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Etheridge still going strong, coming to Oregon - again

She enjoys being role model, mother, gay activist, cancer survivor


Photo Credit: COURTESY OF JAMES MINCHIN - Award-winning musician Melissa Etheridge will play two nights of concerts in late August at Chinook Winds Casino & Resort in Lincoln City.Rocker. Songwriter. Guitarist. Activist. Melissa Etheridge wears many hats, and quite fashionably at that, thank you.

The Grammy and Academy Award winner will play Chinook Winds Casino & Resort in Lincoln City for two shows, Aug. 29 and 30 (www.chinookwindscasino.com).

Etheridge, 53, owns two Grammys and 15 Grammy nominations, won an Academy Award for best original song in 2006 and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011.

The Leavenworth, Kan. native recently spoke with the Portland Tribune from her home in Los Angeles about the Lincoln City stop, which comes at the end of her current solo tour:

Portland Tribune: How much touring do you do these days?

Etheridge: This year was the off year. I toured more in 2013. My new album, “This is M.E.,” is coming out Sept. 30, so I’ll go out on a six-week tour in the fall. And I’ll probably do a spring thing overseas. Next year will be full. It’s a balancing thing between family, home and touring. I would say I typically tour a little less than half a year.

Tribune: Is it still as fun as when you started?

Etheridge: I love the performances. The travel? Ehhh ... I wish I could just materialize (laughs).

Tribune: On the solo tour, are you just singing and playing the guitar?

Etheridge: It’s myself and a looper — technology that allows me to play several different beats and sounds. I show the audience the process, which is really fun. They think it’s like magic. It’s a really interesting show. If you like my music, this is a great time to see me. The solo tour is unique. I haven’t

done one since 2001. When I come back in the fall, it will be with full band.

Tribune: How many times have you played Oregon over the years?

Etheridge: Oh my goodness, Oregon is one of my favorite stops. Quite a few times. I’d say dozens. I’ve often played the Schnitzer in Portland — love that place. I’ve loved the way Portland has grown. I love the ideals of the people there, and your politics. I love flying over Oregon and looking down at the farms. It’s just gorgeous, the organic nature of the whole state.

Tribune: What kind of songs will be on the new album?

Etheridge: It’s all original stuff. It’s my first independent record. My management said in this day and age, I need to own my own record. The making of it becomes very different. You collaborate more, and the producer gets a percentage. I work with many different producers. The music ranges from songs like “Take my Number,” a classic acoustic rock song, to some stuff I worked on with Jerry “Wonda” Duplessis, the producer and bass player with the Fugees. We came up with some amazing tracks like “Monster” and “Do it Again.” It runs the gamut, from country songs to hip hop.

Tribune: Is country at the heart of your musical genre?

Etheridge: When someone asks me, I’ll say rock ‘n’ roll, yet rock ‘n’ roll came from country and rhythm and blues. My roots growing up in Kansas were from the one AM station, which played Led Zeppelin, Tammy Wynette, Marvin Gaye. My first bands were country western. In my heart, it’s country, yet the music that always moved me was rock ‘n’ roll.

Tribune: In Wikipedia, you’re identified as “rock singer/songwriter, guitarist and activist.” Which do you most strongly identify with at this point in your life?

Etheridge: It’s funny. The activist part is not something I ever strived for. I never know quite how to live up to that. My activism comes in my living the choices I’ve made. I’m not one to get up and make speeches. I would say I’m a rock performer and songwriter. That’s at the soul.

Tribune: Joss Stone calls you “one of the bravest women I’ve come across.” What do you think when she says that?

Etheridge: I love inspiring the younger generation. Bravery is in the eye of the beholder. I’m just making the choices as life presents them to me.

Tribune: You’re a breast cancer survivor. It’s been 10 years since your treatment. How are you doing?

Etheridge: I’m cancer-free! Ten healthy years. I’ve learned so much about my health, my body, the food I eat, keeping active, drinking water — everything. Health is the most important thing. If I don’t have my health, I have nothing.

Tribune: You were married in May to your partner, Linda Wallem. Is it true the two of you are exactly the same age? You were actually born on the same day?

Etheridge: Isn’t that bizarre? She is four hours older than me. We were best friends before. We’d always spend our birthday together. It’s crazy. It’s a fun thing. We have a lot in common.

Tribune: Will she be with you at Chinook Winds?

Etheridge: I don’t know. She has a big job. She comes with me whenever she can. Very

possibly.

Tribune: You have four kids. How important is being a mother to you?

Etheridge: Oh my God, it’s what it’s all about. Being a mom is just so rewarding. I want to be the best one I can be. But I don’t want to sacrifice myself for my kids. That doesn’t do any good. I want them to see that when I do work, I’m loving what I do. Hopefully, they can have that, too — find something in life that is a plan.

Tribune: How important is gay rights activism? How do you think the country is doing in terms of gay rights?

Etheridge: I tell you, it’s the craziest civil human rights movement in the last 20 years. To be fighting for your right to love is a bit unusual. But I’ve seen a wonderful change in this country. I truly believe the biggest factor is the gay community is learning to love itself, and coming out. The only way we change hearts and minds is to show people we’re family, we’re in the work place, we’re your neighbors, we’re contributing citizens, that we love our children and partners and love our country. We’re moving in an incredible direction, getting there state by state.

Tribune: You’re also an activist in other areas such as environmental issues.

Etheridge: That’s a natural outstemming from having cancer. I am connected to the earth. It’s important to take care of that entity that supplies me life. When Al Gore asked me to write a song (for his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”), I was honored. It was one piece of a very large movement of waving a new thought about who we are and of a consciousness of what the earth represents.

Tribune: Do you smoke marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes?

Etheridge: Yes sir, I do. I believe cannabis is an important medicine in our human life. It can do so much for people beyond any pharmaceuticals. It’s a natural plant. I think it’s the future. As human beings, we have a right to choose how to relax in the evening. I’m a big advocate for the legalization of cannabis.

Tribune: You’ve had such strong staying power as a musician. What’s your secret?

Etheridge: Loving what I do. Just loving it, and doing it because I love it. For no other

reason.

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Twitter: @kerryeggers