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Melissa Etheridge talks Boston Pops performance, Billy Joel, and Oscar win

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Grammy and Oscar-winning singer songstress Melissa Etheridge will continue with the Boston Pops for ‘Berklee Night at the Pops’ featuring winners of the Berklee College of Music singer/songwriter competition at Boston Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave in Boston, Massachusetts through Friday, June 13 at 8pm. For more information, visit bostonpops.org. For Melissa’s latest news, visit melissaetheridge.com.

I had the honor of speaking with Melissa Etheridge about vinyl, Billy Joel, uprising of love, and her Oscar win. Click here for the full audio interview.

The big song for you leading up to winning an Oscar was, ‘I Need to Wake Up.’ How was that for you? Was it something totally unexpected?

Yeah, because when Al Gore called me and said, ‘Hey, Melissa, would you like to come down and see my slide show?’ Everybody who knew Al Gore knew that he lived about global warming. That was his life. When you would have a dinner party you would just sit there and eat for half an hour and he would talk about global warming. Before I saw the slide show, he said, ‘We’re making a little documentary about it and I would love to have you do a song.’ I thought, ‘Aw, that’s sweet. It’s going to be played in high schools or something.’ Then the world! That was huge. It was a beautiful time, a beautiful moment, and I am really lucky and proud to have been part of it.

What went through your mind when you won?

When I realized that I was being nominated and I saw that it went out into the world, it was a time of great change. This was 2006. There was big change in my life. I had just gone through breast cancer. We’ve got new issues and we can’t be like we used to be. There’s a new generation.

I need to wake up. I need to wake up to these things! It felt really good to walk up there and say that I’m just so proud, so happy to be part of the generation of change, the things that we’re going to do. We’re changing a lot of things.

You gave a tremendous performance with Joss Stone then.

That was personally very special and meaningful to me.

It was phenomenal! So, what musicians or styles do you admire most?

I admire any artist. It does not matter what style that is working with an element of truth. You can hear it in everything from a folk song to a rock song to a rap song. It doesn’t matter. When it has that truth in there, it resonates inside.

My Dad is a guitarist and he wanted me to ask you, what do you think of vinyl?

I love vinyl. I think vinyl is a specialty part of music listening. There are people who love music and they love the experience and the warmth that vinyl gives them that you don’t get digitally. When you record something on tape and then it’s put on vinyl, there’s a realness that is saved there that is lost in digital recording. Some people don’t mind that. They just want to hear it and they don’t think it sounds different digitally. I love the people whose ears can hear the difference and they listen to music on that level. I think vinyl is never going away. It will always be a specialty way of listening to music.

As far as your latest song goes, I believe that it is ‘Uprising of Love.’ There are a lot of things involved in ‘Uprising of Love.’ It benefits the Uprising of Love coalition, and you actually have a tutorial on how to play the song on your website.

I have a lot of fans who are guitar players, and my management said what I thought about doing this thing and showing people how to play. I said, Ha, ha, that’s sweet! That’s great.’ I thought I’d do that.

The song itself, it stands alone. I’m not going to put it on the next album and it wasn’t on any album. It’s a coalition. It’s a movement, a plea, and a statement of love. Another way to look at the change that is happening not only in our country but in the whole world and how that change begins with each of us, that’s what the uprising of love is about.

You recently performed Billy Joel’s ‘Only the Good Die Young’ at Billy Joel Town Hall hosted by Howard Stern. How did you get involved in that?

Howard’s people asked me. They were putting it together. I happened to be in town. I was in NYC, I said, ‘Yeah that sounds like fun! I like Howard and I love Billy. I always wanted to do ‘Only the Good Die Young’ and I never got to do it until now. See that clip here.

You have friends who are singer/songwriters like Billy Joel and Sheryl Crow. When you talk, do you share ideas or does your music stay strictly private from page to recording?

I think we share experience and frustrations. Songwriting is such a funny art and a funny business. There’s an agreement that if you are talking about songwriting you’re always, unless you say this is off the record, Nashville rules is anybody who’s in the room gets credit on the song. You keep your things as you’re writing them pretty close. Once you get stuff out of you, once you record it, it’s a different story.

What do you hope people can take with them when you perform?

I hope that they feel better when they leave than when they came. I just hope that they have an emotional workout, and their endorphins are up when they leave.

See Melissa Etheridge perform an encore with the Boston Pops through Friday, June 13 at 8 p.m. Visit bostonpops.org for ticket information!

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