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Chely Wright tours Christmas LP; plans new project for 2019

Out country singer/songwriter eschews holiday standards on ‘Santa’ record



Chely Wright, gay news, Washington Blade

Chely Wright says she didn’t want to record holiday standards unless she could improve them. (Photo by Matthew Rodgers)

Chely Wright


City Winery


1350 Okie St., N.E.


$24 in advance; $28 at the door


Doors: 7 p.m.; show 8:30

For 25 years, Chely Wright has been in the country music spotlight and in 2010, became the first openly gay country singer. Since coming out, Wright has become an LGBT advocate while also recording, touring and embracing life as a mom and wife.

On Thursday, Dec. 20, Wright will be at City Winery promoting her new Christmas EP “Santa Will Find You.” Although she released her first album in 1994, it wasn’t until 1997 that she had her first big hit with “Shut Up and Drive.” In 1999, she rose to superstardom with the success of “Single White Female,” which has become her signature song. Her comments have been slightly edited for length.

WASHINGTON BLADE: What can fans expect from your Christmas show?

CHELY WRIGHT: Well they can expect new holiday music. Whenever you have new music out, one of the tricky things when doing shows is you wanna give people a taste of the new music but they also wanna hear the hits and the things they know you for. As a live performer, you kinda wanna do everything that’s new but you also want your audience to feel engaged and hold onto things that feel known to them during the show. So we’ll be doing the entire new EP and what I’ve been doing over the past couple years is what I call the “Story and Song Tour,” which is basically me running my mouth for almost two hours telling stories about how songs were written, recorded or certain memories about the road or a particular time in my career. I hope the audiences enjoy it because I enjoy it. I’ve been doing this job for 25 years putting records out and longer before I had records out. For me if I can get an audience that wants to go with me on the journey with me for 90 minutes or two hours of how I ended up here today doing what I’m doing, that’s a thrill for me and so far fans have been amenable to it.

BLADE: What inspired you to release a Christmas project?

WRIGHT: I think it’s kind of an understood that any country artist that has a career that spans a decade or two kinda has to make a holiday record. It’s kind of a prerequisite and I’ve been asked about it years ago when I was on major labels and I considered it and kinda wanted to but didn’t want to do it just to do it. I wanted to have a reason to it. Over the years I’ve written a couple of Christmas songs that were recorded by other artists but I just never had done a recording on them aside from the work tape the day I did the songs. It just seemed like this was time. I had a couple of songs, one that the Indigo Girls recorded, Mindy Smith recorded and Mindy and I had written one for her holiday record which was a great holiday record years ago. So it just felt right. I knew I had a couple of songs under my belt and my goal was if I could write three good original holiday tunes to add to that canon, that I’d be good to go. I talked it over with Jeremy Lister and Dustin Ransom the guys I worked with to produce this record and we just thought it was the best idea to make Christmas music so we did.

BLADE: Why did you chose to do an EP instead of a full album? Any reasons for not doing any traditional songs?

WRIGHT: What we decided to do was make a record together and then we wanted to do kind of an artist record, regular studio stuff. I don’t know which one of us brought it up, but the idea got tossed out there “Let’s do an EP of both!” Let’s do Christmas music and studio music and the reason I chose not to do covers is because unless you can record something better than it’s ever been done, it’s really hard for me to wrap my mind around that. No one is gonna call me the greatest singer of all time — we save those monikers for the Alison Krausses, the Lee Ann Womacks, the Trisha Yearwoods, the Martina McBrides —but what I do think I bring to the table that is unique is I write songs. So to me, if I can’t record “Oh Holy Night” better than anyone else has ever done it, well you can’t get me to touch it with a 10-foot pole. I love Christmas standards, it makes sense to me why people record Christmas covers. It’s warm, it’s fuzzy. No one is ever going to pan your record for not having good material. For me as a songwriter, I can’t imagine why I wouldn’t do that.

BLADE: “It Really Is a Wonderful Life” has already become a bit of a Christmas classic, It’s been recorded by The Indigo Girls and Mindy Smith as well. What inspired you to write it and why didn’t you release it first?

