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Fear and Love in Malibu: Melissa Etheridge’s New LP

Album: Fearless Love
Due Out: Spring

Rolling Stone IN Feb 11, 2010

Angela Weiss/Getty Images Entertainment

When Melissa Etheridge sat down to write new songs in late 2008, she’d just finished touring behind The Awakening ”“ her first disc since fighting breast cancer, in 2005. As she thought about ways to expand on that album’s themes of peace and self-acceptance, Etheridge, 48, says she reflected on “the little moments when everything comes down to the choice between love and fear.” Her 10th studio LP, Fearless Love, mines those opposing impulses ”“ from the triumphant roots-rock title track to the downhearted ballad ”˜Company,’ about fear of loneliness.

With those ideas in mind, Etheridge moved into a Malibu studio in July, and re-teamed with Ashlee Simpson and Bon Jovi producer John Shanks (who began his career 20 years ago as the guitarist in Etheridge’s band). “Our studio was in a house on the beach,” says Etheridge. “The vocal booth had windows, so you could look at the ocean.” She brought her own chef, and even enjoyed, as she puts it, some “medical marijuana”: “It was like music camp, and it created that atmosphere that I needed.” In crafting the album, Etheridge says she wanted to honour her musical heroes. “You’ll hear Bruce Springsteen, the Who, Peter Gabriel,” says the singer. “That’s what makes rock & roll great: if we take our influences and then create through them.” The title track echoes U2’s most optimistic anthems, and the propulsive blues cut ”˜Nervous’ is a Rolling Stones-style “classic rock-shuffle song.” Etheridge says the tune is about the jitters she got when she met her wife, Tammy Lynn Michaels, but it’s one of her most confident songs in years. And though Etheridge says she gave up chasing chart numbers, a pop hit from this set would be a victory. “I want these to be songs people will be bopping their heads to, singing along to and then saying, ”˜Wait, what am I singing? I want a fearless love? Wow.’”‰”

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