I remember when I first heard an Etheridge song. It was the late 80’s and I was hanging with friends – tunes blasting in the background – all very non descript background noise. Without warning I found myself leaving the conversation to pay attention to the song on the radio. It could not be ignored. The power of that voice meshed with the virility of her music caught me – somebody bring me some water baby – it caught me and has never let me go.
I had the pleasure of talking to Melissa the other day and the voice on the other side of the phone was familiar – like an old friend with some shared history. We spoke about her new album “4th Street Feeling” – a look back at her Kansas roots and the roads traveled from there to here. We touched on some of the old school songs that have moved my little lesbian heart over the years, politics (for a second) and even her thoughts for young lesbians trying to find their way in this world we live in.
About her new music, Melissa commented that “This album is exactly the kind of music I should be making at this point in my life, I think. It is all guitar – my guitar. I actually played lead and I realized I am better and stronger than I knew. This album is all me – some rock ‘n’ roll, R&B roots and just emotionally who I am. It is like a memory looking forward – dealing with those heavier feelings that we all get. I can’t wait to play this stuff live.” The music is fresh but familiar, and in true Etheridge style – no emotion is too raw to share with those who tune her in.
I had to get selfish for a moment and tell Melissa that my favorite songs are “You can sleep while I drive” (in my opinion the most romantically yearning song she has ever written) and ‘I want to come over’(just play this loud and try not to relate). I asked her to tell me a little about the inspiration for each song. “I want to come over – you can figure that one out. It was all new with Julie and I was just crazy – the back and forth – the wanting and the knowing – crazy desire stuff – what lesbian doesn’t know that feeling?” I had to concur and we laughed at the wild frenzied, no holds barred, gotta have her now I don’t care who knows, kind of need we lesbians have – to hell with the consequence….The tale behind ‘You can sleep while I drive’ is a little different. “It came from when I was in England on tour for my first album and I just missed America so much. I was miserable and sleeping on the extra bunk in a room full of 18 bunks for 6 weeks and I was recalling a trip I made with my girlfriend at the time – her name was Kathleen. We got in the car and just drove – I called it the coffee house tour – town to town and just making enough money to get us to the next town. They would pay me 50 bucks or something and it was great. It was a song in memory.” As I stated before – if you listen to Etheridge’s voice – the underlying yearning for a love and a home – no matter where that home might be – just gets me every time.
The night before talking to Melissa I had watched the last presidential debate and asked her if she did the same – and she laughed for a second and said, “I actually watched some football….I am a Kansas City Chiefs fan. And really – I am figuring out that this whole Democrat/Republican thing is so divisive to us as a country. It just seems we can’t really win when we don’t wake up and realize that the real voting we do is how we choose to spend our money. Gay friendly corporations – green companies – the things that matter to us.” Simple, straightforward, easy going truth – Etheridge has a way of communicating without expectation or need for the listener to agree – she is good with herself – and it shows.
I asked Melissa what she thought about the struggle so much of the younger gay community are having with self acceptance and coming out to the world they live in. I asked her if she had any advice to share and she took a deep breath before responding. “I would say each individual needs to take on a persona – own who they are – be who they are – be true to you – whoever you are. Be joyful in your uniqueness – and don’t use it as a defense – but use it to center yourself in the world. Be committed to exactly who you are and that will be the best thing for yourself, your community and the world. How you treat yourself dictates how others will treat you.”
Treat yourself to a night of amazing music and rock out in the Chicago Theatre with an icon of multiple dimensions who just happens to be a really cool person. New stuff, old stuff, and all those amazing musical memories in-between.
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Buy tickets to the show
Saturday, November 10th
The Chicago Theatre // Show begins at 8PM
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About K. Guzman
Kathy grew up all over the US - lots of east coast time. She is a surfer girl with an unabridged curiosity. A woman whose mid life awakening continues to bring her to the place she was meant to be. Her degree in Journalism/Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida is being yanked from the archives and put to good use. Her two kids are grown and rock stars in this wild world – her Harley is ready for some serious summer miles – and her heart remains open to life, women and the possibilities each day brings.