Melissa Etheridge Opens up About #MeToo, Marijuana, and Making Music
On August 26, Etheridge will be bringing her fleet of celebrated songs to the Tarrytown Music Hall during her Rock Show tour.
Photos by John Tsiavis
Melissa Etheridge just may have met her match during a recent Pride march. “Oh my goodness, I thought I was a big rock star until I marched with Elizabeth Warren,” says Etheridge of the presidential hopeful from Massachusetts. “She is just amazing. She’s a rock star, and she’s such a bright light to our young adults. I saw young women just crying when they saw her, which really gives me a lot of hope for our future.”
This is high praise from an artist who has earned no fewer than 15 Grammy nominations and two wins, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and an Academy Award during her groundbreaking, 30-plus-year career. Etheridge’s 1993 breakthrough album, Yes I Am, went six-times Platinum, spawned a fleet of hits, including “Come to My Window” and “I’m the Only One,” and cemented her as one of the top artists of the era.
On August 26, Etheridge will be bringing her fleet of celebrated songs to the Tarrytown Music Hall during her Rock Show tour. When asked about her notoriously lengthy performances, full of audience interplay, Etheridge is more thankful than anything. “I usually play for about two hours. To me, that’s a short show!” she says with a laugh. “Seriously, I do about 15 songs, and I love playing my guitar… there is just no more sacred or beautiful place than the stage for me. It keeps me getting better; it keeps me young; it helps with my songwriting.”
This unmitigated love for the stage reaches back to the rocker’s earliest days. “I started listening [to music] first as a child,” explains Etheridge, who hails from Leavenworth, KS. “My parents had great taste in music. They played The Beatles, The Mamas & the Papas, Simon & Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin. I would watch Ed Sullivan and all the performers on television, and I just fell in love with music. People would say, ‘Oh, little girl, what are you going to be when you grow up?’ and I’d say, ‘A singer!’”
Although she is almost constantly touring, Etheridge has been doing a lot more than just singing. After overcoming breast cancer in 2004, Etheridge founded a successful wine company, called No Label, which mixed cannabis with high-quality vino. However, California’s changing pot laws forced Etheridge to launch a new venture. In response, she created Etheridge Farms, a 47-acre plot in Northern California that will grow cannabis strains to be incorporated into a range of products, including edibles and oil cartridges.
“Once you have children, you’re like, ‘I’ve got to take care of this world — I’ve got to make it a better place.’”
“It has really been great in the last 10 years to see people finally understanding that this can be such a helpful medicine, a helpful plant,” says Etheridge. “The change from medicinal to recreational in California kind of sent people scrambling because they made everybody stop and relicense, and so we had to build the company from the ground up again. The products are going to be fantastic. Of course, I’ve been partaking in them, and they are wonderful.”
Etheridge is similarly optimistic about her new album, which is partially inspired by social movements sweeping the nation, like #MeToo. “I have actually been working on it the last few months, and I just finished tracking in May,” says Etheridge of her upcoming record. “It’s definitely influenced by the last couple years of the world around me.… I think all of what we’re going through is causing us to desire and ask for more peace and more understanding of diversity. There’s a oneness that were all hoping for, yet we keep running up against this fear. So, that really fills a lot of the album, and I’m really excited about it.”
This fall, Etheridge will head out on tour in celebration of Yes I Am and notes that activism remains a central aspect of her life as she continues to aid progressive political candidates. As for what will follow, Etheridge says she has evolved from planning for the future to embracing the now — and that includes her devoted family.
“It’s funny, I’ve learned now that I have caught up with my future, and so I’m really living in the moment. The moment is my next album; it is this tour right now; it is my cannabis industry; and, of course, first and foremost, it is my family,” says Etheridge. “I’m loving being a mother, more than I ever thought I would. I’ve got two adults already, and the other two are going into sixth grade. Once you have children, you’re like, ‘I’ve got to take care of this world — I’ve got to make it a better place.’”