Melissa Etheridge Advocates for Cannabis on ‘The Medicine Show’
Melissa Etheridge has been breast-cancer free for close to 15 years now — and she credits her current good health, in part, to cannabis. “I’ve worked for over 10 years to be an advocate for plant medicine, specifically cannabis,” Etheridge tells TIDAL. “I think cannabis is opening the doors to what is a new paradigm in how we think about health and medicine.”
Now, the two-time Grammy Award winner is releasing a record that tips a hearty wink to marijuana, The Medicine Show, out April 12 via Concord. Etheridge’s fourteenth album features such tongue-in-cheek tracks as “Faded By Design,” hewing closely to her decade of advocacy for marijuana legalization; she even launched her own cannabis business in 2016, California’s Etheridge Farms.
TIDAL spoke with Etheridge about the album, the legalization of marijuana and more in anticipation of The Medicine Show.
You’ve spoken about how this album advocates for plant-based medicine. Can you expand on that?
I went through my own health crisis 15 years ago with breast cancer, and tried to make choices to bring more joy in my life and bring more health and good food. To make those a priority. Plant medicine and the choice of strengthening my body, my mind and my emotions and how that leads to health, that’s really what I’m musically dancing around.
I’m trying to be entertaining with this thought of, ‘Hey, come on, folks; let’s rise up! We can get out of this. We can do better for ourselves.’ Because when we strengthen ourselves, we strengthen the world.
How does this all link up with Etheridge Farms? What’s been happening with that business?
We’re in the process of rolling some product in about four months. We’re right on target. At the end of this year you should see some Etheridge Farms products at least in California if not in more places.
What do you think about the legalization of marijuana in the U.S? How do you think the country is doing?
Two years ago, when Jeff Sessions got put in as the Attorney General, everyone went, ‘Oh no!’ and we thought we were going back to raids and all that crazy stuff. Everyone kind of pulled back. Now that he’s gone, it’s all seems pretty ambiguous. Even Republicans are talking about it. [Marijuana is] a lot of money; it’s a lot of taxes. It’ll happen as it’s supposed to.
On this record, you touch on a lot of topical concerns: opiates, school shootings. Why did you feel compelled to take on these issues?
When I started thinking about the album in 2016, 2017, I was starting to realize that these are interesting times. We will look back at these times. I wanted to touch on the things that were in our zeitgeist, that were calling to us to rise up for change. So these things, I wanted to create musical pieces for.
When I was in the studio, the Parkland shooting happened and it just really affected me. I started thinking, ‘OK, I’ve already written “Pulse,” I don’t want to condemn; I want to take a new approach to it. So I thought about the survivors, because they were the ones that were impressing me. They were getting up; they were saying they were going to make a change.
There are more than 150,000 people who have survived school shootings. So I wanted to go into their minds and their situations and write from that. So that’s where ‘The Last Hello’ comes from.
As a musician, you must see a lot of the tragedy opiates bring. I know you touched on that as well in the album.
We’ve lost Prince; we’ve lost Tom Petty. It’s like, ‘Wait… don’t…’ Steven Tyler is talking about how it was a problem [for him]. It’s a huge problem. I travel all over this country and I see the lives that are wrecked, I see the zombies that are walking about. This is the zombie apocalypse.
Cannabis has a place in that. Cannabis can help with that. It’s been proven over and over. Opiate use is lower in every state that has cannabis as an option. So this is something that’s very close to me.
I wrote ‘Here Comes the Pain’ to set this in front of us and go, ‘OK, we’re trying so hard to get out of the pain. And yet that’s leading us to a dead end. The depths of despair. We have to turn this around.’
I suppose no one has ever passed away from cannabis.
No, have not. They fall asleep, that’s all.
You’ve always been famous for having a unique voice. What are some of the voices that inspire you?
Everyone from Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Goodall —these people who have seen what the human experience can be and how to bring people together and work through fear.
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