Melissa Etheridge: Happiness Is An Option
By Tim Parks
When Melissa Etheridge takes to the Heineken Grandstand Stage at The San Diego County Fair on Saturday, July 18 at 7:30 pm, she will be kicking off her “Fearless Love” 2011 Tour, which has the rock ’n roll veteran playing to audiences across this great land of ours throughout the summer and beyond.
Etheridge not only brings her brand of being out and proud to the sold out show at the Fair, she also unleashes a catalog of hard rockin’ tunes to the fold. Songs such as her Grammy-winning efforts “Come To My Window” and “Ain’t It Heavy,” her Oscar-winning single from An Inconvenient Truth , “I Need To Wake Up,” and surefire crowd pleasers in the guises of “I’m The Only One,” “I Want To Come Over,” “Angels Would Fall,” and “Somebody Bring Me Some Water.”
With her bold declaration, via her 1993 album title of Yes I am, Etheridge became synonymous with being the consummate out performer, whose coming out did not slow down her career one iota. Her personal life held as much fascination for the public. During her partnership with Julie Cypher, the couple welcomed two children, Bailey in 1997 and Beckett in 1998, with sperm donor David Crosby. However, when Cypher began to waiver about her sexuality, the two split in 2000, and then Etheridge married actress Tammy Lynn Michaels in 2003.
With her wife by her side, Etheridge underwent chemotherapy for the breast cancer diagnosis she received in 2004, which she valiantly fought and beat under the watchful eye of the media and public, giving a brave performance, sans hair, at the 2005 Grammy Awards telecast.
In 2006, Michaels gave birth to a double blessing with twins Johnnie Rose and Miller Steven, and all seemed to be going well for the ladies, until they announced their split in April of last year. Since then, Michaels has taken to her blog and Twitter to vent her frustrations about the breakup, and with Etheridge’s new relationship with Nurse Jackie co-creator Linda Wallem.
As the date draws nearer for her time to go out on the road to entertain the masses, Etheridge kindly took time out of her busy schedule to talk with LGBT Weekly about performing live, family life and her split from Michaels, and how happiness is an option for the singer these days.
And, as would be expected of someone who lives her life as an open book, the singer was very candid in answering the questions presented to her.
LGBT Weekly: Which of your songs holds the most resonance for you to perform live?
Melissa Etheridge: Oh, that’s like asking me who my favorite child is (laughs). You see, I write every single one of ’em to hold resonance; that’s like one of my standards, it has to ring truthful or I don’t even want to sing it at all.
And there’s things that I don’t resonate with anymore that aren’t part of my life. “Somebody Bring Me Some Water,” I’m not there, yet, I can play that song and can feel myself in the vibration, and remember and have fun with it, and then walk out of it. It’s like acting in a great part for a play.
LGBT: What is the one thing that you love the most about touring, and the one thing you would do without about the experience?
ME: The performances, I love the shows, I love the different people in the audience and how excited they are to be there; that first moment of the 2 ½ hours of being on stage, that’s what it’s about. What I dislike is traveling and getting there (laughs), the other hours, being away from my family.
Can’t I have a theater in the yard and they can all come see me?
LGBT: If you could duet with anyone of the quote unquote younger female singers, who would it be and why?
ME: It’s funny because I am actually thinking of dueting. You know I love that Adele! God, let me sing with that girl. You can tell these English gals, people coming out of the U.K. are just, they’ve been listening to the rhythm and blues music, they’ve been listening to Aretha Franklin, you know that they’re hearing that music and they’re coming back with this great stuff. I just love hearing her sing.
LGBT: And, if you were to do an album of covers, who would be included on that?
ME: I would do covers on Springsteen and cover, well, mostly I relate to songs. I did some solo touring in 2009, and I did a different cover song for every show, and some of them were better than others. I did Radio head’s “Creep,” and loved, loved that! I loved doing Bette Midler’s “Stay With Me,” there’s just songs, rather than artists that I would do on an album.
LGBT: How do your children deal with having a famous mother?
ME: Man, they just don’t understand what the world sees in me. They’re like, “Mommy, when you’re up on stage, you make people laugh, and you’re not that funny.” Yeah, I know, to them I’m not.
I raised them from the very beginning to understand what I do, this is what I do I sing and a lot of people like to listen. Because even when they were two, three years old, strangers would come up to me in the grocery store, and the kids would say something like, “Do you know that person?” And, I’d have to explain to them that people know me, but I don’t know them, it’s how they know me because of the music.
And so they were very used to it and aware. They have come to see my shows and people go crazy and they’re like, “What are these people doing?” And then they, my older ones, have gotten into the teenage years, media is so much a part of it, and they realize that famous people are characters and the stuff they see, my place in it, they start to understand, they start to get this is what I’ve chosen to do.
It’s fascinating, because they don’t have a dream of being famous because they see how much work it is, and see what it really is. They like the art and the music, but the fame part is just crazy!
LGBT: You and Tammy had a very public split in realm of social media, how are you doing since the breakup?
ME: Well, I’m doing fine. It’s not pretty, and I don’t know if it ever will be. I would certainly hope that we could see eye-to-eye for the kids sake, you know? It’s just, it’s not pretty now, and that’s the nature, I guess, with relationships.
It’s quite icky, that’s a nice word, quite icky, it’s almost more so embarrassing. I’m embarrassed, it’s almost like, “Oh, come on.” It’s so Perez Hilton and it’s a low blow! So, I choose to, because this is my private life, and I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to retaliate, because that’s just like flypaper, and the next thing you know you’re like, “Help Me!” (She broke into an impression of David Hedison from the 1958 movie The Fly).
LGBT: And how are things going in your love life today?
ME: I’ve gotten to the point where it’s almost like I’m never going to talk about it again. But, sufficed to say, I am very, very happy. Because I deserve happiness, and that is my goal everyday, and when that’s your intention and your goal and that’s what you look for, then that’s what comes to you. So, I tell you I am happy.
LGBT: What has been the biggest change you have seen in yourself in the entirety of your career?
ME: Choosing happiness. My intention in the beginning and the price I thought I had to pay for success, or what I considered to be success, and then realizing that, oh no, success is was I happy today?
Then that’s successful, whether it’s the things that make me happy, from being with the kids, to a song, to the audience, writing, those things make me happy.