ME I’ve learned intimacy doesn't come from singing loud enough so that 20 thousand people can hear. Intimacy comes from believing inside of myself in a very still way that each person is standing right in front of me, and I’m singing just to them. That’s the only way you can project that to that large a crowd. It’s a real challenge and a talent and it’s taken me many years to cultivate it.
OT Is there anything you HAVE to do before you play a gig?
ME The whole show becomes a routine. Sound-check, dinner, hair and makeup, get dressed, go to meet and greet, come back, stretch, talk with the band about what’s going on. We do what’s called ‘vibe’ where we put our heads together, get us all in one space and then we go onstage. If we didn’t do it like that, I could still play, but the routine becomes a beautiful ritual.
OT I read you’re working with your partner on a possible Broadway show. First of all, is that the case?
ME Yes, but between her TV work and my music work, it’s on the back burner. It gets attention every now and then. It’s a big dream I have, so hopefully in the next five years it will come to fruition.
OT What's the best thing about collaborating with you partner?
ME The best thing is you can do it anywhere anytime. We can throw around ideas and thoughts without scheduling time to get together. I also love her work so much. I’m such a fan of hers and she’s a fan of mine.
OT Quick fan question from Facebook fans: Madonna or Lady Gaga.
ME Wow, that’s difficult because I like Lady Gaga’s voice. If I was just going to listen to one or the other, I’d choose Lady Gaga. Yet there’s something about Madge’s approach and performance that I’ve always been drawn to. I’ll have to say Madonna.
OT What are you looking forward to about coming to Chicago?
ME I just love Chicago so much. The city itself is just beautiful--the shopping, the food, the warm, midwestern feeling. But I just love playing shows. Chicago is one of my three favorite places to perform. Especially the Chicago Theatre. It’s made for Rock and Roll.
To purchase tickets for the November 10th show go here.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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