She will be in town this weekend for three shows, but during a recent phone interview, Melissa Etheridge had her favorite sports team on her mind.
“Can we just revel in the game?” she said days after the Chiefs had soundly beaten the New England Patriots. “I don’t care what else the Chiefs do all season long, that game was perfect. So amazing.”
Etheridge is a native of Leavenworth and a homegrown fan of the Chiefs and the Royals. In April, she sang the National Anthem at the Royals’ home opener at Kauffman Stadium.
This weekend, she will perform with another hometown institution: the Kansas City Symphony. All three shows will be at Helzberg Hall in the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.
Etheridge started collaborating with symphonies and orchestras three years ago. She gradually accumulated enough material to perform an entire show.
“The thing about doing symphony shows is someone has to write the arrangements, and each arrangement can cost like $5,000,” she said. “It’s a large undertaking. So I started with the Boston Pops, doing four or five songs. Then I added the Chicago Symphony. Part of the deal with working with them was they arranged to pay for the arrangements. Then I did the San Francisco Symphony and it continued to grow.
“Now I have a good 20, 25 songs arranged and I can do a whole show with a symphony.”
Etheridge will have her regular three-piece band with her. They will have one run-through/rehearsal with the Symphony before Friday’s show. These symphony performances require approach and discipline that is vastly different from her usual shows.
“It requires a lot more precision,” she said. “In my regular show, it’s me and the three guys in my band, and we’re tight-knit. I can go into something and if I want to do eight bars I can do eight, if I want to do 16 I can do 16 and they’ll be with me.
“But when you’re playing with 60 or 70 people, you’d better do eight bars because if you do more or less there’s going to be a train wreck. You’ve got to be precise and perform exactly how the music is written. So it really draws upon my classical knowledge of music. It becomes more about the songs and the music than the performance.”
Etheridge is busy working on her next album, which will be the follow-up to 2016’s “Memphis Rock and Soul,” a compilation of covers that honors the Stax records roster.
In her new songs, she said, she is responding to what’s going on in the world around her.
“This is a very inspirational time in our world,” she said. “I believe this is a time where artists need to make their art. We need art, we need creativity, we need to understand the human experience we’re going through because we’re so inundated and numb. There’s so much information we need to balance it out just as much with the intuitive side and the creativity of music and art.
“So, yes I’m writing. I’ll be going into the studio in October.”
While she’s in town this weekend, Etheridge hopes to make it back to her hometown. She last visited in May 2015 to attend the dedication of a playing field in memory of her father, who was a coach and athletic director for Leavenworth public schools.
“I’ll try to get to Leavenworth one of those days,” she said. “The older I get the more quaint and beautiful my hometown seems.”
She will be back in town in October for another performance in another hallowed Kansas City venue: Arrowhead Stadium.
“Truth be told, I’ve never attended a Chiefs game at Arrowhead Stadium,” she said. “I attended a concert there when I was in high school. I saw the Beach Boys and Chicago.
“But they finally asked me to sing the National Anthem for a game. I’m going to sing before the Oct. 15 Chiefs-Steelers game at Arrowhead. It’s going to be great.”
Melissa Etheridge and the KC Symphony
Melissa Etheridge performs with the Kansas City Symphony at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 22-24) at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are available at kauffmancenter.org