Melissa Etheridge is flying high. The Grammy and Oscar-winning singer is cancer free, she married her partner Linda Wallem earlier this year and she’s in the middle of a nationwide tour promoting her twelfth studio album “This Is M.E.”

But she’s taken heat for an interview she did with AARP Magazine this month where she stated her cancer was caused by her own poor nutritional health, and that once she started taking care of herself, her cancer disappeared. This led to a stinging rebuke from Liz Margolies, executive director of the National LGBT Cancer Network, in an op-ed in the Huffington Post.

Etheridge rang up the GA Voice while on the road to discuss the new album, her favorite song to perform live, how it feels to be legally married, the cancer interview criticism and Atlanta memories.

So Melissa, why call the new album “This Is M.E.”?

Well, I went through a big change in my professional life last year. I changed management and lawyers and record companies and decided to release this as an independent album. Looking at the whole plan of the next year at least, it was ‘This is me, this is Melissa Etheridge.’ Everything you’re getting now is coming from me. With all my influences from country to rock to soul and R&B, it’s all there in this new album.

Is there an overall lyrical theme to the album or are each of the songs their own unique little stories?

I went into this project not with an overall arching theme, I just let each song dictate what it wanted to be so there’s a lot of different themes, but it still has a cohesive feeling to it. There’s one song from my last relationship, it’s called ‘Little Hard Hearted.’ It’s like, ‘Let’s just call a truce, I don’t want to be hard hearted.’

I’ve been called lusty on this album [laughs]. There’s a lot of fun. I’m having more fun than I’ve had in awhile on this album. I worked with Jerry Wonda, he’s touring with me. He’s a producer out of New York City. He was the bass player for The Fugees. He’s done some incredible work, so I talked him into touring with me. It makes this collision of rock and soul, I just love it.

I know asking artists to pick their favorite song is like asking them to pick their favorite child, but what about your favorite song to perform live?

Gosh, so many are so fun to perform live. I would say right now because it’s so new, there’s a song called ‘Monster.’ But of my older songs it would be a toss-up between ‘I’m The Only One’ and ‘Like The Way I Do.’

Congratulations on your recent wedding. I know you’ve had a commitment ceremony from a previous relationship, but this is the first time you’ve been legally married, correct? Does it feel different?

First time legally married! And you know what, it does feel different, it really does. There’s something…I don’t know, legitimate. There’s something about going into the courthouse and really signing those legal papers. It’s the fierce legality of it all and that’s what we’ve been fighting for for so long, are those rights.

You’ll be on the road during Thanksgiving. Is it tough being out on the road during the holidays without your family or are you able to make do?

Oh, I’m flying the family down for the weekend and they’ll be in Atlanta with me! We’ll have the family bus.

Have you seen the Huffington Post op-ed by Liz Margolies?

You know, what’s funny is I didn’t see the piece but I did see all the reaction. I got tons of hateful tweets. I was like, what is going on? Then I traced it back to the Huffington Post. I haven’t read it but I imagine they disagree with a lot of the health stuff I talked about. I am going to read it. I read another piece this morning that just laid into me on one thing. So I’ll read that first.

I completely understand cancer is such a personal experience and people have lost loved ones and people have gone through excruciating pain and fear having cancer. I am the first one to recognize all of that. But when I am asked about my experience and what I believe, I can’t help but answer that question. Life is this constant journey and all I know is that for 10 years, this is what’s worked for me. If you don’t believe in nutritional health, you should not look for health as a cure. Don’t even listen to me, just walk away now. But if you have a thought that you want to be a part of it, I encourage you to walk that path.

And speaking of, how’s your health these days?

I’m 10 years cancer free, I’m happier and healthier than ever, I’m stronger, I feel better, I look better. I’m extremely happy.

So you’re coming to Atlanta Symphony Hall on the 26th. Any memorable moments that stand out in your past visits to Atlanta?

Oh every show I do in Atlanta is outrageous! I think I’ve played every place you can play there now from the Fox Theatre to…what’s that place outside where you have dinner?

Chastain.

Yeah, I love that. Atlanta is always exciting. They don’t call it Hotlanta for nothing!

Melissa Etheridge
Atlanta Symphony Hall
Wednesday, Nov. 26 at 8 p.m.

psaunders@thegavoice.com | @patricksaunders

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