Of the great female vocalists to have achieved stardom in the ’90s, Melissa Etheridge is one of the best—making her mark with a distinctive raspy voice and powerful guitar chords. Often compared to Bruce Springsteen, Etheridge has carved out a place all her own in the pantheon of legendary singer/songwriters. On July 3, you’ll be able to experience a stripped-down, intimate performance of Etheridge’s show, This is M.E. SOLO…, at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC).
“I guess my show’s got some fireworks before it, so I’ll be seeing those,” Etheridge jokes. “I love doing summer tours. It’s just a wonderful time to be in America. Being on the East Coast in June and July, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Her 1993 breakthrough album, Yes I Am (featuring mega-hit “I’m the Only One”), garnered Etheridge international acclaim and a Grammy for “Come to My Window.” Since then, she’s won an Academy Award for “I Need to Wake Up” (from Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth), successfully battled breast cancer, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was honored by GLAAD for her advocacy of LGBTQ equal rights.
Etheridge offers this advice to youth in states with so-called “bathroom bills,” “Welcome to the leading edge of change. It’s not always a comfortable place to be, but our society’s going through some growing pains. Be strong, be yourself. If more people are openly transgender, more people will know them and know there’s nothing to be afraid of.” She laughs. “What it says about us that some of our biggest fears center around the bathroom, I don’t know.”
This is M.E., her most recent studio album, was released in 2014. “My perspective on This is M.E.—you know, it made me a better guitar player. It opened me up musically. A couple of the songs, I’m still playing. I’ve got a piano with me for the solo show. I do the hits, and some deep cuts for the mega fans.”
July 3 will be Etheridge’s first appearance at the WHBPAC and she customizes her set list to each venue she plays. “I check out the seats, whether they’re hard or small. Is there room for people to stand in front of them? Will people be able to dance in the aisles? Is alcohol being served? All these things I consider. I want to make a connection with each audience. I’m playing just for them, you know?”
After 15 records, multiple tours, festivals and special appearances, not to mention raising four children, Etheridge shows no inclination of slowing down. She talks animatedly about one of her upcoming projects, “It’s a reimagining of classic songs from the Stax Catalogue. Concord Records [who own the Stax label] let me get in there and access the masters. I’m talking about Otis Redding, Sammy Davis. John Mayer came into the studio and played wicked guitar on one of the tracks. “Hold On, I’m Comin’” is one of the greatest soul songs ever. ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ and ‘I’ll Take You There’ are just some of the most incredible recordings. I’m really excited.”
But what about current music? “I put Lemonade on whenever I can. I’m a huge Beyoncé fan.” Just like the rest of us.
Melissa Etheridge performs This Is M.E. SOLO… at WHBPAC on July 3 at 10 p.m. For tickets and more information visit whbpac.org or call the box office at 631-288-1500.