Melissa Etheridge calls in from Keene, New Hampshire, following the kickoff of her summer tour. The two time-Grammy winner with mega hits like “Come to My Window” and “I’m the Only One,” is also known for her activist work.
Most recently, Etheridge released “Pulse,” a song dedicated to the victims of the Orlando shooting, with all proceeds going to an LGBT charity. She wrote, recorded and released the song within a matter of days, providing a source of comfort and expression to not only herself, but the thousands who have streamed the song.
"I woke the same as everyone on Sunday morning, with disbelief and grief," she says "I dealt with my grief the way I always have — take it to song. I’m very fortunate I have a place to put it."
She chats about the song, her tour and how she fell into the surprising role of an activist.
Can we start by talking about “Pulse”? How did the song come to be so quickly?
I didn’t even think, at first, “Oh I need to write a song.” I was more like, “I just want to play my guitar.” I picked up my guitar in New York and then I thought I’d write a song for myself, but then I called my good friend and bandmate Jerry Wonda to see if we could get some studio time. He cleared his schedule and it was such a labor of beautiful love. My management was like, “Let’s put it on the Internet and give it to Rolling Stone, just to make people feel better and have a place to focus their hope.” Seeing it take off the way it did has really humbled me. I’m so grateful to be of service.
And you were able to play it live for the first time just a few days ago. What was that like?
The city I was playing in was Torrington, Connecticut, which happened to be home to one of the victims. She was beloved there. Just being in that city and knowing that there were people who knew her in the audience… you want to be of service and play, but it’s not easy.
Do you think you’re a reactionary songwriter, where you get instantly inspired and have to write a song? Does that happen often?
Oh my goodness, so many times. I have so many songs [that touch on] the social aspect, Matthew Shepard and 9/11. And then, of course, my own losses and heartbreaks and [those] songs. I’ve been quite a living on that. That’s the fuel of which I cook my musical meals.