Blues & Brews: Sunday closer, Melissa Etheridge

Blues & Brews: Sunday closer, Melissa Etheridge

“Be strong, speak true and spread the peace,” Melissa Etheridge

Melissa, by Jerry watson

Melissa, by Jerry Watson

Her music smokes. She doesn’t. (Rumor has it, the lady is also indifferent to booze.)

The story of Melissa Etheridge’s storied career – she’s won two Grammys and an Oscar – can be summed up, Hollywood-style, in a digestible sound byte: Cold home. Hot performer.

The singer-songwriter, whose signature sound combines confessional lyrics within a pop-based folk-rock musical frame delivered in raspy vocals, came to be known for putting out long, high energy sets. Catch one of those memorable musical moments at the 20th annual Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, where Etheridge’s performance is the Festival’s grand finale, Sunday night starting at 6:15 p.m.

For Blues & Brews, officially Thursday, September 12 – Sunday, September 15, 2013, (but with a free concert by The Congress, 5 – 7 p.m., Mountain Village), Etheridge is joined by The Black Crowes and Jim James, the headliners. Additional festival appearances include Gary Clark Jr., John Hiatt, Mickey Hart Band, Anders Osborne, Otis Taylor Band, Rebirth Brass Band, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Allen Stone, ZZ Ward, The New Mastersounds, The Bright Light Social Hour, The Relatives, IBC winner Selwyn Birchwood Band for an unforgettable mix of blues, funk, rock, indie, jam band, gospel and soul performances – and some of the best microbreweries in the country.

Melissa Etheridge was born May 29, 1961, in Leavonworth, Kansas into a home she later described as “lonely” and void of emotional support. Music became her Linus blanket: the singer picked up her first guitar at age eight and practiced in the family basement. Even as a girl, she wrote from the heart of pain, love, and abandonment. At the prestigious Berklee Collage of Music in Boston, she learned to play the bones, but she dropped out before graduation, heading for L.A., where Etheridge met with early success.

When Island Records president Chris Blackwell heard Etheridge perform in 1986, he signed her a few days later. Her eponymous debut album became an underground hit and the single, “Bring Me Some Water,” was nominated for a Grammy. Hard core stardom came with the fourth release, Yes I Am (1993) with its two giant hits: “I’m the Only One” and the Grammy-winning “Come to My Window.”

That same year, the singer came out of the closet, choosing an inaugural ball for President Bill Clinton for the big announcement. Just over a decade later, Etheridge was just as public about the challenge of breast cancer, when the diagnosis came in 2004. In 2005, she showed up at the Grammys bald from chemotherapy and delivered a hard-driving rendition of Janice Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart.” (She was at the time and remains cancer free.)

Fast forward to the present, in 2011, Etheridge debuted as host of the syndicated The Melissa Etheridge Radio Show, which went go on to win a Gracie Award for Outstanding Talk Show. She released her next album, the biographical Fourth Street Feeling, in 2012, the title referring to Main Street in her home town. Etheridge is touring in support of the record.

To learn more, click the “play” button and listen to our chat.

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