Exclusive: Watch Melissa Etheridge Discover Her Heritage on 'Who Do You Think You Are?'
Melissa Etheridge discovered a few more surprises than she expected when she agreed to be part of TLC's genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?
Etheridge says she agreed to appear on the show's season finale (airing Sunday, April 26th at 10 p.m. ET) partly because her wife Linda Wallem is close friends with one of the executive producers, and also because she felt there were some holes in her own family knowledge. "I knew stories from my mother's family," says the Kansas native, "but with my father I didn't know anything past his parents, so it was a delight to all of a sudden open a door to all these stories and be like, 'Oh, that's where my father came from?'" In Etheridge's case, the investigation -- which included a full year of research -- turned up ancestors in French Canada who, in a scandal, sued a man who impregnated but would not marry their teenage daughter, and a colonial American entrepreneur who included bootlegging in his array of businesses. Watch a clip from the episode, which Billboard is exclusively premiering below.
"I was shocked, yes, and delighted, too," Etheridge says. "I didn't take anything personally -- although when you start realizing there were these people in the 1600s going to court to clear their daughter's name, and of course it's so salacious and about sexuality, I'm like, 'Duh -- welcome to my line of making our sexuality public,' and that sort of makes me laugh at those parallels." Etheridge also jokes about being grateful to the Catholic church "for all the records they kept. Going into the church in Quebec, the oldest in Northern America, and feeling that power it had at the time and realizing that a few hundred years later we're still working out of that paradigm was pretty interesting, too."
As for understanding more about her father, Etheridge says that, "My father was very adventurous. was very much an outsdoorsman. He loved to swim in lakes and streams and rivers. He just loved to fish and taught me how to fish. He just loved that life, and to see his great, great, great-grandfather was a fur trader who came down the Missouri or the Mississippi, it did say a lot about him."
Etheridge acknowledges that uncovering so much family history might spur some songs ideas, but she notes that "I actually haven't sat down to write much now. I'm more in the touring mode. It hasn't inspired me yet, but once I do sit down to write again maybe I'll go there."
The musician is still supporting here 2014 album This Is M.E., her first for her on ME Records label, and is currently touring Europe, with North American dates beginning June 10 at the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga, Tenn. On June 9 she'll release A Little Bit of Me: Live in L.A. on CD, DVD and Blu-ray, featuring rockers Delta Rae on two songs, "I'm the Only One" and "Monster."