Thirty years into a legendary career, Melissa Etheridge has done it all in rock and roll. With her unmistakable combination of powerful, passionate vocals, deep lyrics and catchy hooks, the iconic gay rights activist has amassed a pair of Grammy Awards, an Oscar, five platinum records and a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
Now a 54-year-old mother of four, Etheridge shows no signs of slowing down.
“I love what I do,” she said, on the line from her home in southern California. “I am so lucky to be able to be a rock star; I have the best job in the world. And, I love to do it. I love, love to play my music for people, I love to create new music and I love for people to hear a new song and go, ‘wow, I love that.’ I love trying new things and I love collaborating. It brings me great joy and I see no reason to stop, whatsoever.”
On the road promoting her latest album, 2014’s This is M.E., Etheridge will perform at Centre in the Square in Kitchener on September 21.
A stripped down, intimate solo show, Etheridge says fans can expect to hear new songs as well as her ’90s hits.
“This show is my solo show, which has really grown over the last year that I have been doing it,” she explained. “It’s a very intimate show and it’s a way to really reach some of the places that I am not able to bring my whole band into. And it’s just a way for me to get really close to the audience and to get inside some of the songs.”
She added, “I get to kind of show off, because I get to play a lot of my guitars, and the stage when you come in, you see all my guitars lined up on the stage. And I use a looper where I make some hand drums and create the songs and really just have a great time.”
Etheridge has been performing since 1985, and broke out with her self-titled debut in 1988, which was critically acclaimed and garnered her first Grammy nomination for the single “Bring Me Some Water.”
In 1993, she picked up her first Grammy win for “Ain’t It Heavy” off her third record, Never Enough. Later that year, she released her biggest commercial success, Yes I am, which featured the smash hits “I’m The Only One,” and “Come To My Window.”
She also came out as a lesbian that year, beginning her influential run as one of America’s leading gay rights activists.
And there have been other causes close to her heart, including advocating for the legalization of marijuana and promoting environmentalism.
For the latter, Etheridge wrote “I Need To Wake Up,” which won the Academy Award for its role in the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth.
With a catalogue that includes 13 studio records, 38 singles and 32 music videos, Ethebridge has covered a lot of ground musically. Yet, the breast cancer survivor’s passion for music continues to burn as hot as ever.
“The music has evolved as I’ve evolved,” she said. “I think I’m becoming more of a confident musician. I think my guitar playing has taken more of a front and centre role. I think my voice is stronger because I’m healthier.”
And from sold out stadium shows to a one-on-one setting, Ethebridge still gets a rush from connecting with others through music.
“I love the capacity for the audience to be able to go from complete utter silence to crazy over-the-topness,” she said. “When you have an intimate, smaller audience, they all kind of come together, and I can talk and tell the stories and you just feel like everybody is on the same page.”
Melissa Etheridge’s This is M.E. solo show hits the main stage at Kitchener’s Centre in the Square on September 21 at 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.centreinthesquare.com.