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May 30, 2024 61 mins

For over three decades, Grammy and Oscar-winning rockstar Melissa Etheridge has dazzled audiences across the globe. Now, she is lighting up the Broadway stage with her one-woman act. 

The rock icon joins Sophia to talk about her journey from a kid in the midwest with a guitar to a globe-trotting hitmaker, how her critically acclaimed stage show came about, the decision to open up about her son's passing in her memoir, and growing up in the '60s and '70s, and the consequences of coming out then versus now. 

Plus, Melissa is going on tour again this spring! How she feels about hitting the road again, and details about her upcoming special coming to Paramount+ soon. 

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hey, everyone, it's Sophia. Welcome to work in progress. Friends.
I am always excited to be here with you. Every
week we have guests that I adore, admire, and am

fascinated by. But when I tell you that today, I
am almost vibrating out of my own chair because I
am so excited about the woman who is here with me.
She is an icon, an idol of mine. Her music
raised me, her stories have inspired me. She is one
of those people who reminds me that courage is contagious.

Our guest today is none other than the iconic Melissa Asridge.
Melissa is one of rock music's great female icons who
happens to have become an icon in rock and roll
when there were almost no women playing the guitar. Her
popularity was built around incredible songs like bring Me Some Water,
No Souvenirs Come to My Window, which is personally one

of my favorites in the world. Her fourth album, Yes
I Am, earned her a second Grammy, and in the
midst of this incredible career, she battled breast cancer publicly
and shared her journey with fans, even taking the stage
in front of massive audiences completely bald, inspiring people to
never give Up. She made her Broadway debut in Green

Day's rock opera American Idiot in twenty eleven, the same
year she happened to receive her star on the Hollywood
Walk of Fame, and this year she has launched the
incredible show My Window on Broadway. I was lucky enough
to go and see it opening night in New York
and I was positively shaking out of my chair that
night as well. The play is such a beautiful retrospective

of her career. It'll make you cry, it'll make you laugh,
it'll make you sing along. And I think the coolest
thing I've ever heard anyone do when launching a Broadway
show about their life is that she also happened to
write this show with her wife and her best friend
and co producer while writing a memoir of her life.

Talking to My Angels is her beautifully engrossing and harrowing
story about her life. It's really a testament to the
power of art. It's a touchstone for anyone seeking a
path out of darkness, and it is a powerful love
letter from Melissa to her family and her fans who
have been integral to her journey. I cannot wait to

ask her one ba Jillian questions about all of these things.
Let's get to it. I'm going to go ahead and
tell everybody at home listening a couple of things that

some of them I know, have read. There were some
folks after your beautiful show on Broadway my window opened
who saw some of the things that I said on
the carpet that night and were.

Speaker 2 (03:10):
Like, oh my god, save I grew up. I'm so
obsessed with her. I can't believe you got to go.
I wish I was in New York. People are so
excited about this retrospective of your career. But for all
our friends at home, I have to sort of throw
myself under the bus a little bit. The first night
that I met Melissa was last year at Elton John's
Big Beautiful fundraiser around the Oscars. He raises money for

the Elton John Aids Foundation.

Speaker 1 (03:35):
And I was walking in and I turned around and
I saw you on the carpet, and they all at home.
I just never had this happen to me before. I
got so excited. I started crying and I was like,
I'm so sorry, this is really awkward. I love you,
and I grew up listening to your music on repeat,

like to the point that my parents were like, the
album is so good, but maybe listen to something else
in the house. And you know that was yes, I
am you know, as an eighties baby, the early nineties
was my moment to discover my own musical taste. And Melissa,
you were so gracious and sweet. You gave me a hug,
you told me everything was fine house, Like, I don't

know what's happening to me and here we are. So
thank you for humoring me for a real long conversation today.

Speaker 3 (04:26):
Very sweet. Those things can be so strange, and that
was very very sweet.

Speaker 1 (04:30):
Wow, you were just so lovely and it was such
a special night. And yeah, I always love when I
get to meet people I really admire who are likewise
passionate about using their big, beautiful platforms for good causes
and you know, doing good in the world.

Speaker 4 (04:48):
And that's really.

Speaker 1 (04:50):
Been something that I think you've done for so long.

Speaker 3 (04:56):
Well, it's it's the more you are in this endie,
the more you have what others might you know, think
of as success or something, the more you realize that
the real joy is not in Oh I got this,
I got that. The real joy is all I was

able to experience this, and this feels good, and you
just go to what feels good. So you'll you're you're
on that path and you'll you'll just be keeping you know,
keep doing that.

Speaker 1 (05:29):
Oh that's so kind. I love to ask folks who
joined me on the show because we get to talk
to so many people who have these illustrious careers and
who are doing such cool things in the world. I
always like to take someone who we can all look
at and go, wow, they're you know, a musician, an activist,
a leader, so outspoken, all these things, and ask how

similar you were as a kid? Like do you? And
I feel like I have a little inside scoop because
I got to watch the show and it's such a
beautiful retrospective. But for the folks who haven't been lucky
enough to see.

Speaker 4 (06:07):
It, were you or can you?

Speaker 1 (06:10):
I guess from this vantage point, look back at who
Melissa was at you know, eight or nine years old,
and see traces of this same woman.

Speaker 3 (06:19):
Oh yeah, I mean, you're always the same you, even
though it constantly evolves and changes, you always have that
same inner being, that same inner child, young woman, whatever
it is, it's still the same heart and you know,

I had a dream I back in the sixties. I
grew up in the sixties and just the the music,
the idea entertainment was becoming. The big thing back then
was you know, music and then rock and roll and

and it was so powerful that I dared to dream,
Oh I want to I want some of that. And
that still is inside me. It definitely. You know, the
world changes, everything changes, and what it looks like now,
you know, fifty years later there's a lot is a
lot different, but it's still that same dream. It's still

that same reaching for something. And that's a beautiful thing
to have, is to really look and go, oh, I
want to be there. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (07:35):
And when you hear something new, I mean the budding
sounds of that era that can move you, you know,
move your spirit and you go, oh a human made that,
like a person made all those sounds.

