Melissa Etheridge continues to evolve with ‘This Is M.E.’


Melissa Etheridge and Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo

7 p.m. July 16. $30-$85. Chastain Park Amphitheatre, 4469 Stella Drive N.W., Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000,

Melissa Etheridge didn't call her latest studio album "This Is M.E." to suggest that it gave fans the most honest, best reflection of who she is musically, lyrically and as a person of any of her albums.

She chose the title because it represented the sense of discovery she experienced during the project and the fact that she found new parts of herself as a songwriter and musician in doing "This Is M.E."

And the irony is that in order to make an album that presented a better musical and lyrical picture of herself, Etheridge needed to be far more collaborative in creating the songs than on any of the albums she’s released.

“The lyrics are 98 percent mine,” Etheridge said in a recent phone interview. “I collaborated musically on everything, and that was more fun than I thought it would be.”

Etheridge is continuing to promote "This Is M.E." with a summer tour with Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo that plays Chastain Park Amphitheatre on Saturday; she also released a new concert DVD/CD, "A Little Bit of Me: Live in L.A.," to coincide with the road trip.

In a 12-album career in which five of her releases have gone platinum, Etheridge has pretty much been a one-woman show when it’s come to her songs. But she went into the “This Is M.E.” project wanting to get outside of her comfort zone and find new dimensions in her music. She decided co-writing was one way to accomplish that goal.

She chose several writer/producers whose work stretched beyond rock, including Jon Levine (Selena Gomez), Jerry Wonda (Mary J. Blige), Roccstar (Rihanna) and Jerrod Bettis (Adele).

Her collaborators certainly brought new ideas to the table, but to her surprise, so did Etheridge.

“Like in Jon Levine … the things that I would throw away were the gems that (he was) hearing,” Etheridge said. “(The song) ‘Monster,’ that whole (guitar) lick, I was sitting in the corner and we were playing another song, and I was just (playing around) because I was going to put a slide on another song. And Jerry said, ‘Stop! What are you playing?’ And he threw me into the booth and we recorded it and we built a whole song around it. I wouldn’t have done that. So there are things they saw in me that I would have overlooked.

“It’s me getting to know myself on this album. That’s why I called it ‘This Is M.E.,’” she said.

The music that emerged on “This Is M.E.” still has the familiar heartland rock foundation that’s expected from Etheridge. But the album successfully makes considerable use of programmed rhythms and incorporates plenty of modern (and often synthetic) sonics.

One thing that remains consistent on “This Is M.E.,” though, was the honesty that Etheridge brings to her lyrics.

The most obvious example is the closing track, the swelling piano ballad “Who Are You Waiting For.” It’s about her new partner, Linda Wallem, and the moment they decided they should be more than friends. The couple, who live in California, married in May 2014.

Etheridge, 55, had seen two previous long-running relationships (with Julie Cypher and Tammy Lynn Michaels) end, and thought she was through with love.

But at the same time, Etheridge had invited Wallem to share her home and help with raising her kids from those two previous relationships. For a while, all was platonic between the two longtime friends.

“She stayed in the other room and she really helped me,” Etheridge said. “And we did, we were doing all the things that relationship does in a house, that a partner does. At one point, I just, I think I asked her where the sippy cups were. She looked across the kitchen and went ‘Well, dear,’ like a married couple. I went oh, wait a minute, I already have all this stuff I was afraid I wouldn’t have in someone who is able to be a partner and a friend. Why not see if the one last thing works?”