Memphis Rock And Soul

By Sarah Toce, June 2017 Issue.

Grammy and Oscar award-winning singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge has been celebrated three decades over for her paramount career in the recording industry, and now she’s upping the ante. You can do that when you’re the sitting atop the happiest point in your life.

“This tour is kind of a combination – over the years I feel like I’ve been working on the greatest set list in the world on every album,” Etheridge said. “ … You’re still gonna hear the hits, but you’re gonna see me in a way that you’ve never seen me before – ever, ever, ever. It’s probably the most dynamic I’ve ever been with these songs … It’s just a crazy amazing fun, fun, fun, fun, fun time.”

Etheridge’s catalog is as successful as they come. Still, she reveals a secret hope to fold a new dynamic into the fray.

“What I’d like to present are the songs you know and love. You’re gonna hear those hit songs – they’re just the staple of the show,” she said. “Then, I’m gonna bring some of the Memphis Rock and Soul songs to this tour. They’re just amazing.”

Etheridge’s efforts to constantly improve her performance don’t take a back seat on this tour, which will hit Talking Stick Resort’s Salt River Grand Ballroom May 25.

“The craziest thing is, I’ve actually gotten better [with experience],” she said. “That is the thing that gets me. Every year I go out there and I think, ‘How am I gonna learn? How am I gonna get better?’ And I do get better. It’s really been so great pushing myself to perform these songs with the horns and things, it’s just a blast.”

Her message to fans – new and old: “Do come out, do enjoy.”

When asked if there was one song in particular that she most looked forward to performing on this tour, she replied: “It’s a combination [of the music]. You never know which song is going to resonate with the crowds. I mean, I always know that ‘Come to My Window’ is the biggest hit there is and such, but every crowd has its own spirit …”

Etheridge’s monumental 2002 hit “Giant” might be more relevant now than when it was first released – if that’s even remotely possible.

“The song was originally written in 2002 from my Lucky album,” Etheridge shared. “When I was in Berlin, I wrote the song. I had been in Berlin in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down because I just happened to be playing a gig on the very weekend that history was happening. When I was there, what really struck me as I was standing in the middle of history was that people coming together create change and anything can happen.”

The song’s worldly lesson of growth and change has multiplied in importance over time.

“People can bring walls down. People can change minds and hearts. That song is about that – it’s about: you can’t hold people back,” she said. “That it will rise and the change will come and the walls will come tumbling down. These are very interesting times for all of us and it calls us all to stand up and really decide what we hold dear in our hearts. Is it fear, or are we going to expand and understand the things that don’t make sense to us and don’t seem normal to us, but to begin to understand.”

On a more personal level, Etheridge, 55, revealed she is the most content she’s ever been. She is married to writer/producer Linda Wallem of “Nurse Jackie” fame. The two tied the knot in Montecito, Calif., in 2014.

“I am very happy. I am so in love with my wife and it’s just one of the most wonderful, incredible relationships I’ve ever had,” she said. “It’s solid, solid, solid and I cannot emphasize enough how wonderfully happy I am.”

Etheridge and her ex-wife, Tammy Lynn Michaels, share custody of their 10-year-old twins. She also has two grown children from a previous relationship with ex-partner, Julie Cypher.

“I have two adult children and they are out doing their lives. One is in New York City going to Columbia University and the other is out finding himself,” she said. “I love being a mother. It’s a better experience than I ever thought it ever could be.”

Should there exist any doubts to the contrary, Etheridge added: “I feel like I’ve finally hit my stride in my 50s. Like, I finally went, ‘Oh, this is what life’s about!’ I’m really enjoying it. Really.”

Etheridge seemed revved up to welcome her extended family – the fans – to her latest endeavor.

“Even if you’ve seen me before 10 or 20 times,” she said, “this is a new thing you’ve never, ever seen.”

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