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Melissa Etheridge faces and embraces change in her life and her music

Melissa Etheridge has named her tour after her latest album, “This Is M.E.” She will perform 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Uptown Theater, her first time at the venue.
Melissa Etheridge has named her tour after her latest album, “This Is M.E.” She will perform 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Uptown Theater, her first time at the venue. From the artist

Melissa Etheridge doesn’t visit home much.

“Other than when I was touring, I hadn’t been back to Kansas City, socially, for about 10 years,” she said.

Etheridge and her wife, Linda Wallem, visited Etheridge’s hometown of Leavenworth at the end of May to attend a ceremony honoring her late father, John Etheridge.

“The Leavenworth parks and rec dedicated a softball field on their sports complex to my father,” she said. “He was the athletics director there.”

She spent some time in Kansas City, too, and was surprised by the experience. Things have changed, she said.

“My wife and I are foodies, and I didn’t know we had such great restaurants in Kansas City,” she said. “We ate at PotPie and Bluestem. They were amazing. And Cafe Sebastienne at the Kemper Museum. Whoa.”

She also got some live music in.

“On my birthday, we went to the American Jazz Museum and the Blue Room,” she said. “James Ward was playing there, and I got up and jammed with them. We had such a blast.”

Etheridge will return to Kansas City this week for a solo show at the Uptown Theater — her first time at that venue.

“I saw many shows there when I lived in Kansas City but never played there,” she said.

She has named her tour after her latest album, “This Is M.E.,” which was released in September. It represents several big changes in her professional and personal life.

“About two years ago, I decided to change up my representation: my management, my agency, my lawyers, everything,” she said. “Everyone was great, I just felt like it was time to change.

“In doing so, I really shook loose a lot of ideas and ways of not only selling my work, but making my work. I restructured everything. And that was a real boost to creativity and inspiration. So this album is on fire with that.”

It is her first tour with her new agency, William Morris, who has put together a few special shows. Etheridge will perform solo at the Uptown, but at several stops in July, she and her full band will co-headline with Blondie. Joan Jett will join them on a few shows.

“I’m delighted,” she said. “It’s unheard of them to put together something like that. I switched to them in February, so they could only schedule a few shows. Maybe next summer when we have a bigger lead we can do more.”

Last year brought in some historic change for Etheridge. Twenty-two years after she came out, Etheridge married her longtime partner, Wallem, in May 2014. Their visit to Kansas City coincided with their first anniversary.

Marriage equality remains one of her many causes. After Ireland passed its marriage-equality referendum, Etheridge sent a video to the Irish Times, praising the nation for its historic vote.

“For a country like Ireland, which is so majority, deeply Irish Catholic, to see the youth of that nation call for a public referendum and to have it not by a little but to substantially win was such a great feeling,” she said. “They were the first country to say, ‘Enough is enough. Love is love. God doesn’t create bad love.’”

She sees more change coming in her own country, too.

“We are the melting pot of the world,” she said. “There are so many complicated parts. But look at Massachusetts: (Marriage equality) is old news for them. Yet, then there are places like Kansas.

“But I believe wholeheartedly in our Constitution and form of government is the best,” she said. “I have no doubt that our Supreme Court will find that every citizen has the right to marry the person they love.”

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.


Melissa Etheridge performs at the Uptown Theater, 3700 Broadway. Showtime is 8 p.m.