WRIGHT: I had gone through a breakup in 2005 and I had moved. I was closeted at the time. It’s not like I could go out to dinner with friends and pour my heart out that I was going through a break up. But my best friend Chuck knew and I was there in my house in East Nashville and Chuck said, I think it was on Christmas Eve day, “Why don’t you write something and send it out to your fans tonight. A little work tape or something. Why don’t you write them a new song?” and I did and I sent it out and I was glad I did my little bit of homework. I always feel better with what I’m struggling with when I write a new song. I sent it out and that was it. Then Mindy Smith was making her holiday record the next year and heard the work tape and said “I’m gonna cut that” then a couple years later The Indigo Girls cut it and so it just didn’t seem like something I should record until now.

BLADE: How did Richard Marx become a part of this project?

WRIGHT: Richard and I have been very close friends for 20-plus years. He and I have collaborated together, we’ve recorded together, we’ve written together, we’ve been important in each others lives for along time. I knew I was making a holiday record and only had three songs to write. I had two titles that I, specifically for sentimental reasons, I wanted to write them with Richard. I wanted him to be on this record for personal reasons. I texted him and said “I got 2 song titles, “Happy New Years Old Friend” and “Christmas Isn’t Christmas Time” do you want to write them with me for this record” and he wrote back “Duh” and that’s how it came about. We enjoy singing together. You know, I take a little offense when any man I’m singing with sings higher than I do and that’s what you get with Richard and Vince Gill (laughs).

BLADE: How did you come to choose the vintage family photo for the cover?

WRIGHT: I was thinking about cover art, you know it’s important, especially for a holiday record because it’s forever. Hopefully people latch onto the music 10 years after I’ve made this record, hopefully someone will come to it and discover it as new. I wanted something was representative of what holidays have always meant for me. I knew pretty well I wanted to call the EP “Santa Will Find You” and for me, because when I was a kid, I really did have a worry that Santa wouldn’t know where I’d be Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. It was a genuine real concern. I found oddly enough my boys have the same concern. It’s like a universal right of passage to wonder if Santa can find you. I started going through family photos and found one my Aunt Char had written Christmas ’73 on top and that was so perfect. It’s my brother and sister and I and our two cousins. My cousin David sadly passed when we were kids, I was 11 when he died. I asked my Aunt Char if she cared if I used the photo and she said “I’d love it! David was a star!” Then I had my friend, world-renowned picture book illustrator, Marla Frazee hand draw the title. So if you wonder what font or text, it’s a piece of artwork and I’m so happy she took the time to do it.

BLADE: Now that you’re a wife and mother, does Christmas take on a whole new meaning?

WRIGHT: You know I was telling my wife the other day that my mom always got Christmas right for us kids. It was always so special and what Lauren said back to me was, “That must be why you work so hard at Christmas for our boys.” I really try to make it magical because you know, you really don’t have a lot of time … to make it magical with kids. Right now they’re 5, so we have the biggest Christmas tree we’ve ever had and my boys are Jewish by the way, did I mention that? We’re raising them as Jewish so we celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. I feel like it’s one of the magical parts of childhood and I just want to get it right and want them to remember the wonder of the season and of course we talk what it means to be Jewish during the holidays and Christian during the holidays but mostly it’s just Santa and magic and candy and presents. Heck, why not? I remember one Christmas Eve we were driving home from our aunt’s house and I looked up in the sky and saw a red light trailing through the sky. I said “Dad get home fast! It’s Rudolph, they came early!” I remember listening for Santa and sneaking downstairs and trying to see if I could see Santa leaving presents. I also have really great memories of my siblings too. We would somehow put aside our wresting, fighting and bickering and it was us trying to stay up and see if we could see Santa or hear reindeer on the roof.

BLADE: Next year, your debut album, “Woman In The Moon,” turns 25. Any plans to celebrate 25 years in the music business?

WRIGHT: Really good question. I think new music is a great way to celebrate it. A new holiday record and in early 2019 we’ll release another EP that is just studio music. When we went into make the holiday music we also made another EP of regular studio music so that’ll be out.

BLADE: Will it be similar to your last album, “I Am The Rain”?

