HITS Daily Double


In May Melissa Etheridge released the song “One Way Out,” the lead single from her upcoming album of the same name, due 9/17 via BMG. The track is part of a collection written by Etheridge in the late ’80s and early ’90s and recorded in 2013 but not released until now.

Etheridge, whose pop/rock/folk-tinged work is distinguished by confessional lyrics and instantly recognizable whisky-soaked vocals, debuted with an eponymous album in 1988, from which “Bring Me Some Water,” Grammy-nominated for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female, emerged as one of her signature songs. In 1993, she won the Grammy in that category for “Ain’t It Heavy,” from her third album, Never Enough.

Her real breakthrough, however, was her 1993 album, Yes I Am, which unleashed “I’m the Only One” and “Come to My Window,” the latter earning her a second rock-vocal Grammy. Yes I Am spent 138 weeks on the pop album chart and has since been certified sextuple platinum.

In 2007, Etheridge won the Oscar for Best Original song for “I Need to Wake Up,” from the film An Inconvenient Truth.

She has been an LGBTQ+ activist since coming out in January 1993.

Can you give us some context for the songs on One Way Out?
They range from about 1989 through 1994 or ’95. I was really enjoying writing, really enjoying recording and I was touring with the band, yet I lacked confidence because I wasn’t out. Some of this material, like “Save Myself” and “As Cool as You Try,” are feminist songs I was a little unsure about back then. They’re perfect now, though; they fit right in.

It sounds like you were finding your voice as an artist but not ready to live with these songs publicly. Do you think your songwriting was acting as a beacon, illuminating the journey ahead?
I’ve often listened to my songs and thought, “Oh, that’s some forecasting.” I should have listened to myself better!

What’s the one song that best captures that?
Probably “For the Last Time.” I wrote that as the relationship I was in in ’93 or ’94 was starting to get shaky. I should have seen it then but no, I hung on for another five years!

What was the impetus for recording these songs in 2013?
I thought I was going to do a box set with Island Records, but then I made a big change in management and actually dropped the label and went really independent. So I put these songs on the back burner and before I knew it, eight years had passed! I owned the masters, so I took them to BMG, and they said, “Man, let’s release these!”

You’ve said that when you wrote “Wild Wild Wild,” specifically, you were afraid it was too up-front, especially since you weren’t out yet. What was going on in 2013 that made you want to record it?
Gay marriage was about to be legalized. Everything felt like, “Look, we have some freedoms. I’m an older and wiser woman, and I don’t have the fears I had back then.” The funny thing is that “Wild Wild Wild” now seems very tame… but also sexual and beautiful, so that’s all good.

The song “One Way Out” opens with, “They say you can run but you can’t hide/ I’d like to see how far I’d get baby if I tried/ I’ve tied angels to my feet/ I’m flying down the street with the devil inside.” Do you remember what was going on at the time?
Yeah, that same relationship was definitely having its troubles. I just wanted to run away, leave. And I wanted to rock really, really hard. I used to be afraid to full-on rock out on guitar—step up and “rock god.” It’s taken me years to step up and play like I want to without getting all messed up in my head about it. In 2013 I was just starting to do that, but I really wanted to push it. Now, I can’t wait to hurt people’s ears when I play it!

What kind of wisdom would you impart to your younger self?
I’d just say, “Relax and enjoy it. Stop being so afraid of everything. You have more power than you know.” I would also tell myself to do more sit-ups.

What do you hope your fans take away from this body of work?
One thing is, I hope they like how it was with my original band, John Shanks [guitar], Kevin McCormick [bass] and Fritz Lewak [drums], the band I played everything with for the first time and first really jelled with as a band. I really wanted to record with them. They’ve all gone on to massive careers. Thanks to those guys, I had this old-style feel but with modern power. And it rocks pretty hard—I want my fans to enjoy that, too.