Speaker 4 (07:50):
And now I'm.

Speaker 1 (07:51):
Feeling feelings through a radio. Yeah. Will you tell people
what the first song was that really shook you up?

Speaker 3 (07:58):
Well? In the show, I talk about how I was
about three years old and I was in my neighbor's driveway.
All the kids were you know, it's the sixties and
they just let children run wild. We were all over
the neighborhood and I was just standing there and some
kid handed me a transistor radio and I heard, you know,
the Beatles. I want to hold your hand, it was,

And I remember I had a very distinct memory of
hearing that, thinking the sound of those harmonies in that
you know that that whole thing just was like nothing
I'd ever heard it. And it it's hard to explain
how the Beatles sounded back to how nothing had sounded

like that before and causing that Beatlemania, causing the sound
and the look was was just you know, transformative to
everybody back then. And and that got me totally interested
in My sister had their albums. My parents had other
great album his Moms and the Papa's Simon Garfunkel, you

know a great soul singers, Aretha Franklin, and they just
had a great album collection. My sister, who was older,
had had kind of a rock and roll collection. So
I grew up with all that and and it just
it was it was thrilling, just through.

Speaker 1 (09:18):
That's so cool. And so as you grow up in
this amazing era and you know, rock and rolls hitting
the scene and music is changing, how how does the
story move through you realizing this was such a passion
in your life, and and then breaking into the music industry.

I mean, were was your family supportive of the dream?
Did people think it was a pipe dream? Were there
pitfalls along the way because it's it's such a good story.

Speaker 3 (09:52):
Well, the I I beg my parents for a guitar.
I was crazy about the Archies. Actually, the the there's
a well everyone knows the Archies now because there's like
Riverdale and all those things. Yeah, and the Archies when
I was a kid was just so cool. It was

all the high school kids, you know, playing and I
was like, wow, I want to do that. And so
I started playing at the age of eight, and of
course they said I couldn't They They got the guitar
actually for my sister, which really broke my heart. When
I bagged and bagged, they finally said, well, all right,
put your fingers are bleak, And yeah, my fingers bled
But I started playing, and and it was My teacher

was very, very stern, but he was serious and good.
And I practiced my lessons and came in every day
and learned and learned. And when I learned chords, this
is now, this is the end of the sixties. This
is early seventies, and I'm I'm playing chords, and I realized, wow,
that's a song. And now we're in the We're in

the kind of the folk music of the sixties early seventies,
and it's all you know, even girls, you know, playing
guitars and singing. That's happening. So I'm feeling, wow, I
can do this, and I start making up songs. You know,
I was twelve years old. I didn't know anything, you know,
but I was copying, you know, what I'd heard and

trying to put my own spin on it. And a
lot in the show, I say, you know, I used
to write these really dramatic, sad songs, you know, about
their story songs, and my friends would all cry, and
how much I loved that I was getting an emotional
response from something I created. So that was the beginning

of that. And then actually having the opportunity to play
in bands when I was younger, through the talent show
that I entered, and he made a variety show and
then there's a band there and I it just it's
just one step at a time. It just happens one
thing after another, very small steps, but they all, you know,
end up with me as a teenager on the weekend

singing in professional cover bands all all over the Midwest.
And that was a great opportunity because I got to
be comfortable in front of people. I learned other instruments,
I learned how to perform on stage. Frankly, I don't
I feel sorry for a lot of artists today that
sort of are in their late teens or early twenties

and all they've ever done is make music in their
bedroom on their computer, you know, and then all of
a sudden, okay, go perform to twenty thousand people, and
they know they're scared to death. They'd never done it.
I was able to, you know, perform to ten people,
to twenty to you know, fifty in a room, to
drunk people to I've had all kinds of things happen.

So I feel very safe on stage, and it leads
to being able to be a good performer.

Speaker 1 (12:57):
Yeah, gosh, that's so interesting that that you do have
to find your confidence to make your art in front
of other humans, regardless of what those other humans are doing.

Speaker 4 (13:10):

Speaker 3 (13:10):
Yeah, you have to not take it personally. That's the man.
You There's a story my wife as a whole other
very interesting life and she used to actually in the
eighties she was a chauffeur driver. She was a limo
driver and she drove Liza Minelli Wow and yeah, and
which she has incredible stories about that. But she has
this one story about when Liza played Carnegie Hall. How

and this is about taking it personally. How the whole
place stood on their feet to give her a standing
ovation because there was that one guy in the back
that didn't and she obsessed about that guy and how
he didn't stand up. And later after the show she
sees that guy in his wheelchair leaving and she's like,

oh my god, I was I was suffering and taking
personally that for some reason, you didn't like me, So
you never know. So you can't be on stage looking
at an audience and then taking personally what they're giving you.
You have to say, I'm doing this. It's going one
way and I don't need anything from you. I hope

you appreciate this, but this is my art. It takes
a night after it takes a year after year after
year of doing it to really not take it personally.

Speaker 1 (14:25):
Wow, you had to bolster that confidence. I just saw
this cool video of Brene Brown talking about how if
you walk around in the world looking for proof that
you're not enough, you'll find it. You get to prove
whatever story you tell yourself.

Speaker 3 (14:43):
Yeah, but to.

Speaker 1 (14:44):
Learn to stand in your confidence and in your your light,
I think is hard. It's much harder, you know, done
than said.

Speaker 3 (14:54):
That's just week after week, month after month is doing it.
You can't get it wrong there. You'll have upset downs.
You can't get wrong because it you will always have
another chance. You go, Okay, maybe I took it off
the rails this time, but I can really try next
time and learn from it. And that's all. We're just learning.

We're not here to get it perfect. Nobody's getting it perfect.
We're just learning. It's fun in the learning.

Speaker 1 (15:24):
Did it feel a little bit like that, you know,
when you left Kansas and you moved to Boston for
college and then quickly realized you just wanted to be
playing music and not really doing the school part? Was
that part of finding your footing and your confidence too,
to say, oh, I really want to commit to what

it is I know I want to do and maybe
I don't have to do this more traditional path. Was
it scary or did it just sort of happen and
did you not have to think about it?

Speaker 3 (15:54):
Well? I didn't. I didn't like letting my parents down.
I remember my mother showing me. She goes come up
and into her room where she had her desk, and
she was actually the moneymaker in the family, and so
she actually controlled the checkbook and the balances and stuff.
My father was great, he was a teacher. Teachers make

no money. Unfortunately, my mother she called me into her
room and showed me the check she was writing to
the school, which at the time was only like three
thousand dollars. So this, you know, I college tuitions are
crazy nowadays, but back then it was tight thousand dollars.

And she said, now this is what I'm paying. This
is how much I'm paying. So when you want to
skip class, you remember this. And so when I was there,
and I was really not liking it because one I
was the whole school had maybe ten women in it,
and there was two of us in the guitar. You know,
there's not women. This is nineteen seventy nine. Women weren't,

you know, playing guitar. It just wasn't happening, and it
was very difficult to get noticed in the school. And
I remember one of I had started playing in this
restaurant and one of my teachers, one of my professors,
came just you know, just happened to be there in
the in the lounge, sitting and talking. I was like,

oh my gosh, she's going to see me here doing
my thing. And he didn't even recognize it. He didn't
even notice me, didn't didn't notice me from his class.
And I thought, man, I'm just I'm I'm blank there
and I'm getting nothing. And I did quit. I didn't
tell my mom for a while. I just kind of
went until they, you know, until they let her know

that I wasn't showing up and well and and as
my mom eventually said when she was much older, she said,
well everything turned out. Okay.

Speaker 1 (17:57):
I love when you hit that point with your parents
where you can really be adults together in the room.

Speaker 3 (18:02):
Yeah. Oh yeah.

Speaker 1 (18:04):
I've really experienced a shift in my relationship with my parents,
and probably the last five years that's just been super cool.
We'll be back in just a minute, but here's a
word from our sponsors. I also remember from the show
you you know you sharing with all of us that

after this wonderful stint in Boston, you went home for
a time and that when you well, this is going
to be a little out of order. Now let me
let me, let me re ask this question now that
I can feel my heart rate sewing. So surrounding your
journey in Boston and figuring out what parts of school

were for you and what weren't, and and what a
wild thing to think about how the dynamic of you
being a woman really affected your position in music even
as a student. You know that there was really this
sort of intense withholding over gender of opportunity. You talk

about being one of two women even studying guitar. Was
was the other woman in that class with you your
roommate or was that a different well that was a
different gall at school.

Speaker 3 (19:21):
Yeah, yeah, no, my roommate was studying voice. This was
just just as far as guitar. They just and I
would venture to say, they still don't take women guitar
players seriously. It's just it is like the last stranglehold
of the patriarchy is that women. You know, they don't

trust a woman is in rock and roll, you know,
is playing the guitar. So it's that that's but you know,
it'll change, and as everything does, it's just that's, you know,
all the advances. I mean, I don't know if you
know who Yon Winner is and what he just went through.
Yon Winner, look up Yon Winter his last interview in

New Yorker in the New York Times. He was the
founder of Rolling Stone magazine, which was like the taste
maker of rock and roll through the sixties, seventies, you know,
all through the whole rock and roll era. And he
just released a book called The Masters where he took

all his great interviews that he'd ever done, and he
put him in a book and they were all white men.
And the interviewer asked him, well, don't you think you're
missing out on maybe some people of color and some women,
And he was like, no, they didn't know. And he
had the opportunity to actually go, oh yeah, well and
say something, but he was like, no, they were not

as intelligent or and you know, we're talking Joni Mitchell
and and you know, Jimmy Hendrix and Prince and you're saying,
you know so, And he just got in a lot
of trouble for that. But what I'm saying is that
just happened this year where you know, all the other
sort of equalizing has been happening in the last ten years.

The music industry is probably the last. You know, it's
been a very male dominated space for a long time.

Speaker 1 (21:25):
Well, I think that's a really interesting thing that we're
seeing everywhere in this time, right is there's been these
ideas of progress, but you see that sort of pendulum swing,
and it feels like we've been rolling it back so intensely.
Whether it's in your industry, in my industry, you see
it in politics and you go, oh boy, we really

they really want to cling to power, don't they.

Speaker 3 (21:50):
Exactly? I wouldn't want. I wouldn't call it rolling back
to me. I think it's pulling the curtain off of
it and finally and.

Speaker 4 (22:00):
Going how deep it goes?

Speaker 3 (22:01):
WHOA, that's really like it? Like I didn't I knew.
I always knew, yeah, well there's not many women rock
and roll and whatever, but I didn't know there was
an active I didn't know just how deeply entrenched it
was the belief of, oh no, these these women are serious.
There's nothing serious here. They're not intelligent, they're not articulate,

and you know, and and that that's what's mind blowing.
And then you see these politicians and they can't get away.
You know, we've got there's cameras everywhere. They're going to
catch everything, and they can't get away with it, and
we see it more. It's not that we're going back.
I think it's a sign of we're going forward because
the what used to kind of be silently in power

is not anymore. It's it's revealed and we can all
go wow, and then we're moving on from that. So
I think it's a good thing. It's a kind of
an ugly, painful thing, but it's good in the end.

Speaker 1 (22:59):
Yeah, that's that's really that's really a cool way to
look at it. And I think about, you know, when
you talk about the people left out of that book,
or the people who've historically been you know, left out
of the rooms where it happens. As they say, you know,
it's been hard for women. It's also been incredibly hard

for folks from the LGBTQ community, and they yet here
you are in a time where it was hard for women,
where it was extra hard for gay women, and you
managed to break through into the you know, top tier
of rock and roll, and it's so inspiring it was

inspiring to me as a young artist. It's inspiring to
me and so many people around the world still, you
know now and I think about some things that really
stuck out to me in your show, you know, seeing
it on Broadway. Even you talking about the way you're
roommate was like I see you, Yeah, like she knew

who you were and you were finding your identity as
a as a queer woman. You know, in this time,
what was that like? Because we see now again to
your point, all this progress has been made, and we
see as we peel back the next layer, how many
people want to attack you know, people's freedom and autonomy.

And we're thinking about, you know, decades ago. Was it
Was it a scary time? Was it a time where
you could feel that progress happening? Was it all of
it at once?

Speaker 3 (24:42):
I think I've had a really great time to be
alive and to to go through this and see it firsthand.
Because I can tell folks like yourself this that growing
up with sixties and seventies. In the sixties and early seventies,

being a homosexual was considered a mental illness, and they
were in a lot of states they were throwing us
in jail for this. They were arresting us and throwing
us in jail, so you didn't want it was dangerous.
And the seventies were when we first started pushing back

and going no, we're not and getting a little bit
of traction. But you still, if you came out to
your parents or anybody, you would destroy the family because
it was they would think, you know, depending on their beliefs,
you know, one you're going to hell or whatever, but
that your life was going to be miserable, that you

were picking a lonely, dark life if you were homosexual,
because that's all anybody knew. And it wasn't until let's see,
I graduated high school in seventy nine and became a
young adult in the eighties, and that was when it
started getting a little like you'd see a little bit more.

They were the weirdos, you know. The women were there,
you know, and the kind of you know, really strong
kind of thing, and the men were the most effeminate.
You know. It was it was the outer you know,
the places of the personality of the LGBT community that
was making all the change, because they're the ones that
can't hide it, you know. There, you know, all of

us in the middle were like, well, what I mean,
I can pass a straight you know, And so so
the work was being done by that the fringes, and
the more it happened in the eighties, and the more
comfortable I got in my in the women's community I
was in in Long Beach in Los Angeles, the stronger
it got. There was a there was a in young

Hollywood in the late eighties early nineties, there was a
community of gays and lesbians that, you know, professionals that
were making a lot of business in One by one
we'd all kind of step forward. And the more people

came out, you know, myself, Martinez and Avertilova, Billy Jean King.
The more these successful people came out, you had to
change the conversation about well, if you're gay, you're going
to have a dark, horrible life. It's like, people go, no,
I'm not having a horrible life. It'd saved my life

to be who I was. So you start having the
conversation and it starts changing hearts and minds. And through
the nineties and two thousands and twenty tens, those thirty years,
we have grown a lot to where today, I mean,
you might think that you know, we're struggling and everything,

but man, we are way far from where we were
in Our struggles are no longer okay, you're going to
throw me in jail or you're going to kill me.
You know, it's now, Oh I might you're going to
take this book out of school because you think, you know,
that's it's a different struggle, but it's still the it's

because of the expansion of the LGBTQ community that that
there is such pushback. But the pushback is now on
the fringes and not you know, in the middle, because
the Oh god, I can go on and on about this,
but it's just a change that I have seen, and
it's always getting better. So in thirty years you're going

to be talking about how it was strange thirty years
ago but now it's not right.

Speaker 1 (28:56):
Yeah, I think one of the things that's been interesting
for me to watch as a kid, you know, growing
up through the eighties and nineties and being part of
this community my whole life. You know, my dad's an artist,
Like I grew up in the queerest, most diverse, like
amazing culture, and so many people, especially folks who look

like us, have had to have this reckoning about privilege,
and you know, what white privilege looks like and how
our society was designed and who it was designed for.
And one of the things that you know, when we're
doing hard work, digging into hard subject matter, I also
like to try to look at what the positives are
that we can learn from. And one of the things

I feel the most grateful for about the way I
grew up is that I had the privilege of exposure.
You know, like my uncle Jeff and his husband Winston
were just like the most fabulous couple who raised me.
And Winston did drag is Diana Ross every Saturday night
here in LA and like, you know, I grew up
with this like fabulous black drag queen and I was like,
you're the coolest person I know.

Speaker 4 (30:04):
And I think now about.

Speaker 1 (30:06):
How blessed I was, because so many people who grow
up in more homogeneous communities don't grow up around people
of color or queer people, or you know, folks who
make art or do anything different than like what maybe
the town industry is. And I feel so lucky to

have been reared in this community because you know, in
my life, at all the stages of figuring out who
I am, my community, My parents' community are just like cool, yeah,
like we love you being more and more yourself, you know, right,
And and I think about how, to your point, the
more of us there are out in the world living

whatever our individual truths are, the more we can example
set for other people that they get to do the same.

Speaker 3 (30:55):
That's how it works, and it's just so cool.

Speaker 1 (30:57):
I mean, you know, you had that footage from the inauguration.

Speaker 4 (31:01):
When you did your big announcement on the mic. Will
you tell people about that moment.

Speaker 1 (31:06):
It's one of my favorite moments in your show.

Speaker 3 (31:08):
I had done some fundraising work for the Bill Clinton,
the Clinton Gore campaign of ninety two, and this was
a big time. We had just had Republican we just
had Reagan into Bush. We'd had twelve years of Republican
suppression of AIDS, you know, and the gay community for

those twelve years were really pushing against that. And when
we finally had a candidate who would even say gay
and lesbian, it was groundbreaking to hear that on television
and he would talk about it. So the gay community
really got behind him, and you know, we changed, We
got out and did a lot of work, as we
still do to this day, we're a big force in

the voting block. Yeah, And so when I had done
some work for them, they invited me to the inauguration.
It was I got to, you know, sit and watch
him say, Jefferson, you know Clinton, William Jefferson, Clinton, that's it.
And so he does that. And that night there's all
the inaugural balls, and for the first time there were

three gay lesbian packs that really helped. And now they're
all kind of anyway, but back then there was three
of them. And so we had what was called the
Triangle Ball, and it was the Gay and Lesbian Ball,
and it was it was really fabulous. It was at
the Washington Press Club. So when I was up in

the balcony with Katie Lang and all the all the leaders,
Elizabeth Birch, all the you know, these past great LGBTQ
leaders up there in the balcony, someone had me a
microphone and I said, I hadn't planned on coming out,
or I have said something much more eloquent, but I said,
I I'm proud to I'm proud to say that I'm

proud to been a lesbian all my life. And it
was just a really weird way to say it. But
I came out and then it was at the press club.
So the next day it was in the newspapers. And
didn't have social media back then, so it didn't go boom.
It's slowly. Every tour I would do slowly. Reporters from
every town would put it in there paper, and it

just slowly. I talked about being That's all I talked
about for about five years. Was being gay?

Speaker 4 (33:27):
Was it? Yeah?

Speaker 3 (33:29):
But it was a great time and it did helped,
and it was I don't remember anything.

Speaker 1 (33:35):
Yeah, we'll be back in just a minute after a
few words from our favorite sponsors. I think about the
impact of your voice there. I think about what it
was like to see your family. It was the Rolling
Stone cover that you guys all did together, right with
the kids. Yeah, I remember it as a kid being.

Speaker 4 (33:58):
Like, whoa, this is so cool.

Speaker 1 (34:02):
And it's interesting that you say that it was like
a slow moving growth of awareness, because you're right now.
With social media, it's like somebody can get a tidbit
run with it. You know, we know that false information
spreads fifteen hundred times faster on the Internet than the truth.

I've certainly experienced my fair share of that.

Speaker 3 (34:25):
That's never happened to you, has it?

Speaker 1 (34:28):
Oh gee, it's not happening to me now or anything.

Speaker 4 (34:30):
Oh what a wild time.

Speaker 1 (34:33):
But it's such an interesting thing to watch the way
that it sort of bursts like a wildfire now, and
what a gorgeous thing that you got to have a
slower move. But I didn't think about the fact that
you feel like your life centered on your identity for
five years.

Speaker 4 (34:51):
You were probably like, are.

Speaker 3 (34:51):
We still talking about this exactly? But it actually gave
me an opportunity to kind of get used to and
perfect talking about being gay, because nobody had sat down
with newspapers and magazines and television showers and actually talked
about it. And if I was going to be this representative,

I wanted to feel comfortable with what I was saying
and be clear. And it gave me an opportunity, little
by little to grow and feel more confident in that.

Speaker 1 (35:21):
Oh that's really cool. So I'm really curious about that,
because songwriting is storytelling. Your Broadway play is storytelling. It's
like a living photo album, retrospective, greatest hits, tour, Vaudeville's
show all rolled into one. I'm absolutely obsessed with that.

I've told everyone I know to go see it and
on top of my window being on Broadway right now,
you've penned this beautiful book talking to Angels. You tell
the story of your life, of this era we're currently
you know, twirling through of your journey, you know, with

your ex wife Julie and having kids and moving into
this wonderful you know, finding your right relationship now experiences
with you know, mental health and psychedelics and all the
things loss love.

Speaker 4 (36:20):
It's this big How how do you.

Speaker 1 (36:25):
Decide as this public figure? And do you think this
period of five years you're talking about influenced your ability
to really dig into your story? Because I wonder how
you decide how much to share?

Speaker 4 (36:40):
And do you view the.

Speaker 1 (36:41):
Sharing as a as a gathering of this community you
get to talk to. Does it feel like a responsibility?
Does it feel like.

Speaker 4 (36:49):
A torch to pass?

Speaker 3 (36:50):

Speaker 4 (36:50):
How do you think about this stuff?

Speaker 3 (36:52):
Well, all of this is is my own choice. I
have a choice of how to how I'm going to
hold it myself. You know, I can't control what other
people think about it. I can control about how I
feel about it. So the h the actual you know,

uh talking about it is is a chance for me
to learn and I once I came out, it's kind
of like once you open up and say this is
the real me, you can't really close it back and go,
oh no, you can't see any more of that you.
And what it's what it has led me to be

is more comfortable with my life and my choices, where
I don't feel like I have to look like someone else,
act like someone else, make make music like someone else
because they're more popular or whatever, those things that we
compare ourselves to. You just realized, wow, I've got to
be just me right now, and I've got to be

okay with the choices I'm making first, so that when
I talk about them, I'm confident about it and what
other people think about it is none of my business.
So I just so I was able to then, when
I went through cancer, to speak truthfully about that and say, look,
and when I started smoking cannabis, people weren't talking about

that in the early two thousands, it was still that
was you know, again, we're getting thrown in ja over
that sort of thing. And to say, look, this is medicine.
This is medicine, and become an advocate for cannabis and
psychedelics and things and we still are you. But to
do that and feel it's all about how I feel.

If I'm waiting for other people to tell me if
it's okay or not, then I'm sunk. So and I'm grateful.
I'm grateful for those five years of talking about it,
getting the confidence and then moving through my life just
slowly and loving every choice that I've made and feeling
like I've done the best I can.

Speaker 1 (39:07):
Oh, that's beautiful.

Speaker 4 (39:08):
What a cool.

Speaker 1 (39:11):
Place to reach again. Like the sort of stage I
find myself in is being in a space where I go, oh,
I've done a lot of work. I've learned a lot
of lessons. I have found the greatest therapist, and I
am in the most integrity I have ever been in
And for the first time, other people's opinions don't really

bother me anymore, and I didn't know.

Speaker 4 (39:39):
I'd ever get here.

Speaker 3 (39:40):
If you can keep if you can keep that up,
that you'll be happier. Yeah, and you will start realizing
in the end, not in the end, I'm not at
the end, but as you get older, that being happy
is actually the most important thing. It is not what
you can't If you think you can suffer and strife

and suffer and suffer to where you'll have a happy
ending somehow it's you're just going to suffer. But if
you can go no, I'm making a choice to be
happy right now, and this feels good. If you can
keep doing that, Believe me, when you're sixty two and
talking to someone younger, you'll go, yeah, I made my

choices and I've had a very happy life and I'm
very happy about that.

Speaker 1 (40:29):
Yeah, that's beautiful. So this way that you tell stories
when you think about it, you know, kind of looking back,
We've talked about this era of coming out that actually
was five years and it makes me laugh because you know,

they always say like it takes a decade to be
an overnight success, and I'm like, oh, it took you
five years for everybody to have heard the thing you
said five years before. And when you're when you're in
that stage where to your point, you're touring the country
and the world and you're you know, nominated for awards
and winning them and selling crazy amounts of albums and

you've you are like the rock and roller of our time.
How how were you able to figure out your life
in the midst of that? Because I know how hard
it can be to pick up and move for a show.
But usually I pick up and move somewhere and I
stay there for six months. I'm not like living in
a tour bus or on an airplane every night. And

and and you during this whole stage, you know, you
become a wife, you become a parent, as you said,
you battle breast cancer. I mean, there's so much happening.

Speaker 4 (41:46):
How did you make sense of it all?

Speaker 3 (41:49):
Well, life happens slowly, it really does. And in the
in the show and in the book, I talk about
uh having a heroic dose of cannabis where I overdosed
on edimals, you know, and it really basically blew my mind,
but it opened a thought. It opened more thought of Wow,

that took me out of the torture of what other
people think about me. See I in the nineties, in
the eighties and nineties, it was all I needed. I
needed to be on the cover Rolling Stone, I needed
to have a number one hit. I needed other people
to validate what I was doing. And then when I
you know, struggled and struggled and struggling, and it finally

got there and realized, wow, this is not making me happy.
This is just something I did. What makes me happy
is when I'm on stage loving what I'm doing, or
when I'm home with my kids and my family. Okay,
well now my year now when I'm working, my year

is broken up into and my whole family knows is summertime.
Mom is going on Tour's that's what we do. And
I love love playing the music that makes everything go away.
When I am on stage and there's an audience of
two thousand or two hundred thousand, you know, it doesn't matter.
It's always different. And those people are there to hear

the songs that they love and to have an experience
with me. That's golden. That's all I ever wanted. So
the traveling and the stuff, that's what we go through.
And when you talk about you know, you go somewhere
for six months, well you know you know how crews are,
you know how you know the driver is. You make friends,

You make your own family at that time. You know,
the person who works at the bar in the hotel
you're staying at, you know, becomes That's what life is
is those relations ships and you get put in that situation.
I have. My tour manager has been my tour manager
for thirty five years. He's just he's like a brother
to me. You know, my bandmates are our brothers to me.

I've got I've got beautiful sisters that work for me
in you know, in production and go on the road
with me and and my lighting you know, designers, a
woman and we just you surround yourself with these people
and and you have life with them. Also my family,

you know, my you know, well not blood family, but
my family family, and you just you just realize that
that's what it is. It's not there's not something else
that I'd rather be doing, you know, and if there is,
then I will do it. But you know, so you
make your life in what you're doing, and you know that,

you know you'll have friends that forever from the first
production you ever did you.

Speaker 1 (44:59):
Know, Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I Mean I was just with
one of my best girlfriends from my first job last
weekend and we were like, oh my god, our friendship's
old enough to vote, Like what's crazy? What a crazy
reality that is? You know, next year it'll be old
enough to order a beer at the bar. And it's
so cool. It's so so cool. So when you talk

about if there's something else you want to do You'll
do it? Was that did you have this feeling about
wanting to go and do Broadway? Because in a way,
your show is like a concert, and my god, I
mean you touched on it a minute ago. You know.
You have this bit in the show, the scene about
when you did this hero's dose, and I'm telling you,

we were laughing, we hit my girlfriends and I had
tears streaming down our face. Like you made it so
funny and also so educational and spiritual and illuminating and
all the things. There is so much packed into the retrospective.
How did you decide to go do Broadway? And was
it scary at all because you've been on the biggest

stages in the world or were you like, nah, I
got it.

