After 25 years of recording gutsy rock-and-roll, Melissa Etheridge's latest creative effort brings the trailblazing singer back in time — both in subject matter and in style.
The new music also brings her back to Austin for the first time in two years, where she'll reconnect with her dedicated fans from the stage of ACL Live at the Moody Theater in Austin on Friday, October 12.
“I love playing Austin,” Etheridge says. “Austin is like the little oasis in Texas. I love the music, I love the food and I’m really looking forward to playing the new theater.”
“Once you’ve gone around the sun 50 times, you don’t sweat the small stuff as quickly,” Etheridge says. “You realize that the stress about it is worse than what the perceived injustice might be.”
She’s coming to Austin in support of her 12th album, 4th Street Feeling, a record Etheridge says she set out to make as organic as possible.
“It’s just a big, solid chunk of me, and I can really stand behind it,” she says. “I dedicated myself to recording an album that was something I love and that really came from me.”
While getting back to her roots, Etheridge challenged herself to improve her already impressive guitar skills and play lead guitar on the record — something she’s never done before.
“In the last couple of years, it dawned on me that I have been defining myself, thinking that I’m only this good of a guitar player,” she says. “Why would I ever limit myself to say, no, that’s as good as I am and that’s it? So I am better.”
She jokes that her new love for lead guitar may result in nine-minute guitar solos while on tour. “It’s so much fun! All right, maybe not that long. But I will indulge myself a little.”
Etheridge turned 50 last year and contemplates what she’s learned since simpler times, when everything she owned could fit in her Chevrolet, as the title track of her latest CD suggests.
“There’s a certain wisdom in knowing there’s so much to know,” she says. “Yet once you’ve gone around the sun 50 times, you don’t sweat the small stuff as quickly. You realize that the stress about it is worse than what the perceived injustice might be.”
While putting together 4th Street Feeling, a unexpected theme emerged.
“The actual subject matter kind of being reminiscent — I didn’t expect that. I didn’t really see that until I started putting the songs together,” Etheridge says.
“I mean, I turned 50 last year, and it’s kind of, wait a minute, I gotta stop running away from my past. Let’s incorporate my past and have an understanding and maybe a different perspective.”
The exploration of her past includes mentions of her childhood, her youth and past relationships. After going through a very public breakup and custody battle, she admits she’s getting lots of questions about the inspiration for the track titled “A Disaster,” and she was a little guarded in talking about it.
“Everyone’s kind of like ‘So, what’s that one about?’” she says. “Being a songwriter, I have the ability to take my emotions and my thoughts ... and filter them through an expression of art. ‘A Disaster’ is definitely a nice cathartic release for me. The end.”
Looking forward, Etheridge says much of her focus will remain on her four children. The music veteran is also excited about her next creative challenges, which include developing a musical for Broadway.
“I want to create music,” she says. “I want to create something on Broadway. I want to create for film and television. There are just all kinds of fun things I want to do. I’m just taking it one day at a time.”