Cementing herself once again in music-industry history, rock legend Melissa Etheridge is back with her spirted new release, Memphis Rock and Soul, out now via Stax Records. Memphis Rock And Soul pays tribute to the music of Stax, a significant source of influence and inspiration for the star.
Etheridge, 55, kept the recording as authentic as possible by making the pilgrimage to Memphis to record in Willie Mitchell's historic Royal Studios. A memorable takeaway for her was recording with Mitchell's son, Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell, and the Hi Records Rhythm section, composed of Rev. Charles and Leroy Hodges, Archie "Hubbie" Turner, Michael Toles and James "JRob" Robertson. Ever the inspired songwriter, Etheridge penned new lyrics for the album and incorporated an assortment of iconic Stax samples during production. The result is a masterful slice of Americana.
The album list includes "Memphis Train," "Respect Yourself ( People Stand Up )," "Who's Making Love," "I Forgot to Be Your Lover," "Born Under a Bad Sign" and "I've Got Dreams to Remember."
Etheridge has long been a pioneer in the LGBT-rights movement. She publicly came out in 1993 and went on to become the recipient of three GLAAD Media Awards. In addition, she's received 15 Grammy Award nominations winning two in 1993 and 1995, respectively. In 2007, she won the coveted Academy Award for Best Original Song ( Al Gore's I Need to Wake Up documentary film ).
Etheridge is currently on tour in support of Memphis Rock And Soul. Asked if there was one song that she most looked forward to performing this time around, she said: "It's a combination [of the music]. You never know which song is going to resonate with the crowds. I mean, I always know that 'Come to My Window' is the biggest hit there is and such, but every crowd has its own spirit and sometimes they're a listening crowd and sometimes they're a participatory crowd."
On a personal level, Etheridge shared she is the most content she's ever been. Etheridge married Nurse Jackie producer/writer Linda Wallem in 2014.
"I am very happy. I am so in love with my wife and it's just one of the most wonderful, incredible relationships I've ever had," Etheridge said. "It's solid, solid, solid and I cannot emphasize enough how wonderfully happy I am."
Etheridge and her actress ex-wife Tammy Lynn Michaels share custody of their 10-year-old twins, Johnnie Rose Etheridge and Miller Steven Etheridge. It's an arrangement that works for their livesand careers.
"I share custody so I'm able to travel and do the work that I need to do so I can kind of have both of those lives and it's really amazing," she said.
Prior to tying the knot with Michaels in 2003, Etheridge had two children with ex-partner Julie Cypher: Bailey Jean Cypher, 20, and Beckett Cypher, 18. Their biological father is music icon David Crosby.
"I have two adult children and they are out doing their lives," she said. "One is in New York City going to Columbia University and the other is out finding himself. I love being a mother. It's a better experience than I ever thought it ever could be."
After three decades in music, the rocker said she thinks she has finally figured it all out.
"I feel like I've finally hit my stride in my 50s," she said. "Like, I finally went, 'Oh, this is what life's about!' I'm really enjoying it. Really."
Etheridge has been cancer-free for more than a decade.
"I'm so healthy, so happy. I'm healthier than I've ever been."
For a full list of Memphis Rock and Soul tour dates, visit www.melissaetheridge.com/events.