WRIGHT: It’s hard for me because it’s all me so it all feels like me. I do think it is different. The people who have heard it and who know my body of work say “It’s kind of a tip of the hat to your commercial music,” so that’s kind of exciting. The EP is going to be called “Revival.”

BLADE: You used PledgeMusic to help fund this EP and your next EP as well. You’ve had great success with going the fundraising route. Do you feel this is the way the music business is going for independent artists?

WRIGHT: You know it’s ever changing the business model of putting music out. Had you asked me five years ago that I’d be doing an EP I would probably have said no way. I think it’s important as an artist to continue to be creative and have my voice be heard as a songwriter and as an artist. You have to be nimble and pay attention to the way consumers are consuming music and the way artists are introducing work into the market place. Crowd funding is a thing now. When I did my Kickstarter, I think I was one of the first commercial artists, former major label artists, to have done a Kickstarter and a lot of people are doing it now. Pay attention to the young people, they know what they’re doing. I tend to see what they’re doing and try to do it my own way. Years ago I thought it was just asking for money, but it’s not. It’s pre-selling your record, that’s it. It reengages your fan base. I’ve always been known to have a real supportive, loyal fan base and it seems like a smart way to stay engaged with them. In two years you and I will be talking about the new way people are doing things and hopefully I’ll have enough smarts or foresight to keep changing and as I said earlier, be nimble on how to push music out into the market place.

BLADE: What’s the key to your staying power?

WRIGHT: I think the key is you have to be technologically open minded and creatively opened minded. I think the key to my staying power is, I’ve often said this — if you want to be a writer, you gotta write. I think the key is what I’m about to do after I hang up this phone — change my guitar strings and sit down and play my guitar and make stuff up. It’s hard to keep making records if you’re not creating new work and you gotta do that. Saddle time is what I call that so I’m about to get back on the saddle.

BLADE: Since coming out in 2010 and releasing your book and documentary, do you still get people coming up to you saying your story has helped or inspired them?

WRIGHT: Every day. I either get a DM or a Facebook message or somebody stops me in an airport. It still shocks me how many people heard my story or saw my story or read my story. It’s always pretty humbling to hear how it impacted their journey or their child’s journey. It’s been the biggest blessing of my life to come out the way I did and still causing ripples. Again, it’s humbling and I’m grateful for it.

Chely Wright says she looks at how young people are consuming music when she makes decisions about how to release new projects. (Photo by Matthew Rodgers)

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Daisy Edgar-Jones knows why ‘the Crawdads sing’

Actress on process, perfecting a southern accent, and her queer following



Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya Clark. (Photo courtesy Sony/Columbia)

Daisy Edgar-Jones is an actor whose career is blossoming like her namesake. In recent years, she seems to be everywhere. LGBTQ viewers may recognize Edgar-Jones from her role as Delia Rawson in the recently canceled queer HBO series “Gentleman Jack.” She also played memorable parts in a pair of popular Hulu series, “Normal People” and “Under the Banner of Heaven.” Earlier this year, Edgar-Jones was seen as Noa in the black comedy/horror flick “Fresh” alongside Sebastian Stan. 

With her new movie, “Where the Crawdads Sing” (Sony/Columbia), she officially becomes a lead actress. Based on Delia Owens’ popular book club title of the same name, the movie spans a considerable period of time, part murder mystery, part courtroom drama. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for the Blade.

BLADE: Daisy, had you read Delia Owens’s novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” before signing on to play Kya?

DAISY EDGAR-JONES: I read it during my audition process, as I was auditioning for the part. So, the two went hand in hand.

BLADE: What was it about the character of Kya that appealed to you as an actress?

EDGAR-JONES: There was so much about her that appealed to me. I think the fact that she is a very complicated woman. She’s a mixture of things. She’s gentle and she’s curious. She’s strong and she’s resilient. She felt like a real person. I love real character studies and it felt like a character I haven’t had a chance to delve into. It felt different from anyone I’ve played before. Her resilience was one that I really admired. So, I really wanted to spend some time with her.

BLADE: While Kya is in jail, accused of killing the character Chase, she is visited by a cat in her cell. Are you a cat person or do you prefer dogs?

