Back in 2013, while working on a proposed box set of archival recordings, singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge came across a group of songs that had been recorded in the late 1980s but never released.
Now, she’s taking these tunes on the road as part of her newest album, “One Way Out.” She performs at the Belly Up on Aug. 17. For fans familiar with the singer’s biggest hits from the mid-1990s, “One Way Out” (both the title track and the album) have a harder rock edge and go heavy on her distinctive voice and guitar sound.
“My intention was to show that I’m a rock-and-roller,” Etheridge said during a recent phone interview.
Lively and effervescent, you get the sense that she loves what she does and has limitless energy, especially when it comes to her job of more than three decades. And, this album was a bit of a return to those roots.
“I got this idea to get the band back together — the original, very first band I ever toured with, which was Kevin McCormick on bass, Fritz Lewak on drums and John Shanks on guitar,” she said. “These guys are monsters.”
They recorded with her on the album, and the rest is (recent) history.
Looking back, Etheridge said she’s happy these songs are being dusted off the shelf, as a lot has changed since she decided not to release them initially. As to why she waited?
“I was still very confused about who I was and was easily drawn off track sometimes,” she said.
But now she feels ready, and then some.
“These songs now — the me now is so different of the me 30 years ago because I’m not afraid of my strength,” she said. “I’m not afraid to get up there and RAWR ‘I’m a rock god.’ These songs were feminist; singing these songs now is like getting my power back, power that I had dampened on my own when I was younger and less sure of myself.”
Those headed to the show are likely to pick up on that rollicking attitude as Etheridge looks forward to another return to Colorado, several years after lifting a self-imposed, 26-year boycott of the state (in 2015) in protest of Colorado’s Amendment 2 passage in 1993.
“After being away for a long time, I try to come back every year,” she said. “I love playing Colorado, the landscape there. I’ve played everywhere around the area. Especially Belly Up, with 400 people standing up in front of me. It’s a sweaty, hot rock and roll night. And, we’re going to turn it up!”
Dipping into a seemingly endless well of enthusiasm, Etheridge breezed through our tight 15-minute phone call, one of many on her schedule that day.
When asked about how she keeps it up after all this time, she said, “Because I don’t ever think of it as hard. I don’t ever say that. I’m very grateful. I know that I’m doing things that 99.9% of people don’t get to do, and I’ve learned a lot. I have learned about life, I’ve learned about health, and one of the strongest lessons I have learned is that I will be what I think I am. I wanted this to be an amazing journey that’s constantly challenging and constantly rewarding. And, it is.”
It’s a challenge not to get swept up in her overwhelming positivity, but that positivity does strike a balance with a wisdom built from years of success and struggles — both in and out of the spotlight.
“I’ve climbed that mountain; I’ve made it,” she said. “I want to say, ‘You can do this, let’s not make ourselves small anymore.’ Let’s inspire each other.”