Melissa details how she feared never touring again
Melissa Etheridge has seen it all. Having been in the music industry for over three decades selling over 25 million records, Melissa has survived the various medium changes from vinyl, cassettes, CDs, and streaming. Melissa says she feared never touring again. Here she opens up about the death of her son Beckett, her work with the Etheridge Foundation, her business Etheridge Botanicals, and her quest for the federal legalization of marijuana.
Congratulations! You are finally back on the road. In lieu of the COVID Pandemic, your tour dates were shuffled around repeatedly. What was that experience like?
Melissa Etheridge: It was a wake-up call. I always thought no matter what, I could perform music. It turned my idea of entertainment around and my appreciation of touring around. I am never going to take it for granted. For many of the venues I am performing at, I am the first show they have hosted since the pandemic began. One of our gigs, the Jazz Festival in New Orleans, was rescheduled three times thus far.
You have three shows coming up in New Jersey this Fall. What can fans expect?
ME: New Jersey is the greatest state to perform in! The Garden State loves their rock and roll, they love music, and I love playing New Jersey. This time around I am introducing music from the new album as well as performing my biggest hits. I am also spotlighting a different album with each show by performing a few additional songs from whichever album is chosen for that date. It is a great way to satisfy loyal fans and switch up the playlist with every show. I am even pulling out songs I’ve never performed live to. For the New Jersey shows, there will be many up-tempo rock numbers. By diversifying the setlist, it keeps myself and the band on our feet as well as makes it a surprise for fans who want to see more than one show.
You have been nominated for 15 Grammys, won two Grammys, won an Academy Award, and even have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Reflecting back on your career, what are you most grateful for?
ME: I am so grateful that I can still tour, sell tickets, play music, and people want to hear it. When I started my career and was asked what I want to be doing when I am 60, it is exactly just that.
On the flip side, what has been your biggest learning lesson?
ME: Every day has become a learning experience. I have learned to take care of myself. I have realized my physical and mental health have a strong correlation with what I am capable of. Despite what we see on social media, none of us are living perfect lives. We are here to learn, grow, fail, and learn from it. You must know what you don’t want in order to know what you want.
You have been in the music business since 1985. The mediums have evolved from vinyl to cassette tapes to CDs to streaming. What are your thoughts on the changes which have taken place within the music industry over the course of your career?
ME: The way the industry was set up in the 1980s and 90s was amazing. If you were able to get your music heard on mainstream radio and acquire a hit, you were guaranteed a healthy touring and music career. With that said, the record companies and radio stations had all the control. So, you either had to fit into a certain parameter or be so good they could not deny you. Today, they do not have the same level of control because I can make my own record, stream it, and reach my fans directly. Nevertheless, I miss the ability to reach a massive amount of people through radio which has changed significantly.
Do you feel the changes that have taken place are for the better?
ME: Overall, yes. Sometimes I get nostalgic when I come across a talented artist and think to myself, “If this was years ago, all they would have to do is get on a certain format of radio stations, and they would be a household name.” While there are more options today, they do not necessarily guarantee success like the pre-streaming era did.
On May 13th, 2021, your 21-year-old son, Beckett Cypher, died of an opioid overdose. How have you, your ex-partner Julie, and your other children been holding up since his passing?
ME: We hold on to each other and love each other. We were aware during the last year of his life how much trouble he was experiencing. Death is always a shock. However, we always hoped he could get out of his addiction. Unfortunately, it got a hold of him. We comfort each other, we delight in the memory of the wonderful human being he was, and we know that he is out of pain which we are grateful for.
Can you tell us about the work you are doing with your organization, The Etheridge Foundation?
ME: The Etheridge Foundation is an organization we just recently established. We accept donations and hold fundraisers. The goal is to fund research to find alternatives to the pharmaceutical opioid crisis we are facing. If anyone is in pain, they are automatically prescribed opioids. We fund research for finding other methods which work, and plant medicine is our focus.
In the past, you partnered with a dispensary to create cannabis-infused wine, which was such a unique product. What was that experience like, and can you tell us more about your company, Etheridge Botanicals?
ME: It is still unique because California, where we were doing it, made it illegal to infuse alcohol with cannabis, so we had to stop doing that. However, I still have Etheridge Botanicals, where we sell cannabis. In August, we launched our CBD line, which we are really excited about! We are a very health-focused company. We know many seek out cannabis for medical reasons and gravitate to the CBD side. You can shop on our website: EtheridgeBotanicals.com. We ship all throughout the entire United States.
Currently, marijuana is very much a state-by-state issue riddled with hoops you need to jump through. Do you think we will ever witness federalization?
ME: Eventually. I liken the movement to the struggle of marriage equality which started out as a municipality-by-municipality situation, then state-by-state, and later became federalized. Cannabis all comes down to business, so you get into this murky water where the pharmaceutical companies are fighting it for obvious reasons. There are also certain states and groups of people who are uneducated about it and, by default, oppose it. Unfortunately, President Joe Biden is one of those people.
Biden is from a generation that was brainwashed by Reefer Madness. I am not sure if federalization will take place in his tenure as president. Marijuana is really the future of the nation because it is not just about health benefits: this can aid agriculture, real estate, and business as a whole. This can really boost our economy!
Your new album, One Way Out, was just released on September 17th. Can you tell us about this unique record?
ME: This album is from the vaults. The album was actually recorded eight years ago at a time when I was contemplating releasing a box set. At the time, I came across many songs I made demos of in the 1980s and 90s, which did not make it on any of my albums primarily due to intimidation. Some of the songs were recorded prior to coming out. At the time, I felt they were too revealing and/or too feminist. They were all on hold until last year when BMG wanted to release new material, and I finally moved forward with the concept. I am excited these songs get to see the light of day. People love me performing it on tour because it is that rocky and roll angsty sound.
See Melissa Etheridge Live:
October 22nd | Bergen PAC | Englewood, NJ
October 24th | Paramount Theatre | Asbury Park, NJ
June 12th, 2022 | Tarrytown Music Hall | Tarrytown, NY
June 13th, 2022 | Count Basie Center | Red Bank, NJ