On Friday, June 17 at 8 PM, Academy Award- and GRAMMY Award-winning singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge will take the stage for the final show of The Colonial’s 2015-2016 season!
That resolute yearning, that longing for connection, for contact, for touch . . . These are the core forces that have powered Melissa Etheridge’s cherished songs throughout her singular career. But as the rousing chorus of “I Won’t Be Alone Tonight,” the opening song of her album This Is M.E., these words hold some new meaning, some new context.
With this album, her 12th collection of new material, she is not alone as a songwriter. For the vibrant collection, she teamed with some of the most creative, inventive figures on the music scene: Jerrod Bettis (Adele, One Republic, Eric Hutchinson, Gavin DeGraw), Jon Levine (Nelly Furtado, K’Naan, Selena Gomez), Jerry Wonda (GRAMMY Award-winning producer of the Fugees, Mary J. Blige, Akon) and Roccstar (Usher, Chris Brown) at the forefront. It was a very new way of doing things for the artist, who counts two GRAMMY Awards (and 17 nominations), an Academy Award (for “I Need to Wake Up” from the Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth) and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame among her many accolades. Recording the new album proved an inspiring, electrifying experience for her, the best kind of challenge. And the resultant energy is clear in the songs. “I haven’t been this excited about making music and creating in ages,” Etheridge says. “Song after song was a great experience.”
Make no mistake, the album’s declarative title is fully fitting — not despite the collaborations, but because of them. The powerful lyrics and incomparable voice, the indelible melodies, the blazing guitars could be from no one else. The same can be said for the soulful joy and unbridled passion powering every note, from the big sing-along pop hooks of “A Little Hard Hearted” and “Do It Again” to the greasy, swampy sounds of “Ain’t That Bad” and “Stranger Road.”
These are songs right from her heart, the frisky flirtation of “Take My Number” and mystery-trip “Stranger Road” among those drawing on scenes and settings of her Kansas upbringing. And “Who Are You Waiting For” closes the album on the most intimate, emotional, personal, lump-in-the-throat note of her entire career. It’s the song she wrote for, and debuted at, her 2014 wedding to Linda Wallem.
“I opened a door to my inner little heart and wrote a song,” she says. “I sat down at the piano, started writing and the chorus came out, about how we were friends for years and years, and as we got closer it was ‘Who are you waiting for? I’m right here!’” She made a voice memo of what she’d written and sent it to Levine. “He went crazy over it, said, ‘You gotta warn me before playing something like that!’”
Levine put together the arrangement, including the organ that comes in toward the end. “That gets you,” Etheridge says. “The first time I heard that I burst into tears. I wasn’t there when he did it. It floored me.” And that was only the preview of the song’s profound debut. “I sang it at the wedding,” Etheridge says. “I was able to keep her from hearing it before. It was my vows.”
As the album title says, this is all Melissa Etheridge — ME.