EDGAR-JONES: I like both! I think I like the fact that dogs unconditionally love you. While a cat’s love can feel a bit conditional. I do think both are very cute. Probably, if I had to choose, it would be dogs.

BLADE: I’m a dog person, so I’m glad you said that.


BLADE: Kya lives on the marsh and spends a lot of time on and in the water. Are you a swimmer or do you prefer to be on dry land?

EDGAR-JONES: I like swimming, I do. I grew up swimming a lot. If I’m ever on holidays, I like it to be by the sea or by a nice pool.

BLADE: Kya is also a gifted artist, and it is the thing that brings her great joy. Do you draw or paint?

EDGAR-JONES: I always doodle. I’m an avid doodler. I do love to draw and paint. I loved it at school. I wouldn’t say I was anywhere near as skilled as Kya. But I do love drawing if I get the chance to do it.

BLADE: Kya was born and raised in North Carolina. What can you tell me about your process when it comes to doing a southern accent or an American accent in general?

EDGAR-JONES: It’s obviously quite different from mine. I’ve been lucky that I’ve spent a lot of time working on various accents for different parts for a few years now, so I feel like I’m developed an ear for, I guess, the difference in tone and vowel sounds [laughs]. When it came to this, it was really important to get it right, of course. Kya has a very lyrical, gentle voice, which I think that North Carolina kind of sound really helped me to access. I worked with a brilliant accent coach who helped me out and I just listened and listened.

BLADE: While I was watching “Where the Crawdads Sing” I thought about how Kya could easily be a character from the LGBTQ community because she is considered an outsider, is shunned and ridiculed, and experiences physical and emotional harm. Do you also see the parallels?

EDGAR-JONES: I certainly do. I think that aspect of being an outsider is there, and this film does a really good job of showing how important it is to be kind to everyone. I think this film celebrates the goodness you can give to each other if you choose to be kind. Yes, I definitely see the parallels.

BLADE: Do you have an awareness of an LGBTQ following for your acting career?

EDGAR-JONES: I tend to stay off social media and am honestly not really aware of who follows me, but I do really hope the projects I’ve worked on resonate with everyone.

BLADE: Are there any upcoming acting projects that you’d like to mention?

EDGAR-JONES: None that I can talk of quite yet. But there are a few things that are coming up next year, so I’m really excited.

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CAMP Rehoboth’s president talks pandemic, planning, and the future

Wesley Combs marks six months in new role



Wesley Combs took over as president of CAMP Rehoboth six months ago and is now focused on searching for a new permanent executive director. (Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

June marks half a year since Wesley Combs stepped into his role as president of CAMP Rehoboth. In a conversation with the Blade, Combs recounted his first six months in the position — a time he said was characterized by transition and learning.

Since 1991, CAMP Rehoboth has worked to develop programming “inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities” in the Rehoboth Beach, Del. area, according to the nonprofit’s website. As president, Combs oversees the organization’s board of directors and executive director, helping determine areas of focus and ensure programming meets community needs.

For Combs, his more than three decades of involvement with CAMP Rehoboth have shaped the course of his life. In the summer of 1989 — just before the organization’s creation — he met his now-husband, who was then living in a beach house with Steve Elkins and Murray Archibald, CAMP Rehoboth’s founders.

Since then, he has served as a financial supporter of the organization, noting that it has been crucial to fostering understanding that works against an “undercurrent of anti-LGBTQ sentiment” in Rehoboth Beach’s history that has, at times, propagated violence against LGBTQ community members.

In 2019, after Elkins passed away, Combs was called upon by CAMP Rehoboth’s Board of Directors to serve on a search committee for the organization’s next executive director. Later that year, he was invited to become a board member and, this past November, was elected president.

Combs noted that CAMP Rehoboth is also still recovering from the pandemic, and is working to restart programming paused in the switch to remote operations. In his first six months, he has sought to ensure that people feel “comfortable” visiting and engaging with CAMP Rehoboth again, and wants to ensure all community members can access its programming, including those from rural parts of Delaware and those without a means of getting downtown.

