“Without going too Oprah on you, I have never been so in love,” says Melissa Etheridge as she curls up on a couch in the living room of the comfortable, two-story home she shares with actress Tammy Lynn Michaels. Etheridge wrote many of the songs for her new album, Lucky, in this room, looking out over an expansive, neatly groomed yard that doubles as a playground for the kids, and at the moment she’s explaining how the mostly upbeat and playful tone of Lucky is evidence she’s finally writing from a place of happiness she’s never before approached.
“It’s a long, emotional, psychological journey of what I was pulling in and attracting; in my songs, I’m constantly talking about the blackness that has seeped into my chest,” Etheridge chuckles, “and about the emptiness. Even though there was love and sexuality, there wasn’t the true unconditional feeling of being in love. I never knew it before I was 40.” Not even in the early part of her relationship with Julie Cypher, her partner of 12 years and the mother of her seven-year-old daughter Bailey and five-year-old son Beckett? “No,” she says simply.
Her kids were four and two, respectively, when Melissa started seeing Tammy, and as the days go on they’ll have fewer and fewer memories of the time when their moms were together and they were the most talked-about kids in America. Now, “the kids are insane about Tammy,” says Etheridge about her other half these past three years. “They love her so much. We have them 50 percent of the time. My ex has re-partnered and has a little baby, and they just live up the street.”
Two years ago, Etheridge made her darkest album ever. Written in the two months immediately following the breakup of her relationship with Cypher, Skin took a downward spiral through all of Etheridge’s twisted-up emotions. But on Lucky she takes her songs into unfamiliar places, from the new-relationship ecstasy of “This Moment,” “Mercy,” “When You Find The One” and the title track to the School Of Rock-era guitar crunch of “Giant,” “Kiss Me” and “Secret Agent.” The album comes at a time when Etheridge, now 42, is happy and settling into a life she only dreamed of as a 21-year-old from small-town Kansas, heading for Los Angeles with a mission to make it on her own terms.
“I think the biggest difference is the difference in me personally. Skin was the bottom. That was three years ago, and since then I have met the most amazing woman ever and found a center of a place to stand where I love myself and made my life good for me. I started writing and performing from, ‘This is fun, I feel sexy….’ I did a couple tours and there were thousands of people excited to hear me. That’s what I do. I play and sing rock’n’roll. That’s my joy, that’s my salvation.”