Speaker 3 (46:07):
Well, the because it's so different because when I go
on stage with my band, I'm in one hundred percent
control no matter what happens, I'm in charge, and I
can I can tell my band to do anything. I
can do anything, and if an audience is sleepy, I
can say, Okay, let's we're going to play ballads and
stay you know, or we can you know, I can

change things on the fly, and that's what I do
and I love it. Broadway. You have to do it
exactly the same way every single time, and it's got that.
I have a certain amount of freedom because the show
is very conversational, and I chose not to like memorize
a whole thing. You know, I memorize the shape of

the show and what story I'm telling, but how I
tell it might be a little different with every audience.
I had to give myself that freedom, right cot Nuts.
But the Broadway dream I've I have loved and appreciated
and admired Broadway since I was a child watching you know,
Barbar Streis, and I was a huge fan of that

and and Godspell and these great musicals and Broadway. You
realize when you're in the music industry that, especially now,
you can have a small amount of talent with a
lot of energy, and technically we can make you sound good. Well,
you can't do that on Broadway. It's live, it's live
every night. You have to bring it every night. You

have to be able to rise to this certain live
audience every single night. And so it's it is for
only the ridiculously talented, you know, Broadway is, and it
is it's very revered. The the talent, the just the

work that people do on Broadway is out of this world.
So I wanted to be part of that. I wanted
to create something I still do. I want to create
something that that I won't be in. I want. I
want to write something that I don't have to give
up every day, you know. And so my wife, who's
also a producer and writer and you know, amazing artist herself,

also loves Broadway. Her one of her best friends of
Joe Mantello, who directed Wicked, you know, so he's we're
we are aware of the Broadway community very deeply, and
we when when we have thought about bringing something to
Broadway for a long time. So a few years ago,
during the pandemic, when this all started to really come together,
it was clear. When I was writing the book, I said, Okay,

I believe my life can be the art in this one.
You know this this I've done that with my songs before.
I really I want to tell the story and I'm
hopefully it is helpful and healing and inspiring. And that's
really my intention is to show people, you know, or
to just inspire people in that.

Speaker 1 (48:59):
So you were fake hearing out the show while you
were writing the book. Oh yeah, Wow, what a cool
parallel path.

Speaker 3 (49:09):
Yeah, and both of them came from conversations with my wife.
I would we would have these conversation. We just started
putting the voice memo on and saying, Okay, we're just
gonna record this, and I would just I would sit.
I mean, it was the pandemic. We didn't have anything
to do. I would just sit and and just tell
stories about my past. And we just recorded it all
and then just started to you know, chisel it down,

and we had to leave a lot out. There's a
lot that happened in my life that we had to
just you know, condense it. Even the opening show you
saw was still a little large. We've we've sort of
condensed it down, but really yeah, you know, we're always
working on making it better.

Speaker 1 (49:48):
Yeah, and now for our sponsors. And one of the
things you touch on, you know obviously, such as size
event in the show, and you are so open in
the book. And while I'm always very hesitant to just

sort of make people repeat their hardest things, one of
the things that I found the most inspiring watching the
show and subsequently reading about it is the purpose that
you've delivered for so many people out of personal pain.
You talk about your son passing at twenty one. He

likes so many people you know, sadly in our country,
was affected by opioid addiction, and you share his story
so honestly, you know, it's brave, I believe to talk
about the pain and the awful things that came out

of that that were said. You know, between you and
your ex, the suffering obviously of losing a child, and
you manage to transmute that into this incredible organization and
activism for families who are suffering. Is it hard to
talk about? Does talking about him allow him to stay

with you?

Speaker 4 (51:11):
Is it both?

Speaker 3 (51:16):
I having had the experience of coming out as a
as a lesbian and having the experience of having breast
cancer and being open and honest about it, and being
open and honest about psychedelic use and stuff. When my
son died, I realized if I if I don't put

it out and speak about how I'm walking through it,
I do a disservice to myself and what it has
helped me. It helped me organize it in my head
and in my heart so that it doesn't weigh heavy
every night. Every night at that show, I say my

son would want me to be every single and that
heals me. Now, do I want to do this show
forever and ever? No, I'm only going to do it.
I've got five more shows, you know, and I'll probably
lay it down for a while and let it sit
because it has done the job of healing that I

was looking for. To be open and honest, to do
this in front of people, to it was the same
as getting on stage when I was bald. You just
the thing that scares you the most. If you can
with love in your heart, if you can walk toward
it and then slowly go through it, it can be

very very healing, and hopefully it can help others, you know.
But it's only for me every single night saying my
son would want me to be happy, he would want
me to know my happiness cannot cause anyone else pain.
Saying that every single night, it's gotten easier for me
to say it. It's easier for me to talk about

it now with you. And so that's because I believe it,
Because I truly believe it, that I can really line
up with that and show people that no, no, no,
I'm not going to my life's not going to end
because my son's choices. You know, I loved him, and
yes it was devastating and I grieved, and I'm moving
through it, and my life is still a beautiful life.

I have three incredible children that bring me so much joy.
You know, I'm not going to let this we we
speak of him lovingly constantly, and I'm hopefully showing them
how to hold it also and not let it be
something that brings you down.

Speaker 1 (53:46):
Right. Well, I think to set that example is so
powerful that yes, suffering or loss can and will change you,
but it doesn't have to take over every part of you.
You deserve joy, your children deserve joy, any of us,

I think, especially post pandemic. You know, the people have
been talking about I listened to this psychologist talk about
how this has been the summer. They're calling it the
summer of the Great Divorce, like akin to the Great
Depression when the whole economy collapsed. There is now a
sort of psychological collapse of these systems or structures or

relationships that aren't serving people. And I think part of
that has to be because we lived through this pandemic
and millions of people around the world died, and we
have seen this unprecedented loss for folks suffering from opioid addiction.
We are seeing unprecedented loss and conflict zones around the world,

And I think, how dare we if we're lucky enough
to still be here, not pursue our joy and not
make art and not gather people for song? How dare we?
Because that's why we're alive. In a way, I think
it has to make you more committed to really honoring

the potential for your own delight. If you got to
stay yeah.