Still, Combs’s first six months were not without unexpected turns: On May 31, David Mariner stepped down from his role as CAMP Rehoboth executive director, necessitating a search for his replacement. Combs noted that he would help facilitate the search for an interim director to serve for the remainder of the year and ensure that there is “a stable transition of power.” CAMP Rehoboth last week announced it has named Lisa Evans to the interim director role.

Chris Beagle, whose term as president of CAMP Rehoboth preceded Combs’s own, noted that the experience of participating in a search committee with the organization will “better enable him to lead the process this time.”

Before completing his term, Beagle helped prepare Combs for the new role, noting that the “combination of his professional background, his executive leadership (and) his passion for the organization” make Combs a strong president. Regarding the results of the election, “I was extremely confident, and I remain extremely confident,” Beagle said.

Bob Witeck, a pioneer in LGBTQ marketing and communications, has known Combs for nearly four decades. The two founded a public relations firm together in 1993 and went on to work together for 20 years, with clients ranging from major businesses like Ford Motor Company to celebrities including Chaz Bono and Christopher Reeve. According to Witeck, Combs’s work in the firm is a testament to his commitment to LGBTQ advocacy.

“Our firm was the first founded primarily to work on issues specific to LGBTQ identities, because we wanted to counsel corporations about their marketing and media strategies and working in the LGBTQ market,” he explained. By helping develop communications strategies inclusive of those with LGBTQ identities, Combs established a background of LGBTQ advocacy that truly “made a mark,” Witeck said.

Witeck emphasized that, in his new position, Combs brings both business experience and a renewed focus on historically underrepresented in LGBTQ advocacy — including people with disabilities, trans people and people of color.

Looking to the rest of the year, CAMP Rehoboth hopes to host a larger-scale event during Labor Day weekend. In addition, the organization will revisit its strategic plan — first developed in 2019 but delayed due to the pandemic — and ensure it still meets the needs of the local community, Combs said. He added that he intends to reexamine the plan and other programming to ensure inclusivity for trans community members.

“CAMP Rehoboth continues to be a vital resource in the community,” he said. “The focus for the next two years is to make sure we’re doing and delivering services that meet the needs of everyone in our community.”

Wesley Combs, gay news, Washington Blade
Wesley Combs (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)
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Melissa Etheridge shares Q&A in advance of April 26 Tysons tour stop

Rock pioneer finds inspiration in the past — from revisiting old demos to reconnecting with celeb pals like Ellen



Melissa Etheridge brings her ‘One Way Out Tour’ to the D.C. region next week with a show at the new Capital One Hall in Tysons. (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)

Melissa Etheridge
‘One Way Out Tour’
Tuesday, April 26
Capital One Hall
7750 Capital One Tower Rd.
Tysons, VA
7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $55

We caught up with rock legend Melissa Etheridge on April 8 by phone from Snoqualmie, Wash. — it’s about 26 miles east of Seattle —where she was playing the Snoqualmie Casino on her “One Way Out Tour,” which plays our region on Tuesday, April 26. 

It’s named after her latest album, released last fall, which found Etheridge, who’s been out since ’93, revisiting demos from early in her career.

Her comments have been slightly edited for length.

WASHINGTON BLADE: “One Way Out” sounds like such a cool project. Was it all re-recorded stuff of old songs or were some of those vintage takes on the record as well?

MELISSA ETHERIDGE: The last two songs, the live songs, were from where? From 2002? OK, but the other songs were newly recorded. 

BLADE: And how many of them did you remember?

ETHERIDGE: You know, when I found them again, they all came back very clearly. And I was like, “Oh, this is — why did I throw that away? That’s weird.” And I really enjoyed, you know, hearing them, they were just old demos. I’d never done full-blown recordings. So I thought, “This is great, I want to do these songs.”

BLADE: We have a relatively new venue you’re going to be playing, Capital One Hall. I’ve only been there once. You excited?

ETHERIDGE: Yeah, it’s always fun. I love the D.C.-area crowd. It’s just really, really nice.

BLADE: And how do you decide where you’ll be? Or do you have any say in it? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, it’s not necessarily me. I do have a say in it, in what I want the whole tour to look like. But it is really up to William Morris, my agent, to find the right venue that understands what we need and the kind of atmosphere we’re looking for that and the amount of people and, you know, that sort of thing.

BLADE: Tell me about Etheridge TV. I just wonder, when we were in that acute phase of the pandemic, wasn’t it even remotely tempting to you to just take a break?

ETHERIDGE: No, because since I was 12 years old, I sang all the time for people, like five days a week and it’s just been what I do. And so when it was like, I was looking at a massive, cavernous amount of time that I was going to be home, I still needed a way to pay the bills, so we put our heads together — I’ve got one of the greatest television minds with me, you know, my wife (TV producer Linda Wallem), so I had the space and I had the equipment, and I was like, “Let’s do it.” And it was really fun to learn new things. It was fun to learn about computers and sound and streaming and lights and cameras and all these things that I didn’t know. … I feel a little smarter.

BLADE: When did you start back on the road?

ETHERIDGE: We went out last fall. We went out September, October, right around there. And you know, it was a little different, Now things are things are loosening up … but some places still require masks. But people are starting to get back out and it feels good. It’s not the overwhelming thing that it was a few months ago.

BLADE: And what was it like being on ‘Ellen’ again for her final season?

ETHERIDGE: Oh, I love her. She’s such an old friend. You know, I say that about myself, too. (chuckles) But, you know, she’s just a relationship in my life that I have treasured. We’ve watched each other grow and the changes we’ve made and the successes and what we’ve gone through and I love that she had me on and just it was just a really — she’s a dear friend. And she showed an old photo there, and we both said, “Oh, that was before we were so busy.”

BLADE: Do you talk to her often?

ETHERIDGE: I would say we see each other socially once or twice a year. It just seemed like once we started having children, all my friends from my 20s and 30s when we were not as busy — it just gets harder to stay in touch and life got crazy. 

BLADE: So when you were hanging out back in the day with Ellen and Rosie and everybody, how was it that Brad Pitt was in that group too? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, my girlfriend (Julie Cypher) had been married to Lou Diamond Phillips and we were all very good friends with Dermot Mulroney and Catherine Keener and Catherine Keener did a movie with Brad, like a movie nobody saw, like Johnny Dangerously or something (1991’s “Johnny Suede”), some really weird movie. So I met Brad before he was terribly famous. He was a part of that group. There was a whole group of all of us that just hung out, and we were all totally different. We were just like young, hungry Hollywood and we’d talk about, “Oh, I had this audition,” or “I went and did this,” and we were just all trying to make it in that town. So we’d get together and have fun. 

BLADE: I was so terribly sorry to hear about Beckett (Etheridge’s son, who died in 2020 at age 21 after struggling with opioid addiction). How are you and the rest of the family, especially (Beckett’s twin) Bailey, dealing with it now?

ETHERIDGE: There are many, many families like us that deal with a loss like that. It just blows a family sideways. But we have a deep love and connection, all of us. We all knew he had a problem and it’s a problem that starts way before he actually passes, so it was not a surprise. So now we’re just living with the missing aspect. You try not to think about what could have been and you try to think about him in a happier place and that he’s out of pain, so that helps us.

BLADE: Had he and Bailey been as close in recent years?

ETHERIDGE: They were very close, but in the last couple of years as he made worse and worse choices, we couldn’t support that, so they were less close, but of course in her heart, it was her brother, he was very dear to her. 

BLADE: Did you watch the Grammys?  Was there anybody you were particularly rooting for?

ETHERIDGE: I watched bits and pieces of it. I had a show that night, so I didn’t get to see the main thing, but I have seen pieces and I just love the crazy diversity and you know, the TikTok people winning stuff, it’s like, “Wow, this is so not the Grammys I remember from the ’80s,” but that was what, 30 years ago? So it’s all good.

BLADE: You were such a perennial favorite back in the day in the best rock female category. Were you pissed when they eliminated it? 

ETHERIDGE: It’s sad because I felt like the criteria they were using to judge what is female rock, they just really dropped the ball. I still think there are some amazing musicians that could be considered, you know, rock, but it feels like we’re having a hard time even defining what rock and roll is now anyway. There’s a whole bunch of strong women out there playing, rocking, you know, playing guitar, being excellent musicians and songwriters. If you can’t call it best rock female, OK, call it something else. 

BLADE: I remember so vividly when you were on the Grammys in 2005, in the midst of chemo, when you sang “Piece of My Heart.” I remember you saying you were wondering how people would react to seeing you bald. Having been through that, any thoughts on the Will/Jada Oscars situation since her baldness, too, was due to a medical condition? 

ETHERIDGE: You know, it’s funny, I did feel a little remembrance of (thinking), “I just hope people don’t make fun of me.” That was kind of the first thing because to go out there bald, that was so different for me as an artist whose hair had kind of defined her. I was thinking, “How am I gonna rock without my hair?” I thought people might make fun of me, but I got over that. I just thought, “Well, if somebody makes fun of me, that just makes them look bad.” So I just walked through it. And you know, it’s hard to draw the line between what’s funny and what’s painful and how to look at something. I feel for all parties involved. 

BLADE: When you go on these cruises, do fans give you some space or do they swarm around the minute you walk out? Is it even enjoyable for you? 

ETHERIDGE: Yeah, it is. You know, we did our last one, now we’re doing Etheridge Island, we now have a destination in Mexico, outside of Cancun, it’s just this island that we’re going to that is really fantastic. But I do I make myself available, I don’t run away. When I have to be somewhere, I have a great company we work with called Sixthman that knows how to get me from point A to point B without being bogged down. But I do my make myself available. Everyone gets a picture with me. It’s my work, but I love it. I try to make myself available but also have some time just for myself too.

Melissa Etheridge says slowing down wasn’t an option for her when the pandemic hit. She’s glad to be back on the road now, she says. (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)

BLADE: You Tweeted a few nights ago about having a tight curfew of just 90 minutes at a casino but then it worked out and you got to do a full set. Why are the curfews so tight at casinos?  

ETHERIDGE: Why do you think? They want people at the tables. Like for tonight, we we settled on 100 minutes. They’re giving me 10 extra minutes. I don’t like it, but in some areas, the only really good venue is a casino, so if you want to reach your folks there, you kind of have to meet them half way. 

BLADE: Yeah, but it seems like in concert halls, the curfews can sometimes be really tight too. Even Madonna got her lights shut off a couple years ago. Of course, she’s notoriously late, but why are they so strict with these things nowadays? 

ETHERIDGE: There are all different situations — concert halls often have union crews that will absolutely shut you down if you go one second over. There are also sound curfews, noise curfews, mostly with outdoor venues, but sometimes indoor as well. They have an agreement with the neighborhood. So you have people in the neighborhood standing by with their phones ready to pounce the minute it goes over one minute, they’re gonna call the police. As a performer, you just realize, “OK, it’s not just about me.” When I don’t have a curfew, I usually land at about two hours and some change. That seems comfortable to everyone. Any longer and I think I’m wearing my audience out. When I’m at a place with a shorter show, I just do my best. 

BLADE: I know you’re a big Chiefs fan. Did you watch that game back in January all the way to the end? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, at the end of it, I was on the floor. My wife was like, “Honey, honey, there’s still 13 seconds,” and I was moaning and sort of getting my feet on the floor and, you know, laying down and throwing a fit. And she’s like, “No, there’s still 13 seconds.” I dragged myself back to the television. And I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Wait a minute. Did we just win?” You know, just really crazy, really crazy stuff. … When you’re a fan like that, it’s a ride you can’t fully explain.

BLADE: Are you in a cordial or good place with your exes? Does it get easier when the kids are starting to grow up?

ETHERIDGE: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And you realize that it’s best for the kids if you can really get along and that any sort of conflict that can’t get resolved, that gets emotional, does no good for anyone. And absolutely, I have, I’ve gotten better at that as the years have gone by.

BLADE: Do you have the slightest inkling yet what the next studio album might be like?

ETHERIDGE: Well, I’ve got some interesting projects that I’m not ready to talk about just yet. But they have to do with my life story. There’s a lot of digging up of my past and really telling the story. So I imagine the next series of music you’ll get from me is going to be very focused on my journey. 

Melissa Etheridge, gay news, Washington Blade
Melissa Etheridge (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)
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