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Melissa Etheridge

Often, the process of a basic phone interview (or “phoner,” as those in the biz like to say) with a rock star is pretty painless. The journalist is told exactly when their phone will ring and given X amount of time to engage in small talk with the artist, sometimes with an agent listening in on a third line, just to make sure any frowned-upon topics don’t enter the conversation. It’s not brain surgery. But every once in a while the number of hoops requiring jumping-through is commensurate with the size of the star.

Enter the case of rocker Melissa Etheridge: Trying to schedule and complete an interview for this piece was like herding cats. A botched time-zone adjustment and an ahead-of-schedule phone call foiled the first attempt. A connection was made a few days later, but it was fleeting—Etheridge had called from her car on the drive home from a rehearsal. (“I’m hands-free,” she assured me.) Five dropped calls later, the interview was again bumped.

So when the Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer—who begins the American leg of her Fearless Love 2010 Tour at the Palace this week—finally rings up from the landline at her California home, I know it’s now or never. In this situation, one must lead with the hard questions. “Ms. Etheridge,” I inquire, “are you trying to get an EGOT?”

After the meaning of EGOT is explained (it’s short for Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony), Etheridge says, “Is that what they call it?” She laughs. It’s a just-playing-along kind of laugh, I think, as she never explicitly denies the quest.

She mentions that she’s been dabbling in Broadway—“I’ve been invited to sing a song with the [cast of Broadway show] Million Dollar Quartet next weekend,” she enthuses—then reveals that she has a musical of her own in the works. That’s more than dabbling, I suggest. But she will say no more about the project, other than it’s in the “birthing stages,” and that she’s working with her “best friend ever,” Nurse Jackie co-creator Linda Wallem. (Wallem was at one time reportedly developing a television series with Etheridge, in case any EGOT suspicions need further stoking.)

What Etheridge really wants to discuss is her new album, Fearless Love. Which is natural, since that’s her latest record, but also of particular note because it’s her 10th studio album. It’s a so-called return-to-rock record that may not have quite the raw energy of her now 22-year-old debut, but finds the singer at anthemic peaks she hasn’t visited since 1999’s Breakdown. “It’s me wanting to rock,” she says. “I’ve been doing this for a while, I feel really confident. I’m going out into America, the world, this summer, and I’m really excited about playing these songs live.”

The road begins in Albany this week, a town Etheridge regards fondly from past visits—she recalls walking “over that big ol’ long bridge thing to the river”—and runs through Labor Day weekend. So being away from home for months at a time must get to be a grind after all this time, especially with a family and all that, right? “Sometimes I do wish that I didn’t have to travel so much,” she admits. “I wish people could come to me. But then when I’m at home in my office for three months, I’m like, ‘Get me on the road!’”

So after winning awards, playing for presidents, selling out the Palace Theatre in Albany—is there anything (besides a musical) left on her proverbial list? She pauses for a moment. “Yes and no. I keep putting things in front of me, because that’s what you do, you know? But 10 albums—wow, that’s awesome. To be able to share that with people. . . . I’m just grateful for everything I’ve done.

“I’m mostly in love with the creation process,” she adds. “Other stuff, awards, is just gravy.”

Melissa Etheridge kicks off her Fearless Love 2010 Tour at the Palace Theatre (19 Clinton Ave. , Albany) this Wednesday at 8 PM. For more information, call the Palace at 465-3334 or visit palacealbany.com.

 

Rockwell and the Movies

Though best known for his humble depictions of everyday New England life, Norman Rockwell was no stranger to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. The master illustrator’s advertising work was frequently commissioned by the film industry to promote its feature films.

The latest exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum, Rockwell and the Movies, explores Rockwell’s cinematic art, and spans decades of film history.

Drawing on the Museum’s Art and Archival Collection as well as private collections, the exhibit presents original paintings, vintage posters, lobby cards and portraits of movie stars. Familiar faces include Jennifer Jones in 1943’s The Song of Bernadette (pictured), Tyrone Power from the original The Razor’s Edge, and Ann-Margret in the 1966 remake of Stagecoach. This is cinema as branded with Rockwell’s signature.

Rockwell and the Movies opens to the public on Saturday (July 3) at the Norman Rockwell Museum (9 Route 183, Stockbridge, Mass.) and runs through Oct. 31. Kicking off the exhibit, and the summer, visitors on Saturday can celebrate with “Play Ball: An All American Fest”; the day of art, baseball and nostalgia begins at noon. For more info, call (413) 298-4100.

—John Brodeur


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