When Fair Saint Louis announced that out lesbian rocker Melissa Etheridge would be teaming up with the equally iconic Blondie for a July 3 showstopper at the annual Fourth of July celebration the explosion of joy across LGBT social media accounts registered with a resounding YAAAASSS!.

Etheridge, the Grammy award winning singer, songwriter and activisist has a special place in her heart for St. Louis. Her father was born here and she still has family in the area. (And yes, she remembers popping into Novak's post concert very fondly!)

#Boom recently caught up with Etheridge to talk about the tour, her music, equality, surviving cancer and more.

We're excited to have you perform again in St .Louis at Fair Saint Louis on July 3. What do you have in store for audiences this summer?Etheridge2a

Yea, it's gonna be a blast. I've got a bunch of different shows but the one in St. Louis will be with my band and we'll be appearing with Blondie and we're just doing the hits. Just the major - you know - if you know a major song of mine I'm going to play it that night.

Were you a fan of Blondie?

Absolutely. How could you have lived in the 80s and not have been. They were like the perfect band in the 80s and they are one of the 80s bands whose songs didn't break, they didn't get old. You don't look back and go, oh my God, what was I thinking. They're really solid tunes and well written songs and not to mention the best beat.

Conversely, many would say that about your music as well. You say you're playing the hits - how do you decide what to play out of such a large body of work?

Oh, you're so kind. Well, there's a good seven songs that you're like - ok, I've got to do these. I usually like to throw in a couple of new songs. I think with this new album the songs really hold up well with the other ones and keep people interested and have some fun... and before you know it the show's over and that's it.

Let's talk about your latest Album "M.E." - you've called the creative process with this offering invigorating. Why is this latest album so special to you?

It's been such a journey over the last 25 years and going through being a writer - writing the stuff just myself. I would go off, I would write other songs, I would come back with the band and put them together and that's the way I did it for many years. And then when the music industry changed, the recording process changes and it kind of forces you to be more collaborative where you have to give money on the back end and not in the front. So I was like, ok, either I change and work in this or I lose out so I went in with a positive attitude and some of it didn't work and some of it - whoa - what works really worked well. The collaborating with John Levine - he and I are like two kids - we could play all day long making music, it's just so much fun. And Jerry Wonda - I loved collaborating sort of outside of my comfort zone - really getting in, working with Jerry Wonda who was with The Fugees. Even working with Rock Star and Chris Brown and Rihanna - it was crazy - I just loved challenging myself and finding in the collaboration that the collaborators could see the good part of what I was doing better than I could. I learned a lot about myself through their eyes.

You're also producing on your own independent label now - talk about the decision to go out on your own and produce
fair st.louis logo your own music?

A couple of years ago in 2013 I made a big choice to change management and everything. I shook everything up. After over 25 years with the same people it was time for to change - nothing wrong with them, it was just time for a change. When I did I learned there was all kinds of new things that one can do, and being an artist like myself - I don't sell millions of records (well, no one does anymore) - so a record company just isn't going to invest as much into the project. So looking at what they could give me (and they would own my record) and then looking at the opportunities that I could give myself if I owned my record - that was huge.

You came out publicly in January 1993 - by the time you take the stage we could very well have marriage equality as the law of the land. Are you surprised at how quickly the LGBT rights movement has advanced in the last 20 years?

I'm not. I remember coming out in 1993 and I remember the first time just after that was Hawaii - it was being brought up there, and I thought wow. Because remember in the 70s and the 80s we didn't want to get married - we were alternative and nobody was talking about marriage, that was so far away. We couldn't even imagine it and when we kind of grew up and said we want to have families and these rights that are given - we're missing out. So it just started. And I remember in the 90s I said you know in 20 years I can see a big, huge change in this country.

And here we are.

And when you see Ireland - that was just such a huge eye opener. When you have a Catholic country like that and a popular vote it - was just so glorious to see all those young people. And this younger generation isn't going to put up with the old bigotry, they're just not.

[At the time of this interview] the big LGBT news today is still the debut of Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair. Have you seen it? Any advice for Caitlyn having been through the media firestorm when you came out?

I think she's handling it very, very well. I think she's very smart. And sometimes doing it really large like that - going boom and letting the whole world see what you're going through - can be really cathartic. Sometimes it's easier to do that than with your family in the house. Those are the close issues.

I would say to her welcome to being a woman, it's not always easy... That the love she will find in herself will forever be the most important love she will ever need - and I hope that someday that the male and female in each of us, in every human being, will be celebrated no matter what gender they are.etheridge2b

While it's true that visibility changes hearts and minds and in some cases, saves lives - do you think the LGBT community puts too much pressure on celebrities to come out?

No I don't think the pressure comes from the community, I think the pressure comes from the people themselves. I think it is healthier to be out personally just across the board. Now when someone does it and they are in the spotlight and they are famous, then yes, it can absolutely help and as you said save lives. I don't think that's a reason to come out - I think every person's own journey, their self-discovery - they have to think of themselves first. So everyone doesn't have the same experience. I know it was easy for me to come out because my family knew and were supportive, my friends knew - I had a network of supportive people around me. And so I knew I wasn't going to lose anything personally. A lot of people don't have that around them so they're not as easily coming out publicly, because it's harder personally. So every decision is unique.

You recently marked 10 years as a cancer survivor. How did being diagnosed impact you personally, and as an artist?

Probably the biggest change, the biggest impact in my life was going through cancer. It not only helped me see how important my health is because if I don't have my health I have nothing. But it also helped me see that my health is my responsibility. That what I eat instantly affects my health - what I physically do I hike, I do yoga, I stay active - I'm responsible for the physical health of my body. And also what goes on in my mind - my emotions, my thoughts - those are all things that have to do with my health. It completely changed my life and put me on a much more spiritual path and a greater path to joy.

June is LGBT Pride month. What does PRIDE mean to Melissa Etheridge?

Pride means an individual loving themselves and understanding that I need to take care of myself, I need to find that joy inside myself - and look out into the community and say, of course, I'm proud to be a member of the gay race of the world. In every culture everywhere in every part of this world there are gay people. We are born every day and we're a part of this gorgeous quilt of humanity and that's something to be proud of.



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