Singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge is touring in support of her diverse new album ‘4th Street Feeling’
Melissa Etheridge’s music first put her in the spotlight in the late 1980s-early 1990s with such signature songs as “Bring Me Some Water,” “Come to My Window” and “I’m the Only One.” Her fierce vocal style with its Janis Joplin-like rasp, and her self-penned songs, which were a masterful blend of blues and folk-rock, found overwhelming commercial success in 1993 with the album Yes I Am, selling six million copies. She also earned a Grammy for best female rock vocal.
In the years that followed her musical career continued while her persona in the public eye revolved around her personal life as a gay woman, a breast cancer survivor and a political activist.
Her music is back front and center these days with her excellent album 4th Street Feeling, released this past September. The title refers to the main street of her hometown of Leavenworth, Kansas. It recalls the best work of her early career but filtered through a just world-weary enough persona to provide added insight.
Etheridge talked with Atlantic City Weekly about looking forward to her tour and bringing new music to her fans.
I love the new album. Talk about what inspired these songs.
I just love that I’ve been around for 25 years and feel like I have people that have been on this journey with me for a while and that’s really cool. This album is just filled with whatever I am or was. It’s rock ’n’ roll, it’s got country roots, R&B roots, and it’s emotionally all parts of me. It’s a reminiscence, it’s a memory, it’s looking forward, it’s dealing with some dark feelings that we all get. It’s all that and I have the wonderful job of putting it all together and creating a big ol’ painting from it.
This was the first album in which you did all your own lead guitar work. Why did you wait so long to do that?
Because I didn’t know that I could do it. Friends have said, ‘what do you mean? You’ve always been a good guitar player’ but I haven’t known it. I’ve been around some of the best guitar players ever and I thought I stopped learning when I was in my 20s, that I was a good as I was going to get. But 20 years of practicing actually made me a better guitar player. Now I get it. My lead guitar player, Peter Thorn, has made me a better lead guitar player. I’m so excited about showing you all what I can do.
You must be excited about bringing these songs to your fans.
I’ve haven’t been so excited about playing new material in a long time. I feel like these songs were written for my live audience. This album fits right into the set list. I can’t wait to have these experiences with the audience. I’m going to play the guitar all night, play the harmonica and sing, clap my hands and have fun.
So what else will we hear? You’re in Bruce country and you’ve been known to do Springsteen covers.
You never know. My band’s gotta stay on their feet. I’ll throw a song in at the last minute. If it’s not a Bruce song, it will definitely be Bruce-like.
What’s your take on the music scene these days with downloads and the Internet. Is radio play even still important today?
I think radio is very important. I still think people hear the music first on the radio, then they go to the social media and Internet to tell their friends word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth and the radio are still the two ways that the music gets out there. My kids share their music, their playlists, with friends over the Internet and I think it’s great.
Melissa Etheridge, the emotionally raw singer-songwriter from Leavenworth, Kansas, really loves her new album, 4th Street Feeling. And she should.
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