An Interview with Melissa Etheridge

Melissa Etheridge needs no introduction. She’s been a rock star since 1988, when she signed with Island Records and released her first self-titled album. It went double platinum.

Her next two albums also went platinum and then, in 1993, she released Yes I Am. That CD, which coincided with her official coming out, went 6x platinum (selling six million copies). “Come to My Window,” “I’m the Only One” and “If I Wanted To” were huge singles on the Billboard charts, and Melissa was proof that being both an out lesbian and a successful musician was possible, even in the 1990s.

Since then, Melissa has stuck with major label Island and released six other full-length albums, beat breast cancer, raised four children, won an Oscar, married and then, this year, announced her separation from wife Tammy Lynn Michaels. If there was ever a time when Melissa should release an album about coming into your own and loving who you are before you can love someone else, it was 2010.

Like an updated version of Yes I Am, Fearless Love brings the songs about crushes and heartaches and break-ups and pushing past tragedy to keep on keepin’ on in that way Melissa does so well. It’s been 17 years since she came out and asked us all to do the same, and she is able to laugh about being the token lesbian used for a joke on Saturday Night Live while sharing her love of being a huge gay Broadway geek.

Melissa Etheridge is friendly and thoughtful and open to discuss what’s on your mind and in her heart. If you’re not a fan of her music, you can at least be a fan of what she’s done for lesbians in the public eye, because she’s a huge part of the last two generations’ (this writer included) freedom to feel good about being gay but not letting that define you in every aspect of your life.

Melissa recently called to talk about the writing of her new album, what she thinks about musicians coming out today versus decades past and why she gives Katy Perry the thumbs up.

AfterEllen: It’s been three years since The Awakening. You must have had a lot of material and ideas in between your last album and Fearless Love. When did you start writing for the new album?
Melissa Etheridge:
Well actually, when I made The Awakening, I had a long vision in mind for three albums that I wanted to do — one right after the other, over the course of however how many years it would take. And I wanted it to be, the first one about awakening, about my story and how I got where I was.

And then I knew the second one I wanted to be about fear and love, and the choices we make in our life. And I know the next one I want to be about oneness and unity and other things. I haven’t started writing it, of course, yet. I have this sort of a trio vision of what I want to create so I started thinking about this three years ago. And then in 2008, I started conceptualizing and putting it together. I met with John Shanks, my producer, and then in 2009, I started writing and I wrote from about January until July. I went to the studio in July.