Melissa Etheridge believes in Kansas

Photo by Elizabeth Miranda

She says in her long life, the only constant is change, and she knows important changes are coming in Kansas. She’s faced battles/discrimination and stood up for LGBT+ rights throughout her life, and she’s ready to keep fighting, and encourages fellow Kansas folks to keep fighting for what’s right

Melissa Etheridge is feeling more in-sync with herself and her music than ever before. 

Like many artists during the pandemic, Etheridge found herself with more time and began revisiting some of her old songs that hadn’t made previous albums and had been forgotten. 

The rediscovered songs had been written at the start of Etheridge’s career but had been cut  and tucked back away for decades.  “[The songs] are full of that twenties and thirties angst of mine and that sort of hunger that I don’t indulge in so much anymore,” Etheridge says.

After listening to the old songs that she hadn’t heard in many years, Etheridge realized that there was great potential in the material. She had a huge catalog that she says she “kind of just let go to the wayside.”

The songs were compiled and made into the 2021 album, One Way Out, which Etheridge is currently touring for.

In the post-pandemic world, Etheridge feels even more grateful for her fans and the opportunity to tour and share her music. On tour she still plays hits like “I’m The Only One,” but she continually goes deeper into her catalog by playing a wider variety of songs, which she hopes fans will appreciate. “It gives them an opportunity to sort of look into some more of my catalog, and it gives me a chance to play some more obscure [songs]. It’s just really, really fun” she says.

Etheridge says she feels as if she has finally settled into “The Melissa Etheridge Sound,” with her intensely personal lyrics, guitar-heavy rock and smoky vocals. Her recent tours have given her a chance to give longtime fans her signature edgy rock and roll sound. “That’s what people come to see me for, that’s what they love, and so that’s what I’m going to give to them,” Etheridge says.

When talking about traveling for her current One Way Out tour, Etheridge says it’s heartbreaking to see all of the political turmoil, unrest and gun violence in America while she’s abroad. “I feel for my country, my people,” Etheridge says.

Etheridge is a Kansas native and has been a longtime advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights and a trailblazer for queer artists since publicly coming out as a lesbian in 1993.

She remembers growing up in Leavenworth in another tumultuous time in our history, the sixties and seventies, though she has always thought of Kansas as a “neutral” state. She remembers her high school—the only one in town at the time—as an accepting place where people were judged on their character more than their ethnicity or political stance. Etheridge says the “extremism” that has taken over Kansas politics is not indicative of its people. “There are still incredibly good people [in Kansas] who really believe in the live and let live.”

The country’s eyes are on Kansas as the August 2nd election approaches. It will be the first vote after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which will determine whether abortion will still be able to be legally performed in the state.

Etheridge says it’s no coincidence that other landmark cases, like Brown v. Board of Education, happened in Topeka, which ended racial segregation in public schools. She has faith in the people of her home state and has hope that the people will once again make it through the politically tumultuous times like she did as a child in Kansas. 

“I think we’re very special people,” she says. “I think a lot of good can come out of Kansas, so I’m always hopeful.”

GO: Sunday, August 14. 8 pm. Liberty Hall in Lawrence. 

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