NEW YORK -- At 51, Melissa Etheridge isn't coasting on her accomplishments. Take her guitar work.
The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, whose 12th studio album was just released, challenged herself to play all the guitar parts this time around for the first time.
"I kind of thought when I was 30 that you're as good as you're going to get. And that's not true," she says. "I have gotten so much better, and I'm celebrating it on this album."
The album, 4th Street Feeling, has a dozen songs that mostly look backward -- to her parents, childhood and breakups. It's named after a street in her hometown of Leavenworth, Kan.
"I'm exploring the maturity, the wisdom that just comes from having gone around the sun 50 times," she says. "My experience is, 'Oh, I'm never really going to get it right. I'm never going to get it done.' But that's not the point here. The point is the journey."
Etheridge and her girlfriend, Nurse Jackie co-creator Linda Wallem, are even working on a stage musical centered on New York piano bars. In an interview with The Associated Press, Etheridge talked about the new album, watching her kids grow, writing her own musical, and more.
1 What are you pulling from on this album?
The influences on this album range from pop to rock to country to folk to R&B to soul. That's what I grew up with. I grew up with one radio station -- one AM station that would play Tammy Wynette and then play Marvin Gaye and then play Led Zeppelin. It was the Top 40 station. That's what we had back then. . . . So my music has always kind of had bits and pieces of everything.
2 What's it like raising four kids -- twin toddlers and two teenagers -- at the same time?
They're kind of basically the same thing, the 5-year-olds and the teenagers. The world is all about them and they're just learning all along the way. You kind of have sometimes to holler at them to get their attention. But, God, I love my children and I couldn't be more proud of them, and all four of them. I'm blessed with four really unique, powerful individuals.
3 Have you found yourself becoming more or less political lately?
I have found that I'm political just by being who I am. Being a gay person, being a person who chooses to partake in cannabis, being a breast cancer survivor -- these are all very political situations that I didn't choose, that are naturally who I am. So just by answering the questions, I become political. I'm considered an activist, but I do not spend any more time doing those things than anyone else. It's just that I choose to stand and be truthful about it. I think it's interesting that I live in a country where being truthful about who you are is courageous and political. What does that say about us?
4 Broadway is a special place for you, isn't it?
I've always felt it's a sacred place. If you can create something that can come alive on the stage and entertain in that medium, that is the ultimate. You cannot fake it on Broadway. It's where the real talent goes, as far as I'm concerned.
5 If you do write a musical for Broadway, you'd join a list of singer-songwriters gravitating to the theater, like Sheryl Crow, Cyndi Lauper and Dave Stewart.
Twenty years ago I wanted to write something for Broadway. By the time I finally get around to it, of course, everyone's doing it. There's been so many different types of musicals, and it's a funny genre because there's a fine line between clever and stupid. It really takes a genius to know how to do it.
-- Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press