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Melissa Etheridge Biography

Last updated: 04/16/2012 12:00:00 PM

On Melissa Etheridge's brilliant new album entitled, SKIN, the word skin is used on four different songs -- "The Prison," "Walking On Water," "Please Forgive Me," and "It's Only Me."

"I didn't realize my numerous references to skin until I had recorded all the songs and started listening to them," confesses the two-time Grammy Award-winning artist. "This album is about shedding old skin. It's about new skin. It's about living."

It has been suggested that artists often create their greatest work at a low emotional ebb. Think Van Morrison's Astral Weeks. Think Bob Dylan's Blood On The Tracks and Bruce Springsteen's Tunnel Of Love -- albums that deal with heartbreak and despair but then come out the other end, full of rebirth and hope, if only on a musical level. SKIN is worthy of inclusion on that same distinguished list.

You'd have to be a hermit without any media access whatsoever not to recognize the name Melissa Etheridge in the year 2001. The L.A.-based singer/songwriter - who has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide and is best known for international radio hits like "Bring Me Some Water", "I'm The Only One," "I Want to Come Over" and "Come To My Window" -- was described as not being "completely at ease talking about herself," instead using "music to better explain matters of the heart." In the past, Etheridge's music has often been described as "deeply personal," but on SKIN, personal experience, art, and cathartics all come together in a way that even Etheridge hasn't explored thus far.

In that sense, SKIN became a musical odyssey. "It's the closest I've ever come to recording a concept album. It has a beginning, middle and end. It's a journey." Fittingly, the album also features the most eclectic mix of musical styles Etheridge has yet explored on any of her previous six Island releases -- from "Lover Please," the heavy rocking opener that's a plaintive wail from the gut, to the country-blues of "The Prison," the beautiful melancholy of "Walking On Water," the Springsteen-ish pop crescendos of "Goodnight" and "I Want To Be In Love," straight through to the hopeful -- and appropriately titled -- closing track, "Heal Me."

"The intention of this album was to have no limits -- to record each song the way it was meant to be," explains Etheridge. "I believed when we were recording that all of the songs would all fit together because they were coming from the same cathartic experience. So, no matter what kind of music we were using, no matter what direction the song was going, they fit together thematically."

"It's just me," laughs Etheridge, listing the members of her recording band. "I used Pro Tools for the first time and made an album without a band. I wrote the songs, chose the loops, and then went into the small room at Village Studio in Santa Monica. My executive producer, Carter, brought in David Cole, a producer-engineer who knows how to record the real thing -- he's worked with everyone from Bob Seger to N'Sync. He and I put the whole thing together ourselves."

Other than six drum tracks that were added by Kenny Aronoff and Mark Browne, who added bass to nine cuts, Etheridge is responsible for all the keyboards, harmonicas, and guitars -- including that stunning distorted guitar riff that runs throughout the opening track. "I originally thought I was going in to make a solo acoustic album -- a small album. Then I realized the possibilities of what you can do using the new technology in the studio." Keeping in the spirit of the album, Etheridge has decided that her upcoming "live...and alone " tour will be just that "solo" -- the first time she's performed as such since her formative years in the southern California clubs.

Etheridge has been a strong symbol of gay acceptance and pride since she gallantly announced her sexual preference at the presidential inauguration gala in 1993. Indeed, in April of last year, she performed to a crowd of forty-five thousand at RFK stadium in Washington, D.C., as part of the Human Rights Campaign's "Equality Rocks," an event she helped to organize. Currently, the concert stands as the largest concert event of its kind ever produced and adding one more achievement to the long list she's assembled over the last sixteen years. Others include opening the 2000 Democratic Convention in front of a national television audience, inducting Janis Joplin into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, and performing with Bruce Springsteen during her own MTV Unplugged television special.

Despite her activism, Etheridge's art has always transcended the issues -- and the songs on SKIN will be appreciated by anyone who's ever experienced a broken heart. Surely anyone with a heart -- broken or not -- can identify with "I Want To Be In Love, the album's first single and video. "I think people are going to be surprised by that song," she says. "It's the part of the album where things start to turn upward emotionally, it's where I say 'Okay, that's dead and gone. So now what? Well, this is what I want. I think I can have it and I'm going to go for it.' The song is hopeful. It's sadly romantic. It's reaching out -- people will be surprised because it's a softer side of me -- more feminine. Not that it doesn't rock, but the approach is more sensitive. It's one of the best songs I've ever written."

"I want this album to be universal. People of all different sizes, shapes, and references will relate to it as a human emotional experience."

On a more personal angle, Etheridge believes that SKIN has absolutely accomplished what she set out to do. "I was asked by a friend, 'What do you expect from this album?'" And I replied, "This album has already served its purpose for me. I'm very free about this album because it came about unexpectedly due to the events in my life -- and I just did what I do and it came from a place of music. It came from inside of me to help heal."