American rock goddess Melissa Etheridge has carved a career around her raw lyrics, powerful voice, and LGBTI activism. Kate Radcliffe caught up with the inspiring star over the phone.
What was it like for you being an openly gay musician in the ‘90s?
It was kind of cool, and kind of scary. I was young and I just wanted to be myself. Coming out was just this step to cross over and it just made the rock and roll more intense because it made it more naughty to like me, because I was a ‘bad girl’ or something.
Did being ‘out’ hinder or bolster your success in the music industry?
You know what, one never knows, but all I do know is, before I came out I would sell about one million records every time I brought out a new album, and then after I came out it went up to six million. So I can never complain.
Which of your songs is your personal favourite?
Bring Me Some Water [the anthem for a lot of people’s coming out] is a song that I can start playing, and everybody loves it. It’s universal. People still come up and say what a difference it made to them, and that means a lot to me. That and Like The Way I Do never ever let me down.
Who is an LGBTI hero you’d love to meet?
I think I’ve met all of my LGBTI heroes. But at the moment I have a lot of admiration for all of the out athletes at this year’s Winter Olympics. I think they’re becoming amazing advocates; they’re being amazingly brave, especially with how our country is at the moment. I’m really loving the work of the athletes at the Olympics, to be out and proud and rock it.
How do you feel about coming to Australia now that we have marriage equality?
I’m so happy for you guys. It’s brutal when it is debated in a public forum. It gets really tough on people because there’s a mouthpiece and a voice for a very negative, fearful emotion and it’s hard to go through that. That’s what it was like here and a lot of ugly stuff still comes up and that’s tough, but you guys really came through. It was a beautiful moment to see while we’re going through some crazy stuff here in America – I’m just so happy for Australia.
It was huge over here and it was huge internationally. It meant a lot. My favourite part were all the videos of people listening to the count and, when they realised it was 60 per cent, it was beautiful.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Slow down, it’s okay. It’s not going to be anything you can imagine, it’s not going to be what you think it’s going to be, and it’s not about what you think it’s about. I would also tell myself to love myself more. And forgive me. I don’t know if I’d listen to it, but I would give myself that advice.
What advice would you give to LGBTI youth?
There is no doubt that being your true self is the best thing you can do for yourself and there is no reason to live otherwise, so find love for yourself and embrace that and, when you do that, you affect the whole world. Coming out is what creates the changes we have seen and it changes your life, so I would say just be who you are and love what you do.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
It’s a long, lovely road. If you get to play music for anyone, you are a successful musician. So just enjoy playing for three people in a room as much as you would three thousand. It’s a beautiful ride… just go.
What is your ideal date?
Just spending time doing what you and your partner love to do, and spending time communicating with each other. You should look at each other in the eyes and tell them what you think, even if they already know – tell them how much they mean to you.
How do you feel about your upcoming co-headlining tour with Sheryl Crow?
Oh, I love that Sheryl and I are coming down there. I’ve known Sheryl forever and we just love making music. We’ve been through everything and this is a very special time in music. It’s a beautiful time where women are finally kind of like, stop looking at me and only defining me as a woman. Listen to my music. It’s as it should be, and it should be normal, and I’m just so thrilled to be part of the tour with Sheryl.
How do you feel about the state of equality for women right now?
Anywhere where that is a priority there is great change and healing happening, because so many of our issues come from the oppression of women. I mean, look around the world where our greatest troubles are – they’re in places where women are treated as second and third class citizens. Once you get an eye on equality for women then you’re talking about the feminist side of us, which is more compassionate and more connected to the earth, and these things will bring peace. So yes, I think that’s absolutely at the core of everything.
What’re your plans for 2018?
I’m actually making a record right now, so I’m in a very creative and inspirational mode and right deep in the thick of it. I’m really figuring out who I am and exactly what I want to say. It’s a very inspiring year, so I’m drawing a lot of inspiration all around me and feeling confident about myself as a musician.
Melissa Etheridge will co-headline a tour with Sheryl Crow around Australia between April 3 – 7. For more information and to buy tickets visit Ticketek.