The ups and downs of Melissa Etheridge

Influenced by the music of Janis Joplin and Bruce Springsteen, American songstress Melissa Etheridge has forged a memorable career in music. With more than 7 million records sold in the United States alone, Etheridge’s perseverance in music and in her personal life have served as inspiration for countless others.

An outspoken, ardent supporter of equal rights for gay and lesbian couples, Etheridge also has the unique designation of being a cancer survivor, winning a battle with breast cancer in 2004. You may recall seeing Etheridge perform, bald from her chemotherapy treatments, during the 2005 Grammy Awards telecast where she blazed through Janis Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart” to rapturous audience applause and a well-deserved standing ovation.

Etheridge, along with Canadian singer-songwriter Serena Ryder will perform at Casino New Brunswick tomorrow night. The show starts at 8 p.m.

Etheridge’s name has been in the news over the past year but sadly for reasons which have nothing to do with her music or her most recent record, Fearless Love. Last year, the singer endured a very public break-up with partner Tammy Lynn Michaels, with whom she has two children. The news unfortunately overshadowed the Fearless Love record, giving fodder to tabloids eager to dig up the dirt on where the duo’s relationship went amiss.

From her home in California, Etheridge admits that being in the spotlight for personal reasons are tiresome and a less-than-ideal scenario for all concerned.

“I have come to realize that there is nothing I can do about it; I can’t control it,” an otherwise cheerful Melissa says. “It is sad when there is so much misinformation out there and the bottom feeders are eager to latch on to anything they can to support themselves.

“I learned long ago that you just can’t show people the good stuff in your life. I opened Pandora’s Box more than 20 years ago when I came out and have just learned to live my life as best as I can. There are always going to be ups and downs no matter what.”

With Tammy Lynn Michaels, Melissa has four-year-old twins and she has two children with former partner Julie Cypher. In spite of all the media attention that her break-up has endured, she says that both she and Tammy Lynn do their best to behave with the kids in mind but playfully adds “I think people can understand the reasons why we are no longer together.”

In a more positive turn of events however, Melissa recently had the opportunity to take up the role of St. Jimmy, a character in punk band Green Day’s Broadway musical American Idiot. The singer’s voice becomes noticeably animated when talk turns to her first Broadway experience.

“Appearing on Broadway was always one of the Top 10 experiences of my life to be certain,” she says. “I absolutely loved it!”

With Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong needing to take leave from the role of St. Jimmy, Melissa says that she was contacted by the production team asking if she would be interested in taking up the vacant position. She admits she was nervous in agreeing to it but was determined to confront her fear of the unknown and promptly signed on.

“Acting has been in my blood for a long time. Over the years, I have been trying to get into doing movies, television and more but it just never seemed to work out. So it really was the perfect introduction to that side of the business. “I knew that I loved musical theatre but now that I had the opportunity to hang out on Broadway, I really want to focus upon that aspect of my career and develop myself further,” she says.

Having achieved the success she has to date, Melissa admits that she is fortunate to be able to decide when tours take place based upon the needs and vacation schedules of her children.

“I still love touring although the travelling really isn’t all that great. I love seeing the world though and coming for this Canadian tour is no exception. I am getting to a handful of places for the very first time and am excited about that.”

But why not undertake a full-fledged Canadian tour in the summer as opposed to the frosty Canadian winter?

Melissa laughs and then says, “I needed to show Canadians how much I love you and what says that more than visiting you in the middle of winter?!”

Article published in March 7, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript