Interview: Melissa Etheridge Journeys Off-Broadway in New Life-Spanning Concert
The Grammy winner offers a peak behind the curtain in an intimate show at New World Stages.
It is no secret that Melissa Etheridge is a natural storyteller, so it is unsurprising when she describes her new off-Broadway show, Melissa Etheridge: My Window — A Journey Through Life at New World Stages, as being "as powerful as it is humorous."
The Grammy- and- Oscar-winner, who was one of the first celebrities to publicly acknowledge their sexual orientation and was equally outspoken about her 2004 battle with breast cancer, regularly shares different sides of herself through her music. For more than two decades, she has been releasing personal songs such as now-classics "Come to My Window," "I'm the Only One" and "I Want to Come Over." With My Window, she takes audiences through her childhood in Kansas and her illustrious career. Etheridge spoke with TheaterMania about her love for theater, bringing her story to life on stage, and her advice for young musicians.
This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What makes this the right time to bring your story to the stage?
It sort of made it itself. My wife and I have been working on this for years. We have been working on different ways to come to Broadway because we both have a theater background that we love. Our careers took different turns, hers in television and mine in music, but we just love Broadway. So when this finally lined up last year we said, "Hey, we can do this! Yeah!" We jumped right in.
How do you describe the scope of the story in My Window?
It is a linear story of my life, from birth to today. It's how I learned to come into my own power and how I learned to overcome what were seemingly obstacles that ended up making me a stronger and more full human being. It is filled with music. There's so much humor and emotions, and hopefully it is very inspiring.
Constructing a piece like My Window must require a different set of skills than those utilized when you write music.
It absolutely did! My songs are storytelling in nature. I've always tried to take the listener from a beginning, to a middle, to an end, and have the songs move the person somewhere. Looking at my whole life as a story and as a piece of art that will hopefully move people from beginning, to middle, to end, was really taking the focus out very wide. It was challenging, of course, but I love a challenge. The guidance that my wife has given me in how to reach people and her expertise in timing has really helped. I am enjoying it so much. There is so much humor and drama in this.
What will audiences be most surprised to learn about you from My Window, and what were you most surprised to learn about yourself?
I have been really open about my life, but I think there's a new aspect to my story where I discuss learning about plant medicines, entheogens, and psychedelics, and my own self-discovery that they played in it.
When I really combed through the whole thing, I realized what a full life I have had and that I have so much more to go. It seems that everything has been leading up to me being who I am now, and I get to create, choose and keep doing it all along the way. It's rewarding, if not surprising.
You have inspired so many people through your music and activism. How do you hope to continue to inspire through this show?
I am hoping people find their power in their truth and see that it's just a dead end to try to get their self-worth from other people and to try to get other people to agree with them. I have learned that I have to take control of my own choices and how I am going to feel.
What advice do you have for young artists coming up in a business that is incredibly different from the time in which you found your own success?
I don't think it's a better or worse time. Love what you do and do what you love. Heaven forbid you have a hit song and you don't love it! I have seen that destroy artists and musicians. You will draw people to it because you love it.