Melissa Etheridge Writing 'Rock Musical,' Preps Album & Tour
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Singer Working on Follow-up to 2010's "Fearless Love"; Hopes to Release It Later This Year

M elissa Etheridge says she has more than 20 songs, "kinda rockin' tunes, soulful tunes, all kinds of stuff" that she's just started recording in Los Angeles for the follow-up to 2010's "Fearless Love."

Etheridge tells Billboard that the tenor of the new material comes from touring "Fearless Love" and seeing what audiences responded to from her nearly 25-year body of work. "Last year I toured Canada. This year I toured Europe. I hadn't been there, both those places, in a long time on a full tour," Etheridge explains. "While I was there, I could see people were still coming out and singing the songs of 25 years ago...It gave me sort of a new inspiration of my own music and how I just want to write songs that people want to sing, that mean something to me and that people want to make their own. I got the sense of, 'Oh! This is what I do. This is what makes me special. I can do this.'"

Etheridge plans to spend the first three weeks of April in the studio working with producers Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Tom Waits, Norah Jones) and Steve Booker (Duffy, Stevie Nicks, Lindsay Lohan), with vocals likely to be recorded in May for a release later this year. Etheridge has "three or four" working titles for the album but says that "it changes all the time, so I'm going to wait until I say anything."

As for topics, Etheridge says she's "writing about new love and old love. Goodbyes. A little bit with my kids, and some spiritual outlooks on things -- just live all around me. 'Fearless Love' was a bit more focused; this is just really, 'OK, whatever's there, come to me. Let me pull it out and make the best of it.' There are a couple of fictional songs, too; there's one about, like, what if I was still living in Kansas? What would I be doing?'"

Etheridge hits the road again on April 21 and has U.S. dates booked into late June. In July she tours Australia and New Zealand, with a pair of shows in Hawaii. Meanwhile, she and "Nurse Jackie" co-creator Linda Wallem are collaborating on a musical that Etheridge says is halfway done.

"I keep talking about it," says Etheridge, who did a week-long stint on Broadway playing St. Jimmy in "American Idiot." "I keep going, 'OK, after this album, I'll talk about it some more..' It needs to get done, but it's just me and Linda, and we have our day jobs that keep it really busy. But I want to do it right and make it be something that lasts." Etheridge describes it as "more along the lines of a classic musical, yet more of a rock musical." As to what it's about, she says "New York City. Piano bars. That's all I'm going to say until we finish it."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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