Power Of ME: An Authentic Voice
“Presenting my songs, looking out in the audience and see people relating to it. So that moment when I felt so alone and I’m writing because I was in pain, or hoping or dreaming or whatever the song came from, to know that that personal moment transforms, that it translates to another human being… it’s universal. I love that.”
Today she’s a Grammy Winner, platinum-selling artist, and known worldwide for her lusty lyrics with tender undertones. But it all started in the small town Leavenworth Kansas when Melissa Etheridge was just 8 years old and picked up her sister’s guitar. And at the age of 11, Melissa Etheridge made her debut at a shopping mall talent show where she performed an original song. She spent her adolescent years traveling to gigs almost every weekend with her father. She reflects fondly, “My dad was my biggest fan.”
Etheridge left Kansas to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston. After a year on the east coast, she moved cross country hopeful that her dreams would come true in Los Angeles. When she arrived on the scene, hair bands with a heavy metal sound filled every venue and, “There was no place for a girl and her acoustic guitar.” But in 1986 she signed her first record deal and would release her stripped down self-titled album, Melissa Etheridge, earning her first Grammy nomination for the single “Bring Me Some Water.”
Though her music garnered critical acclaim and underground success, it wasn’t until 1993 with the release of the Yes I Am album that Etheridge found musical stardom. “I’m the Only One” climbed to the top of the billboard and her hit “Come to My Window” earned her a Grammy. The 6-X platinum album is her bestselling record to date.
Etheridge has since released chart-topping albums with her authentic voice. She still pens the pain of heartbreak and sting of regret, but other life challenges have added new themes to the writer’s repertoire. In 2004, Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer. But the musician didn’t let cancer keep her from courageously performed at the 2005 Grammy’s, though she was bald from intense chemotherapy treatments. Just one year later, she received an Academy Award for writing and performing “I Need to Wake Up” featured in the environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
Almost 30 years have passed since she signed with her first record label much has changed in the music industry. In its current state, Etheridge feels the industry is chasing its tail by emphasizing sales instead of allowing art to flourish. Though she admits that she once coveted the illusions of fortune and fame, her focus now is exploring her truth and spirituality through her lyrics and sound. But on the horizon, she says “the business is in a renaissance movement in which the artists are empowered to produce and promote their record themselves. It’s not in the hands of a few — I’m not bound to what a record company wants a single to be.” Etheridge is a pioneer of the creative movement having released her first independent album in 2014 This is M.E. The musician turned entrepreneur says, “I made a choice to become a small business owner…You can brand yourself, you can create and be what you want and that’s what was exciting to me. I can now take ahold of this.”
Etheridge says there is one element that has been a constant in the impetuous industry. Though record sales are plummeting, the irreplaceable magic of a life concert keeps fans of all genres filling stadiums, arenas and amphitheaters alike. “The real music is what thrills people; real people singing, and giving it their all.” Watching the creative process come full circle, Etheridge reveals, “Presenting my songs, looking out in the audience and seeing people relate to it. So that moment when I felt so alone and I’m writing because I was in pain, or hoping or dreaming or whatever the song came from, to know that personal moments translates to another human being… It’s universal. I love that.”
To hear more about Melissa Etheridge’s journey, join The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio at Keyholder 2015 on Wednesday May 6th at The Ohio Theatre!
Written by Sarah Hider, Women’s Fund Intern
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