Grammy-winning rock singer-activist Melissa Etheridge says her current national tour is all about M.E.
“The This is M.E. tour,” says Etheridge, who plays Pompano Beach Amphitheatre on Friday night. “It’s funny. Mario Lopez, I was on the radio with him. He says ‘What does M.E. stand for?’ I go, ‘My initials.’ He says ‘Oh, sorry.’ I thought they would get it. Maybe they won’t, but some do.”
This is M.E. is also the title of Etheridge’s newest CD.
“This album signifies a big change in me, my career,” says Etheridge, 53. “Before, it was about the changes in my life. Now, I’ve got the personal side — I’m doing pretty good there. I’ve got that kind of set. I look to my professional side. My business side, I felt it kind of flat-lined that last couple of years.”
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Etheridge says she needed to do something and “grow” her business.
“I fired all my managers and lawyers and everything and I built a new — from the ground up — this new system of doing music business,” she says. “This album is the first to come out of that. The whole approach, the whole album is different. I own it. I didn’t go with a record label. Record sales are so low, I can reach my fans through social media and not need the middle man anymore. This is a big new adventure.”
Etheridge says there’s “nothing wrong” with simply being an artist.
“It’s a choice. If you want to be an artist that is living life and creating music and you make that music available and people come to see you, that’s beautiful and that’s fine.” she says. “Or you can look at it as a business and you can say, ‘OK, I’ve got this product. This art that people are looking for.’ And people, human beings, will always look for music and art. We can’t survive without it. It’s a needed thing.”
Etheridge says her This is M.E. album “is filled with the music of my life. Rock ’n’ roll. Soul and country. R&B. It’s just all over this record and that’s why I’m so thrilled about going out with this band. It’s like I’m a kid who gets to do Christmas all over again.”
At last, Etheridge is happy in her personal life. That makes writing music more fun, she says.
“It’s easier to be alive when you’re happy. So my life is easier, yes, in general. It’s pretty easy to sit down and go ‘I’m the only one to walk across fire.’ It’s pretty easy to go ‘God’ when someone does you wrong and you feel like the razors are ripping. Yet, when you’re life is doing OK, it’s easy to write ‘I won’t be alone tonight. There’s a billion stars in the sky and I won’t be alone tonight.’ That feels good.”
On May 31, Etheridge married longtime friend and partner Linda Wallem, two days after they both turned 53.
Wallem, a writer-producer, co-created Showtime’s Nurse Jackie starring Edie Falco. “She’s a big TV muckety muck,” Etheridge says of her new wife. “What’s great is that she has an energy and she’s on a journey that is satisfying her. She’s creating and loving that. That fulfills her. Whatever career that would be, as long as there’s fulfillment. That’s what’s beautiful and that’s what makes the relationship work.”
Together, they are co-parenting Etheridge’s four children from previous relationships with Julie Cypher and Tammy Lynn Michaels.
“I have four children! One’s about ready to graduate high school,” Etheridge says. “Man, does it go by fast — 17, 16 and 8. Two 8-year-olds, twins.”
Etheridge is known for both her music and her activism. In 1993, she became one of the first big stars to publicly come out of the closet. Now, she says, it’s no “big deal.”
“This morning I dropped my kids off at school with my wife and it’s so matter-of-fact,” Etheridge says. “Gay does not equal danger anymore and that’s because people have come out. That’s the only reason that happens. That’s the only way to assuage the fear is to come out and be the people who are good people. I like the world I’m living in. If a choice that I made helped create this world, good for me.”
She also became an outspoken advocate for breast cancer survivors after being treated for the disease in 2004. Last year, Etheridge got into hot water for publicly criticizing Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a preventive double mastectomy, calling it not “brave” and “the most fearful choice you can make.” Both women carry a gene mutation that makes them likely to develop cancer.
Etheridge stands by her comments. “I think it brings up a healthy discussion. That’s good. There’s no right or wrong in this. It’s all personal. It’s all deeply personal fear and health. It’s very deeply personal and it’s an ongoing conversation to know about our state of health and our options that our western medicine gives us in certain situations. It’s good for us to all talk about it.”
If you go
Melissa Etheridge performs 8 p.m. Friday at Pompano Beach Amphitheatre, 1801 NE 6th St., Pompano Beach. Tickets $55.45 to 87.25 each, including fees. Ticketmaster.