It’s been 30 years since a brash, talented young woman ripped into the rock music scene with a self-titled album that became a significant introduction of a rich, uncompromising career that has spawned such hits as “Bring Me Some Water,” “No Souvenirs,” “Ain’t It Heavy,” “Come to My Window,” and “I Want to Come Over.” Melissa Etheridge has scored an Academy Award for Best Song in 2007 for “I Need to Wake Up,” which was written for the Al Gore documentary on global warming, and she’s received a couple of Grammy Awards for her music, as well. This coming Saturday, she will perform at the Savage Oakes Vineyard & Winery. To that end, I requested a telephone interview to reconnect with this emotive singer-songwriter — she called me on the 16th of last month for another memorable chat.

Q: I’ve been listening to your latest CD from 2016, “MEmphis Rock and Soul,” and enjoyed your take on those classic Stax Records’ hits — you put your own stamp on whatever you do, that’s for sure.

Etheridge: You know, I just love to do it, and that music just thrilled me to my toes. Every song I sing I think, “God, I’ve got to sing it like Otis Redding; that’s where you’ve got to be at!” So I just decided to go right back to the source and just take a ride; and my fans love it, and I’m just having a really good time with it.

Q: In talking with your publicist, I understand that you’re working on something new now?

Etheridge: Um-hmm, I’m back in the studio, actually, after these interviews, and I really love that. That’s going to be out at the end of the year or the beginning of next year.

Q: Is this going to be an album of originals?


Etheridge: Oh, yeah, this will be back like 100 percent originals — very topical, personal stuff, right-now stuff.

Q: This is our third chat, by the way. The first was in 1988, and the second was in 1995. So when I learned that you were returning to Maine, I was hoping to reconnect with you again.

Etheridge: You know, I’ve got to tell you that this experience of talking to people over the years — and there have been a handful that I have spoken with since 1988 — it’s like, “Hey, old friend, what’s happening now?” It’s really been an interesting journey with some of you.

Q: Now when you come back up here, will you be playing any of this new material you’re working on now?

Etheridge: Oh, I’ll probably throw a couple of “MEmphis Rock and Soul” songs in, but I don’t know if I’ll be doing those new songs or not. I never know until I really get there. I have like two hours — I figure any more than two hours I’m asking a lot of an audience. Me, I’d rather play for three hours, but sometimes I’ve got to keep it to two. So just getting 15 to 16 songs in those two hours can be difficult. I mean, I’ve got to play the hits. We’ve got to sing “I’m the Only One” at the top of our lungs, and I want to play guitar a bit. That’s something that has changed: I’m a much better guitar player than I’ve been. I’ve been working the last decade bringing that up. And then maybe there’s room for a new song? I don’t know, I’ll have to consider it.

Q: So it must be hard putting together a set list then.


Etheridge: Yes and no, in that I’m fortunate to have at least five hit songs that people want to hear every night — that’s pretty good. If you’d told me 30 years ago that I would have the songs that I had to do every night that’d be awesome — and then you go on from there.

Q: Have you been to Maine between ’95 and this show in Union?

Etheridge: Probably in Portland, yeah. I’ve been to Portland a few times now. Where am I playing this time?

Q: You’re playing at a place I’ve never been to before. It’s called Savage Oakes; it’s a winery.

Etheridge: Oh, I love these wineries that have made performance spaces because they’re usually gorgeous, outside and beautiful — so I’m looking forward to that.

Q: Now when you come in there, what will you have for backing musicians? Or will this be a solo performance?


Etheridge: Oh no, this will be with my band. I have drums, bass and a keyboard player, just three of them. I haven’t been solo in a few years. I enjoy doing that every now and then, but every time I do it, I really miss my band.

Q: Is there anything you haven’t done so far that you’d like to do?

Etheridge: (Chuckle) Musically?

Q: Whatever — anything!

Etheridge: Oh my gosh, yeah! There’s all kinds of things, I’ve got all kinds of dreams. I’ve actually been working in the cannabis industry and trying to create and make my own medicine. We’re doing that here in Santa Cruz, it’s called Etheridge Farms. It takes up a lot of time and beautiful energy, but I believe in it very deeply. And hopefully I’m doing a television show about it, and all kinds of stuff. So, yeah, that’s all new stuff that we’re looking into.

Q: While on the topic of the “new,” what about the new songs you’re working on. How long have you been — you know, I should ask this first: Does songwriting come easy to you?


Etheridge: Does songwriting come easy. I enjoy it, so it’s easy in that way. It is a craft that I have worked on for decades so I know how to do it. I wouldn’t call it easy, though — it’s something I take very seriously and really put my time and energy and effort into it.

Q: Are you happy with what you’ve done musically?

Etheridge: Oh, yeah — oh, yeah! What I’ve discovered in my journey of creating and writing music that I was going through and putting it into songs, is that I’ve become a part of people’s lives. I know how much Springsteen was a part of my life, Ricki Lee Jones and Joan Armatrading — the artists that inspired me in that moment to do whatever I was doing. To have created music that serves that purpose, I’m just completely grateful for that.

Q: Is there anything you would like to pass on to the readers of this article?

Etheridge: Well, I love performing and love performing live. I’m just so happy to be coming back to Maine. Happy to be playing the songs that we know and love. When you come to the show, it’s a musical experience. It’s a safe place that’s going to take you to a beautiful place that only music can take you. So come be part of it with me. I’m grateful that I get to do this.

Lucky Clark, winner of a 2018 “Keeping The Blues Alive” Award, has spent 49 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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