If any musician has the right to use the word “fearless” in an album title, it’s Melissa Etheridge. Over the past couple of decades, the gravel-voiced rocker has made her mark not only as an award-winning singer/songwriter, but a mother of four, a cancer survivor, an equal-rights activist and a Broadway actress.
Next weekend, she’ll perform at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, as part of a 15-city Canadian tour in support of “Fearless Love,” her latest album.
The title of the CD was inspired by her daughter, Etheridge told The Telegram in a phone interview from her home near Los Angeles.
“I told her I thought I was going to call the album ‘Songs of Love and Fear,’ and she said, ‘Mom, that’s way too long,’” Etheridge explained. “I said, ‘OK, how about ‘Fearless?’ and she said, ‘That’s Taylor Swift’s song. What about Fearless Love?’
“I thought it was perfect — and then I had to go and write a song called ‘Fearless Love.’”
Etheridge drew on her experiences — “How could I not?” she asked — in writing the album.
On it are songs like “We Are the Ones,” about her successful battle with breast cancer, and “Miss California,” addressing equal rights and reportedly written in response to Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in California in 2008.
Etheridge, 49, has been a tough cookie from the beginning. After releasing a debut self-titled album in the mid-’80s, spawning the hit “Bring Me Some Water,” she went on to record two more albums and earn a Grammy (Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for her single “Ain’t it Heavy”) before releasing her mainstream debut: 1993’s “Yes I Am.” Going six times platinum, the record earned Etheridge a No. 1 spot on the Billboard chart, three Grammy nominations and another Grammy win, for her single “Come to my Window.”
Shortly after the release of “Yes I Am,” Etheridge publicly came out as a lesbian, and was one of the first female celebrities to talk about her homosexuality. She had two children with former partner Julie Cypher, fathered by sperm donor David Crosby, in 1997, and two more with former partner Tammy Lynn Michaels in 2006.
Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and underwent chemotherapy, performing bald at the Grammies the next year, having lost her hair due to the treatment. She has spoken publicly about using marijuana for medicinal reasons, and reportedly told the audience during a concert last weekend in Edmonton that she liked the Canadian flag, because “it has a leaf on it.”
Now, after a dozen albums, 15 Grammy nominations, a Juno award (International Entertainer of the Year in 2009) and an Oscar (Best Original Song in 2007, for “I Need to Wake Up,” from the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth), Etheridge is branching out into even more musical endeavours.
Earlier this month, she did a week-long stint on Broadway in “American Idiot,” a musical based on Green Day’s 2004 album. Etheridge took over Billie Joe Armstrong’s role of St. Jimmy, a drug dealer and all-round dark character.
“I knew the producers and when they made up a list of people they thought might be able to take over the role, I was on it,” Etheridge said, explaining how she got the gig.
“My kids are fans of Green Day and they were like, ‘You have to do this.’ It was definitely something different for me. I was out of my comfort zone, but it was incredible. I’d do it again.”
Opening for Etheridge on her Canadian tour is Canadian singer/songwriter and Juno award winner Serena Ryder.
“I just love her voice — and I don’t usually have an opening act,”
The pair have just released a single together, “Broken Heart Sun,” written by Ryder and “Fearless Love” producer John Shanks, and will be performing it at the Genie Awards March 10.
“Isn’t it an amazing song?” Etheridge asks of “Broken Heart Sun,” adding she and Ryder will also perform the song in St. John’s.
When it comes to the rest of the concert, Etheridge said fans can expect a bit of everything: a little bit of new, a lot of old, and all great rock n’ roll.
“It isn’t going to be all stuff from the new album; this is going to be like a greatest hits tour,” she said. “I can’t wait.”
Melissa Etheridge, with special guest Serena Ryder, will perform at Mile One Centre Saturday, March 5 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $64.50, including tax, plus surcharge, and can be purchased at the Mile One Centre box office, by calling 576-7657 or 1-855-790-1245, or online at www.admission.com.