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Melissa Etheridge Talks Music, Her Journey

Melissa Etheridge
Courtesy of the artist

The legendary artist will be performing at the Palms Hotel and Casino

Melissa Etheridge has had some career.

After breaking into the mainstream in the early 1990s, she's won Grammy Awards and an Oscar.

She's also an activist for LGBTQ issues, for cancer research, and for arts education.

Etheridge told KNPR's State of Nevada that there was a lot of music in her home in Kansas when she was growing up.

“I grew up with the radio and records and got his crazy dream that I wanted to play guitar and I started playing guitar and I never looked back,” she said.

She continued her musical education at Berkley College of Music in Boston. She spent two semesters there, learning the type of music she didn't want to play and the type she did.

“It gave me a sense that I wanted to be a singer-songwriter that I wanted to write songs and sing and play,” Etheridge said.

Her music wasn't a huge hit when she started. She played in bars and clubs then moved onto smaller theaters. She actually won a Grammy Award before she released her breakout album "Yes I Am."

“I’m actually very grateful that my career went the way that it did that I didn’t have an overnight success I had a lot of work. I lot of practice,” Etheridge said.

At around the same time that her star started to rise, questions started to circulate about her sexuality. Etheridge said everyone close to her knew she was lesbian but as she started to move into the public eye she wanted to clarify who she is.

“I was not in the closet," the musician said. "There was this invisible line between my personal life and my professional life that hadn’t been crossed.”

Etheridge said her career was never hurt by coming out and believes that people who didn't like it, didn't understand her music anyway.

She was on the road in Iowa when the historic ruling by the Supreme Court on marriage equality was announced. She celebrated with her wife, who had just arrived the day before. 

“It was so great to be with her and just celebrate with the world," Etheridge remembers. "It was an amazing feeling at that moment. I’ll never forget it.”

Besides advocating for marriage equality, Etheridge works for cancer research. She is a cancer survivor and says making it through that disease has impacted her more than anything.

“It was a huge impact, probably the biggest impact I’ve had was going through cancer,” she said. “It changed me so much. My outlook on life. My thought of 'what the heck am I doing here?' What is my music about?”

Etheridge will be performing Friday night at the Palms hotel-casino. This show will be different than other shows because it is a solo show.

“I can be a little more laid back," she said, "I sit on the piano. I play a couple songs on the piano. I talk a little bit more it’s a really intimate side of me.” 


Melissa Etheridge, singer-songwriter

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)