Good For What Ails Ya
Melissa Etheridge’s “The Medicine Show” plans an April stop in Connecticut
By Renee DiNino
Photography by Lauren Dukoff
Singer, songwriter and rocker Melissa Etheridge will bring her latest tour, “The Medicine Show,” to Connecticut with a stop at the Warner Theatre in Torrington on April 15.
I’ve had the opportunity to interview this amazing woman many times over the years. Whenever she is on tour, she always visits us in Connecticut.
Her latest tour complements her 15th studio album, and I spoke with her last year when she released the album and kicked off the tour. Talking to her is one of the highlights of my job – getting to speak with a powerful, successful female who happens to make great music.
The cover “The Medicine Show” album is totally retro, and even has a Janis Joplin classic rock feel. Etheridge can rock a cowboy hat like nobody’s business!
“You know it’s in the same vein of rock ‘n’ roll as a medicine woman, you know rock ‘n’ roll is music that’s derived from old indigenous cultures,” Etheridge says. “That sort of shamanism aspect of it, absolutely, when Janis took on her Pearl persona, you know it was that feeling. I have a stylist who’s been with me for 10 years now, Paul Castro, and I said I wanna feel medicine womany, and just from head to toe, I felt it.”
Let me also interject, Etheridge loves to laugh, and her laugh is good for the soul!
Flashback to 2010: I was hosting an event at Bushnell Park in Hartford for Susan G. Komen, and of course Etheridge is a breast cancer survivor. I was hosting and I was interviewing her and asked if she would record a message for all. So, in front of 10,000 people, I was able to wish everyone participating in the race good luck, and I was also able to deliver a message from the one and only Etheridge, wishing everyone well. “Hey, it’s Melissa Etheridge, I wanna say hey to everybody out there getting ready to run your Race for the Cure in Connecticut. You all have a good race and run for hope and all that is real.”
These days, she’s feeling stronger and healthier than ever and has some rituals she likes to do before her performances.
“Well, my whole day sort of becomes routine when I have a show, from the time I wake up to the time I put my stuff together, and my day becomes the ritual,” she says. “I do sound check, I do dinner, I do hair and makeup, I have meet and greet, I have half an hour before the show [when] I do stretching. Then, right before I go on, we do something we call ‘We Vibe’: I get in a circle with my musicians and I just connect and I say, ‘Okay, we’re about to do this…. Then the energy comes, man, the minute the lights go down. The audience is just right there with me. I never have to get pumped up; it’s always right there for me.”
After all these years of writing, recording and touring, there’s no place Etheridge would rather be than on stage.
“It’s my favorite place, I gotta tell ya. It’s why I do everything I do, it’s why I make music, it’s why I make albums, because I love standing in front of people and exchanging energy through music and transforming ourselves and feeling better,” she says. “My favorite compliment is when people say, ‘God, I feel so much better than when I started, than when I came here.’ That’s what it’s all about. So, in doing that, I feel better, so I now chase it. I totally understand why Mick Jagger has been doing this all into his 70s.”
Those who see her on the tour will get more than merely music: they’ll get stories and hear real issues through Etheridge’s music that will somehow get transformed into a therapeutic outlet, where audience members actually come away feeling empowered.
“2017 and 2018 were really the years I was writing and conceptualizing this album, ‘The Medicine Show,’ and just month after month, there would be deeper and deeper issues coming up from the #MeToo movement, the women’s marches, to school shootings, our whole government, the opioid crisis and everything,” says Etheridge. “I felt the last couple of years, these things kept floating to the top. We need to find a new way of thinking about them and solving these issues.”
She adds, “I view myself as an artist. My job is to mirror society, to write stories that make us think and feel and maybe help us understand these things more. So that’s what I put into ‘The Medicine Show,’ and that’s what this album is.”
Her thoughts on being a role model, whether intended or not, for the LGBTQ community?
“The role model thing is an interesting thing,” she says. “You know, I entered this industry and I would think, ‘What would the people I looked up to do?’ And before you know it, someone says to me, ‘You’re my role model,” and I’m like ‘Me?’ You’re like, what? Me? How did that happen? I found that just being myself, just saying, ‘This is who I am,’ and being able to stand in my truth has gotten me so far. If I can influence, if I can inspire someone to be who they are, to find their courage, their strength, in exactly who they are, then maybe we’re making the world a better place and that makes me very happy.”
Later this year, Connecticut VOICE will speak with Etheridge about another of her loves: pets.