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A Q&A with Melissa Etheridge

The soulful artist tells us about Genesis, Kelly Clarkson, and how Bruce Springsteen inspired her new album title

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With her unapologetic political views, straight-up take on sexuality, and that instantly recognizable rasp, Melissa Etheridge defines vocal. Save for contributing the Oscar-winning theme to An Inconvenient Truth, she’s been relatively quiet on the music front the last three years, focusing on her health after battling breast cancer. A reawakened Etheridge now looks back on her life — the good, the bad, the dirty — with a concept album, The Awakening.

The songs span your start in the bar scene (”California”) to the future (”What Happens Tomorrow”). When was ”Threesome” inspired?
Oh, from about the mid-’80s to the late ’90s. [Laughs] I was unhappy for quite a while. I was searching and thinking the answer was in the bedroom. But I found it in myself.

Okay, here’s another three-way for ya: Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, or Genesis — which reunion are you most excited about?
If it’s Genesis without Peter Gabriel, then I don’t want ’em. And a Bonham-less Zeppelin? Oh, Lord. Do I have to see any of them?

What’s romance music for you and your wife, Tammy?
She loves her classic folk rock. She’s a huge John Denver fan, so ”Annie’s Song” will just melt her. Me, give me some Peter Gabriel. ”In Your Eyes,” that’s the sweetest song.

Which other female singers are you liking these days?
Amy Winehouse….lesbians [gravitate toward] strong women, or women who are trying to be, even though they’re tortured, like Kelly Clarkson. In country music, there are certain female artists, like Gretchen Wilson, where you’re going to find lesbians because they’re responding to that more aggressive side.

The album’s title…any connection to your friend Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising?
Mama does love her Bruce. It’s there. When he goes, ”Come on up for the rising,” I’m answering that because I believe we should all rise up!