Just because she is 12 albums deep into her career doesn’t mean that American rocker Melissa Etheridge has settled into any kind of routine. In fact, she is all for exploring new avenues and ideas to have her music heard.
One really couldn’t blame the two-time Grammy Award winner had she wanted to stick with the status quo, however. After all, the more than 10 million albums she has sold throughout her career in the time since her 1988 self-titled debut served as a pretty good sign that she had been doing something right.
Released almost one year ago, This Is M.E. saw Etheridge broaden her musical horizons, bringing in a cast of collaborators such as Jerrod Bettis (Adele, One Republic) and Jon Levine (Nelly Furtado, Selena Gomez), along with Jerry “Wonda” Duplessis (Grammy Award-winning producer of the Fugees) and Roccstar (Usher, Chris Brown).
“The approach I took to making this record was very new to me,” Etheridge says. “It was partially attributed to the fact I am now an independent artist. I no longer had the big budget of a record company to work with up front. I was so used to writing a record, hiring the band and the producer and then going into the studio.
“With This Is M.E., I took the time to co-write with people, just to see if there was any kind of spark between us. It didn’t always work, but when it did, it was magical.”
Rather than seeking out bonafide hit-makers in a bid to maintain some degree of relevancy, Etheridge is beyond comfortable with her role in the music business of 2015. She admits that the collaborations undertaken for the album served to help bring her out of her shell.
“I don’t have a problem with my relevancy; that wasn’t why I was looking to collaborate with others. The bigger fear going into the project was, ‘Am I going to be able to do this?’ Was I going to be able to open myself up and make these collaborations work?
“In the past, I had worked alone and all too often, I would quash my own ideas before they got too far along in the process. When you have someone sitting beside you though, they sometimes hear something special that I didn’t necessarily hear, and encourage me to pursue that. The song ‘Monster’ is a good example of that. The melody for that song came about one day that I was just messing around in the studio. Jerry [Duplessis] heard it and immediately latched onto it. If he hadn’t have been there, chances are I just would have let it go,” she says.
Outside of songwriting, her newest studio effort has forced growth in different aspects of her career, as well. After spending more than two decades entrenched in the major record label system, This Is M.E. represents another new beginning for Etheridge: independence.
“The biggest bummer is that there is no one else to blame if the album doesn’t work,” she laughs. “All the decisions are mine, which really forced me to step up my business sense and be more involved in my career. I love it, because I get to see the rewards first-hand. People are interviewing me because they want to and not out of some sense of duty to someone else.”
Although making music and keeping a keen eye on the bottom line is an important part of keeping her head above water in the modern day music business, Etheridge says having the opportunity to interact with her fans via social media outlets has been a game-changer as far as she is concerned.
“It is such a wonderful thing to have social media at my disposal. It can be a very powerful place. In the past, the only feedback that I tended to get was show reviews from a local paper, and even those I had to take with a grain of salt because there would be nights that I felt like I had an amazing show, only to have the review say it was okay.
“Social media allows me to interact directly with my fans and get their unfiltered feedback about their favourite songs and what they think of the live show, among other things. Having that closeness with the people that are supporting my career is something to be treasured.”
What: Melissa Etheridge
When: Thursday Sept. 24, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $49.99 plus taxes and service fees. Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca