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Etheridge brings second part of life-work trilogy to Austin stage

Brian T. Atkinson

Melissa Etheridge's "Fearless Love" traces trademark byways toward sexual and spiritual sovereignty. Key evolution: The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter ratchets up the volume throughout her new album.

"That's what I grew up on," Etheridge says. "I wanted to make an album like the ones I've always loved — The Who, Led Zeppelin, these great, dramatic, sonically moving albums that moved us." The 49-year-old performs tonight at the Bass Concert Hall.

American-Statesman: What's the idea behind the title track?

Melissa Etheridge: The album is based on my philosophy that every choice we make in life is either one of love or fear. The title track is about my own experience coming to a place of being fearless with my love and relationships.

Explain this trilogy that started with (Etheridge's 2007 album) 'The Awakening.'

I'm trying to put my own personal journey with myself and spirituality and success into music. "The Awakening" was, "OK, look, I came out to California and I had this dream, this success, and then I had this life-changing experience with cancer and an awakening. Now, "Fearless Love" is in the moment of looking at fear and love. I think the third will be my desire to attain a spiritual oneness and understand my work here.

How does having kids influence your focus as a songwriter? You're certainly not addressing less personal topics.

Yeah (laughs). Being a parent has changed my outlook on life, so my art is going to change with that. Also, this is the first album that my kids really were paying attention to and could ask me, "Hey, what does that mean?" It's a delicate line of being an artist and having to tell my truth and (teaching) my kids to understand that that's art.

Do they approach you with interest in your job?

Yeah. They know I tour, and they know I have albums. Through the process of this album, from when I first sat down and said, "Hey, I'm starting to write songs for my new album," they were with me for the whole process. Both my son and my daughter would listen and give me their opinion really sweetly.

You're going through a very public split (with partner Tammy Lynn Michaels). How do you explain any difference between reality and perception to the kids?

They know the reality of it because it's their life. They know what's going on. They understand what's happening in the house, why the split happened, and they're very clear with it. If anything ever does trickle down from the press, they laugh at how ridiculous it is that people think they know what's going on in our house. They don't.

Do you expect more from President Obama in advancing gay rights?

Our government is absolutely, without a doubt ruled by our multinational corporations. Our leaders, who have been bought and sold by them, aren't going to do anything to upset that. With gay rights, I'm tired of looking for a leader to make some big change. That has to come from the people, and it will.

The people of Houston did elect a gay mayor last year.

Ha! (She laughs.) I know. If you (look at) the places that really repress any sort of human nature, you're gonna see the biggest strides being made. Houston will see that it's not the end of the world. We're all people just trying to do our best.

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Melissa Etheridge live in concert

When: 8 p.m. Monday

Where: Bass Concert Hall, 2300 Robert Dedman Drive, on the UT campus

Cost: $35 to $100

Information: (512) 447-6060, texasperformingarts.org

Note: This story has been updated to reflect that tickets for the show are still available.