The Insight Of Hindsight: Etheridge’s ‘way out’ of difficult year is music

The Insight Of Hindsight: Etheridge’s ‘way out’ of difficult year is music

That’s a whole lotta life, Melissa Etheridge says with a chuckle of the years between writing the songs on her newest album and when they finally got to see the light of day.

“One Way Out” released Sept. 17 to a world completely different than the one in which the Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and activist wrote its nine songs.

“I call it my time capsule inside of a time capsule,” she says over the phone two weeks before its release. The tunes were all written in the late 1980s and early ’90s, just as Etheridge was introducing herself to the world with her 1988 self-titled debut. They hearken back to an era of the singer’s career before she established herself as one of rock music’s greatest female icons. It was a time before Etheridge had publicly come out as a lesbian, before her two Grammy wins and her 2007 Best Original Song Oscar win, before her battle with breast cancer, and before losing her son to an opioid overdose.

But it’s exactly that distance that gave her the resolve to share the songs with the world.

“One thing that sticks out is that the energy behind these songs, like the frustration in ‘For the Last Time,’ and the immediacy that wrote these songs are definitely gone,” Etheridge says looking back. “Now I can look at them as just songs. … I was over everything, and it was all in the past. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t put these songs out [sooner] is [I] was like, ‘Oh, this is too [much], I hate that I’m going through this,’ you know? So having that so far away now, not even close to feeling anything like that now, I can enjoy them and perform them without paying a price of reliving them. That doesn’t exist. And songs like ‘As Cool As You Try’ and ‘Save Myself,’ those are all much more powerful when I sing them now than they were then.”

The songs that would come to be “One Way Out” were originally collected some years ago for a retrospective box set Etheridge was working on. The project would ultimately be shelved when she parted ways with the label, but last year when her current record label, BMG, asked her for new material, it seemed the perfect time to dust off the set.

The album earned its title from the first track in the collection. It felt different from the rest, Etheridge shares, with a message that seemed to speak more urgently to the present moment. “It was like the serious middle of covid,” she recalls, “and feeling like ‘how do I get out of here,’ and the sort of endlessness of it. It just seemed right.”

As for so many of the rest of us, the constraints of the past year and a half forced Etheridge and her team to find new ways to stay in touch with her fans. Starting her own live streaming and video-on-demand platform, Etheridge TV, and looking forward to bringing this previously unreleased music to listeners is what kept her sane. And as she begins to process this season in her own work, Etheridge anticipates we’ll be seeing some very transformative art in the coming years that, hopefully, helps people find a way to better understand what we’ve all come through together.

“As I looked out into what we were experiencing as a human race, it was one of the first times that the whole world was experiencing something at the same time, and we were all trying to figure out how to respond to it,” Etheridge muses. “And I think if you pull out and look at it spiritually, it’s the general malaise of our society, of the division. … and I think us coming to grips with, no matter how crazy everything gets, you will still never get people to all do the same thing, or agree to the same thing. It’s not our nature. We are all completely diverse. The diversity is what we’re fighting against, and what we’re fighting for.

“So it is forcing us to rethink everything, to understand that we are all connected,” she goes on. “That everything we do does affect everybody else, and also understanding that we’re all different, and we’re never going to be the same. So how to take care of each of our own journeys is, I think, what we’re going to ultimately come to understand — that each of us has to take care of ourselves and walk our paths in a truthful and fulfilling way. And stop pushing and blaming others for our own path, but take our own responsibility. I mean, it’s much deeper than what I’m trying to say right now. But that’s really what came to me.”



Melissa Etheridge

WHEN — 7 p.m. Oct. 10

WHERE — Walton Arts Center, 495 W. Dickson St. in Fayetteville

COST — $54-$94; limited tickets remain

INFO — 443-5600;;

Categories: Cover Story