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Two days before Melissa Etheridge publicly
announced her divorce from wife Tammy
Lynn Michaels, we spoke about love.
Etheridge is just as you'd expect her to be. She
speaks with conviction and purpose. ere's a sense
of power in the way she expresses herself, as if she's
getting you ready for something big, like a rally or a
It is tting then that we start with the battle
between fear and love, a theme of her tenth album,
Fearless Lo e. "My philosophy is there is only fear
and love. ose are the only two things that exist in
the world. Everything vibrates either of love or fear.
Our spirits or souls - or whatever you want to call
it - choose in every moment whether to be in the
vibration of love or fear. It can come down to what
you choose to eat, or how you choose to believe the
things you hear or see or feel from others and how you
react to them. You can choose love. You can either say,
'Oh, that person has been mean to me,' or you can
say that person has had a really bad day and let it go.
at's love or that's fear."
For a woman who has won two Grammys, an
Oscar, and beat cancer, what is le to be afraid of ?
"Maybe fear of my own power, fear of my own desire.
To sing from the depths of my soul, to sing about
situations that I wanted to sing about truthfully. Fear
that you're too old because all those artists now are
seventeen or something like that. Fear that I wasn't
enough, that I wasn't anything. ose are the fears
that I just killed on this album."
e fear of being too old to rock out is being
challenged across the board, from Patti Smith (who
tore the strings o her guitar on stage at the Sydney
Opera House last time I saw her) and former LOTL
cover girl Peaches, to the Indigo Girls and Stevie
Nicks. Still, I wonder about the pressure of working in
the industry. "Most of the pressure came from myself.
e minute I just stood up and went, 'Hmmm - nope',
put my leather pants on and said, 'No, here I go.' It
was like, 'Oh, that's right, that's what people actually
expect of me.' What was I thinking ?"
Fearless Lo e is a work of re ection. Some of the
songs are based on Etheridge's life as a teenager, and
' e Wanting of You' is a story about a small-town
Midwestern girl leaving a troubled life at home for a
better life somewhere else. As the album charts fear
from early life into adulthood I ask her how fear of
choice changes as we grow older. "Wow, yeah, you
know it's a learning process. Getting older you are
just learning. We are presented things and we keep
making the choices, and live with the consequences of
our choices. It's what our life is. And we can tumble
around and feel sorry for ourselves or we can go,
'Hmmm... next time this comes around I'm going to
make a di erent choice.' Make that di erent choice
and move on from that, and move up."
Etheridge's life is a road map of choice. She le
Kansas in the late 1970s to study music in Boston,
though abandoned academia a er only three
semesters for the live music scene of Los Angeles. It
was a wise choice. Of the ten albums in Etheridge's
career, three have gone multi-platinum, three have
gone platinum and two others went gold.
Etheridge met actress Tammy Lynn in Los
Angeles and they married in 2003. Have her
feelings of love changed since her marriage? She
said, "It focused me on the need to love yourself.
at there is no love, and I'm quoting myself from
a song [laughs], but there's no love from anyone
else - there's no way you can expect or hold anyone
else's love - until you love yourself."
A mother of four with twins (which she says is
"insanity"), told me that being a parent is "a whole
other thing. You learn to love yourself and your
own childhood experiences. You get to live them
all over again when you have children [laughs].
I was actually just telling someone today I don't
think that having children is any better than not
having children. I don't think one has to have
children or anything. My experience having
children has been an incredible one. I've learned
so much about myself, and about love, sel essness,
and unconditional love. ey in uence my life ;
they show me things every day. Being a mother is
a big part of me and that's going to be re ected in
my music. My older kids, they are actually listening
to music now. at's part of their world and they
are curious as to what I do. I listen to their opinions
now and that's a whole other di erent side of having
kids." I ask what they think about Fearless Lo e.
" ey think it's the best album I've ever made.
ey're very excited for me." Is being a lesbian parent
any di erent? "It's not any di erent. You just love
'em and love 'em and keep loving 'em."
e journey from southern kid to lesbian mum
has been a long one. For the most part, she has
always been out. "Coming out is the best thing
we can do for ourselves and our community. It's
absolutely at the core of our own happiness and
living in the world. How can we demand that the
world tolerate us if we're not tolerating ourselves?
If we don't believe that life is to be lived to the
fullest and that love is never wrong. To de ne love
as being just between opposite sexes is cutting o
not only just a whole segment of the population
of the world but of ourselves. e love between
two women? at's sacred stu . Come on, girls.
Be honoured that you were born a lesbian. It's an
Etheridge has scores of lesbian fans worldwide,
but she says she loves her Aussie girls. She told me she
couldn't pick her favourite Australian city because
she loves all of them, though she has a so spot for
Melbourne. "It's time to come to Australia," she says.
"I miss my Australian fans. I want them to know that I
never stop thinking about them. e plan is that I will
tour America in our summer then I will hit Europe
in the fall, and then come down there. at's the plan
for me, to come sometime in January." You need to be
there, I say. "I need to be there. I need some of that
yummy down under stu ."
Before a tour that will take Etheridge across the
world I ask her where she stands now. "Well I nally
reached the place, a er twenty years, where I nally
believe that maybe I'm going to be successful.
Maybe I don't have to worry so much that it's all
going to go away. at I can be fearless. A big part
of this album was my realisation that I can create
strength from my heart and my soul. I believed
in myself as a rock and roll artist. I believed that I
could rock and bring it all in."
Fearless Love is out now through Universal Music.
Rock's warrior woman faces her fears. By Jillian Eugenios.
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