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Few musical artists can claim to have enjoyed a career like Melissa Etheridge, particularly as out and proud lesbians. Etheridge came out publicly while her career was on the upswing in 1993 and has continued to enjoy commercial success, while maintaining a following of devoted fans.
Etheridge performed at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium earlier this month, where she regaled audiences with her classic hits, songs from her recent This Is M.E., and introduced some music from her forthcoming Memphis Rock & Soul. We spoke with her ahead of the performance, where she promised, “We're just going to have a good old Melissa Etheridge night at the Ryman.”
About Memphis Rock and Soul, Etheridge said, “I went to Memphis—as far as I'm concerned Memphis is the birthplace of rock and roll—and recorded and reimagined some Stax songs with so many of these musicians that are still around and have been playing this music in Memphis. I rewrote and rearranged the songs with utmost respect to the original versions and … I think the fans are just going to love it. If you love me singing about a broken heart, you know, ‘I've Been Loving You Too Long,’ then you're going to love this album. It's a great time!”
I caught up with Etheridge shortly before Orlando changed the tone of a month dedicated to celebrating the LGBT community. Just a few days later, she announced she was releasing a song, “Pulse,” benefiting the victims of the shooting.
“I'm just doing what musicians have always done," Etheridge told Billboard. "We've always been the ones that bring the news to the town and we're the mirrors of society. We give that song we can all sing when we all get together. That's my job.” And it’s a job Etheridge has been doing superbly for many years.
“My first Pride experience was in 1984,” Etheridge recalled when we spoke. “I was living in Long Beach, and we went up to the Los Angeles Pride Festival—Christopher Street West, it was called at the time—and oh that was quite a moving experience!”
Though she didn’t come out in a very public statement until 1993, Etheridge was no stranger to the LGBT scene. Still, the experience was transformative. “It’s one thing,” she explained, “to be in a club, a gay bar, with forty or fifty people maybe that were gay… But to be with thousands of people on Santa Monica Boulevard celebrating Pride, that was, that really stuck with me, and it really showed me how important it is to come out and be out in numbers and support. It was just wonderful!”
Etheridge finds it strange that her identity as a lesbian remained so below-the-radar for so long because of how “out” she had been. “Oh, yeah, it was really funny,” she said, “because I was discovered in a lesbian bar. That's where I played, and I was huge in that scene, and I'd been playing women's music festivals. I had a huge lesbian following. Right before my first album, I'd done a little tour I'd put together myself: it's what "You Can Sleep While I Drive" is written about. I went to all these little cities and played in lesbian bars and coffee houses and things.”
When she got signed, she wondered how the label would deal with her sexuality. “When my first record came out,” she said, “I remember asking my record company, ‘Well, what do we do about the gay thing?’ And they were like, ‘Well, we don't know! We don’t want you to pretend to be anything you aren’t, but we don't know.’ They just didn't know, so it was kind of this ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ thing. I kept hoping someone would ask me so I could go, ‘Yeah.’ But nobody asked, so it wasn't until I kinda said, ‘Hey, I'm gay,’ that it gave every permission to ask.”
Ultimately, it was Etheridge’s desire to be in solidarity with, and to support, those fighting for LGBT rights that drove Etheridge to come out. “I had been active and had many friends in the gay community as I kept putting albums out and started to get my own little notoriety and success. I was doing work with these people. This was the AIDS crisis, this was the height of our organizing, and it was one of the first times that gay and lesbian organizations helped elect a president. I was very involved in the Clinton-Gore campaign, and I met these amazing people from all the beautiful organizations we had at the time, and I thought, ‘This is ridiculous, I need to come out!’ You know, I needed to make a statement?”
So Etheridge made a plan to come out, but in the end a special moment sparked a spontaneous declaration. “I had a new album coming out at the end of 1993,” she explained. “My plan was to go on Arsenio Hall and come out, but I was invited to come to the Triangle Ball at the Clinton-Gore inauguration, and it just was a
beautiful time, celebrating with our brothers and sisters. And so I sort of said, there, ‘Yeah, I'm gay,’ ... and there it was!”
That same year, Etheridge made headlines by boycotting Colorado over Amendment 2, which the *New York Times* described as voiding “existing civil rights protections in jobs and housing for gay men and lesbians in Denver, Aspen and Boulder and will bar other localities from passing such ordinances.”
I asked Etheridge about her view on boycotts now, in light of the current boycotts by artists of states which have passed anti-LGBT legislation. “Oh, I think it's effective when businesses do, definitely,” she explained. “When a business says, ‘I’m not going to do business with this state because of its laws,’ that’s super effective. When a high profile celebrity or something does it, it can be good because it brings attention.”
However, her own experience with boycotts and activism have led her to a different conclusion. “As I look back over the thirty-some odd years I've been doing this now,” she said, “my best activism has come from just being willing to be out and speaking and being that person who will answer that question. My best activism is accomplished by being there and being the person they can say, ‘Well, she's gay, and she's not so bad.’ The last boycott I did was Colorado—that was it—the rest of them I like to show up. I don't want to leave my brothers and sisters alone in North Carolina...”
“I made a choice,” she explained, “that the people who are coming to my show … are my brothers and sisters that are there in that state, doing the work. I'm going to go in there, I'm going to donate money to the equal rights organizations there—to NCEquality—and I'm going to support and give a voice to what’s going on, to show people what they can do.”
Etheridge acknowledges that not everyone will understand, or welcome, her decision. “I get it, it totally get it,” she said, “but I thought about it, I put a lot of thought into it, and I really want to come and support and be part of it. I want to talk to their news stations. Let's support those that are doing such good work in Tennessee and North Carolina and really change this!”
As to the backlash the LGBT community has seen over the previous year, Etheridge takes a largely optimistic view. “It's the last wailing, dying call of an old hate, of an old fear, that's really trying to get legitimacy again but can’t in this day and age. You just can't!”
“Our own fear of our own sexuality,” she said, “is just kind of embarrassing, I think, an American Puritan thing. Find me something that says that our Creator, who created us all, in some way hates something they created? It makes no sense! I think, as history has shown us, in moving forward of our humanity and embracing diversity, these sort of obstacles will come up. We will overcome them, and you'll ask me in ten years, ‘Oh, remember when that was a big deal?’”
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.