Melissa Etheridge on Orlando Benefit Song 'Pulse' & Why She 'Celebrates' Donald Trump
"Change happens when people look at something and go, 'Wow, I'm not that, so I guess I'm this,'" she tells Billboard of the GOP presidential candidate.
Melissa Etheridge is planning to have her new song "Pulse" available for download by Monday, if not during the weekend, with proceeds going to Equality Florida, an advocacy group working to help survivors and families of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando.
“I'm just doing what musicians have always done," Etheridge tells Billboard about the track. "We've always been the ones that bring the news to the town and we're the mirrors of society. We give that song we can all sing when we all get together. That's my job."
"Pulse" was born shortly after Etheridge learned about the June 12 shootings, when she woke up later that morning at her apartment in New York. "I woke up like everybody else and just got whopped upside the head with pain and not understanding and wanting to feel better about it." she recalls. "I play Orlando. I know all those people. I knew someone who [lives] just down the block from there, so you feel a connection. I had a guitar there and a I just started writing."
As the song formed, Etheridge called a friend, producer Jerry Wonda, who cleared studio time the following day for Etheridge and a small ensemble to get in and record "Pulse." A rough mix went up on SoundCloud almost immediately, while Etheridge premiered the song Wednesday in Torrington, Conn., where Pulse victim Kimberly "KJ" Morris was from.
"I just wanted [the song] to say that we can't let anything like this drive us away or make us feel that love isn't stronger, because love is stronger," Etheridge explains. "As corny as it sounds to talk about love -- and I wish there were as many words for love in the English language as there are in other languages -- love is stronger. ... The changes we're going to see because of this will show that love is stronger, that we are not going to let this instance break down our hoe. That's just not going to happen. We will be stronger."
Etheridge is, of course, horrified by the events in Orlando. But she also views it as indicative of the progress the LGBT community has made in recent years -- and how much of a fight remains. "The way I choose to look at it is [the violent opposition] is finally coming out into the light. We're dragging it into the light because we're moving up," Etheridge explains. "This is a perfect example of intolerance, this fundamental extremism; it could have been a Christian extremist as well as an Islamist. But there are those of us who are saying, 'We're done with this. We're done with this division, this hate. We're moving on.' When you do that, it really brings out those who have lived with that [hate] and held onto it and worship it, that hate that keeps them going every day. It's their problem now, and they've got to figure it out and some of them can't handle it inside themselves, and they take it out on people outside of them."
Without naming obvious names, Etheridge also places blame on what she calls "political leaders... well, political mouths" for spreading that acrimony. "They're trying to fan the fear of the other, of those that are different, those that are darker, religious differences or class differences, sexuality, ethnic, whatever the difference is." But Etheridge, who's been supporting Hillary Clinton since she announced her candidacy, based on her experience, actually feels that Donald Trump may help the cause more than hurt it.
"I celebrate Trump," Etheridge says, "because I've seen enough change in my lifetime now to know that change happens when people look at something and go, 'Wow, I'm not that, so I guess I'm this, over here.' And he really personifies all those dark, behind-the-door thoughts and fears that they have, and I think it's good to have it come out. It's good for all of us to go, 'Woo-hoo! Look at that! We don't need that anymore!' So I celebrate it."
And Etheridge is also celebrating the potential of a female U.S. president in office.
"It's so metaphorical and poetic that we are seeing the actual paradigm shift from the old patriarchal ruling class to more balance of male and female," she says. "The old paradigm has been falling apart. That's what's been breaking. That's what's been causing war and the perpetuation of that. The first female president is about to happen, and that change is going to be pretty astounding. I think it's going to trickle down in a whole lot of ways."
"Pulse" isn't the only new music Etheridge has coming, meanwhile. During October she'll release an album of Stax-Volt covers she recorded at Royal Studios in Memphis, with players including Al Green cohorts the Hodges Brothers. "It's Otis Redding songs, it's Sam & Dave, it's the Staples Singers, and it's all imagined through the way that I love it," Etheridge says. "It's the roots of rock 'n' roll, and it's just an album you're gonna want to turn up and sing at the top of your lungs."