Speaker 3 (55:21):
And you just do it every single day, walk out
every day, don't ever get caught up in past or future.
That's all that's that'll come, but it will always feel
like now now where we're at. And so if you
walk that every day, if you just every moment make
it just a little more of that, you will see

that momentum grow and it's you will be able to
look at the world around us and understand that everyone's
going through something and that death is a for sure
thing for each and every one of us and it
comes differently, and to hold it and go yeah, yeah, yeah,
that's coming. But right now I'm not dying. Right now,

I'm right now, I'm alive and if I'm happy, I
will be healthy and living longer.

Speaker 1 (56:12):
On to take your liveness and an offer, as you said,
as you always have your story as it evolves to
people you know through your show through the book. You
mentioned that the show did what it needed to do
for you, because I was going to ask if you
were going to extend, because so many people who knew
I was interviewing with you today asked me to ask you.

But I get that when you feel ready to be
done with something, when it served its purpose. So the
show is going to close and the book is out
in the world. What feels like it's next for you?
How are you feeling sort of opening your arms to
all of this.

Speaker 3 (56:52):
I can't wait to get back on stage and just
start doing the thing that I love. We just yesterday
to day our our spring tour went on sale. I've
got planned. Yeah, it'll be California, and I think I'm
doing a little down in Florida, kind of west coast,
all the way up into Oregon and uh Washington and

and and I love that so much. I love my band,
I love my music. I love the people that love
my music. I'm going to tour all summer, probably a
little bit into the fall, and it's just that is
my happy place. My family knows it. Every it's just hm,
it's so healing it. And then what will happen is

towards the end of next year, I'll get all antsy,
like what's gonna what am I gonna do now? And
and and that's the joy of it is just you
just keep putting that in front of you. I should
mention I did something also last year. I did a
concert at a women's penitentiary in Kansas, where I'm from,
and we have filmed that and it's a beautiful, moving,

touching documentary that will be out in April on Paramount Plus.
It's called I'm Not Broken. So that's going to be
out and that's going to hopefully kind of lift the
tour up a little bit because people because it's a
live concert video in a prison, it's really really moving
and we talked to a few women there and it's

really enlightening on what women are going through and what
people are doing now to think about crime and punishment differently,
in coarsration differently, and how we can actually help just
lock people up.

Speaker 1 (58:36):
That's beautiful. Yeah, I've been lucky enough to do some
prison visits with the Anti Recidivism Coalition. There you go,
and yeah, man, you just realize like to sit and
listen to people's stories and to bring them art can
it's always the thing that heals. Yeah, I can't wait
to see it. That's really exciting.

Speaker 3 (58:57):
That too.

Speaker 1 (58:58):
Yes, please, Oh my gosh, I'm coming. And I was
going to say I'm coming to the concert.

Speaker 4 (59:01):
Get ready. I'll just I'll be screaming my head off.

Speaker 1 (59:04):
I can't for you.

Speaker 3 (59:05):
West coast or East coast.

Speaker 1 (59:07):
I'm back and forth, but I'm primarily West coast.

Speaker 3 (59:10):
Okay, good, me too.

Speaker 1 (59:11):
So I'm between LA and New York a lot, but
LA is technically home.

Speaker 3 (59:15):

Speaker 4 (59:16):
Have you liked living in New York all all through
the fall? Has been great?

Speaker 3 (59:20):
That's an interesting question. I'm here with my two daughters
and my wife, and so that's great. I'm a Midwestern,
a California girl, and I like my space and there's
just one space in New York City. I'm up on
the Upper east Side, which is nice and you know,
comparatively more space than most. But man, there's just a

lot of people here and it is constantly moving. And
I missed the sun even when it's out. I don't
always get to see it. Yeah, yeah, and I'm really
looking forward to just I have a huge yard and
my home California is just sent in. Yeah. But New

Yorkers have been wonderful and I've enjoyed the experience very much.
I do not regret it at all. I'm really looking
forward to it.

Speaker 1 (01:00:12):
Yeah. Oh well, we can't wait to get you back here.
I feel the same anytime I go on location. I
come home. I have this tree in my backyard that
you know, you're you're a fellow journey woman. Is like
it's such a sacred thing to lay under and have
an experience. And every time I get home, I walk
in my backyard and literally hug my tree.

Speaker 3 (01:00:31):
Yes we are, Yes, Yeah, I know, I know I
missed that nature. I missed that, Kimmy. I'm ready for
some of that, yes yeah.

Speaker 1 (01:00:40):
Yeah, Well I love it. Thank you so much. I
know that for everybody who's at home listening, they're they're
going to go and you know, turn on one of
their favorite records of yours and enjoy themselves while they
order this book that is so profoundly beautiful. And I
just really want to thank you for the way you've
chosen to share with us because I think courage is

contagious and when people tell the truth, it inspires other
people to do the same. Thank you.

Speaker 3 (01:01:10):
I appreciate the best on your journey, my friend. Okay,
thank you. What other people say about you is none
of your business.

Speaker 1 (01:01:17):
You be indeed, I appreciate it. And yeah, please let
me know if we can hang when you get home.
I'd love to get to do that.

Speaker 3 (01:01:26):
Plan on Okay, people definitely do that. Thank you.

Speaker 1 (01:01:29):
Thank you so much. Have a great rest of your day, honey.

Speaker 4 (01:01:32):
Oye bye bye.
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