Melissa Etheridge is about to release a tribute to her last tour with the new live DVD A Little Bit of Me: Live in L.A. while simultaneously preparing for her next gig, a co-headlining run with Blondie that will bring also Joan Jett into the fold for a few shows. Music Times had the chat with the Grammy/Oscar-winner while she prepped for the upcoming tour...we found her favorite Los Angeles venues, what city's audiences trumps even her hometown crowd, as well as being a Debbie Harry-fangirl during high school.
Music Times: I understand you've got a new live DVD coming out, A Little Bit of Me: Live in L.A.?
Melissa Etheridge: Yeah, it's coming up. It's from a show we did, the last show in December, of the tour that I did in the fall. I wanted to record it because it's one of my favorite bands, one of my favorite groups I've ever played with and it was just such a fun, fun show.
Excellent. What venue were you at?
The Orpheum here in downtown L.A. It's a beauuutiful theater, it's gorgeous.
I think on your first DVD you played the Kodak Theater and I know you've got a plethora of venues in Los Angeles...
Yeah, we've got some great places to perform out here, for sure.
Do you have a favorite?
Here in L.A.?
You got it.
Well let's see. I like The Orpheum a lot. It's beautiful. I like...oh goodness, I love The Greek [The Greek Amphitheater]...there's actually some places here I haven't played. Never played The Hollywood Bowl. I would lovvve to do that.
Huh, really? Well I'll send them a note...
Please let them know...I'm working on it!
Wherever you decide to play, I'm sure they're happy to have you back on film in Los Angeles...I know your last couple have been in New York City (Lucky Live and The Awakening Live).
Yeah the Lucky one was in New York City. But c'mon...New York City! Actually, uh, don't tell L.A. but I prefer the New York City audiences. They're a little wilder, a little bit more dangerous, and edgy and fun. L.A....they tend to relax a little bit. But yeah. I do enjoy my New York audiences.
Fair enough. I haven't checked up with the paparazzi...are you still based out of L.A.?
Yeah, I'm out here in paparazzi-land. Out here with Kanye and Miley and J. Lo. We're all living out here.
That sounds like your crowd.
I moved out here to get away from it all and they all came. They followed me so I'm not sure what I'm going to do now (laughs).
I was curious if you get a hometown crowd response, being based in L.A. all these years?
Yeah, it kinda does. I've lived here for 30 years...I've lived here longer than I've lived anywhere so I've turned into a California girl. I certainly can tell lots of Southern California jokes when I'm here. Just being here, raising my family here so definitely hometown. Definitely.
You mentioned one of the highlights of A Little Bit of Me was the band you were with...can you tell me what's so great about the current band?
Well, Jerry 'Wonda' is on bass (Jerry Duplessis), and he is from The Fugees and a producer. He produced a couple tracks on the album, like "Monster" and "Do It Again." He's just an incredible musician. And he brought his musicians, that I recorded with, that I loved. Brandyn Porter on guitar Arden Altino on keyboards, and then I had Blair Sinta on drums, who's been playing with me for the last five years, and he just like...part of my brain. He's so good. A couple background singers and then we just had...you know, when things click personally and onstage, it really shows. There's just a beauty and an ease and a real joy, and it comes across. It really did with this band.
Okay, well that highlights the end of your last tour...but looking forward you've got a co-headlining tour with Blondie coming up, also in June?
Yes! That starts in July...I'm doing a little patchwork this summer. I'm doing some solo shows, I'm doing some shows with the band, I'm doing some shows with the band where I play with Blondie, I'm doing some shows with the band where I'm playing with Blondie and Joan Jett. So there's a lot of different stuff...even around New York I think I have a couple band gigs and some solo gigs.
Were you a Blondie fan?
Oh yeah (emphasis). Oh my gosh..."Heart of Glass"? It came out, what, 1980, end of 1979? (Early 1979...good guess nonetheless). End of my high school, right before I went to Boston...it was the call to a new decade. The '80s. The music that was coming, it was just...so good. So good and I totally followed it. Blondie is just a special part of American music.
I have to admit, when I think of "Melissa Etheridge tour partner," Blondie isn't the first name that comes to mind.
(laughs) No...but I think when these things come together, it's just good music and a good time that you want to have. And her (Debbie Harry) and I, we're switching off headlining...because, you know, who's to go first? We don't know. But I think that the fans of both will find pleasure in both bands.
You and Debbie do have a very similar vocal color...
(laughs) Yeah, not really. You know, it's a kind of rock 'n' roll. And I'm all for it.
While we're talking about rock 'n' roll...how did the dates with Joan Jett come about?
Yes, there's multiple but there's not many. I think a handful, only about five. Those were kind of last minute. I changed my agency, my booking agency, from CBA—which had been my agency for 25 years—to William Morris, WME. And, instantly, they hooked me up with Blondie in March for shows in July, which is unheard of. You usually book Summer in the Fall. So i'm just grateful...there probably would've been more shows together had there been time to really think about it and put the whole tour together, but we got these shows together and I'm just really William Morris Endeavor for doing that.
I imagine there's a lot of work that goes into balancing out those schedules...
You have no idea (laughs). I don't do that but someone did an I am very grateful for it.
You've been pretty active over the last five years, releasing three LPs of new material. Are you already looking forward to something else?
Heh. I'm always looking forward. I was just in the studio again with Jerry, we recorded two or three. Where that's going...not sure. I'm really giving This Is M.E. a lot of time to grow. With the new music industry and owning this record, I don't have to be done. It's not over. I get to keep working it. So I'm always looking forward but I'm not jumping there yet, to exactly what I'm gonna do.
Could you air that out a bit, what you mean by letting it "grow"?
Meaning I'm touring with it, it's just starting to get a little bit of play in Europe. "Monster" is starting to grow over there so I'm going back over there this summer. Wanna get back there in the fall. Still trying to get things to happen here in America. I'm going down to Australia in January...Australia, New Zealand. I won't want to release anything new until, well, next year sometime.
As you add more and more to the catalogue, does it get more challenging to make a setlist from night-to-night?
Yeah...well, I'm always doing the hits because...I love them and I love sharing them with the audience. It's almost half the show now. So that does limit what new songs I get to do, so I do a handful of hits and I do a handful of deep album tracks and that's pretty much what makes the show up. But I do keep a fresh setlist every show.
Excellent. But we as fans, we appreciate hearing the hits.
Aww. Thank you so much.