'Each album was a little journey'

IT HAS been quite a year for singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge. At the behest of former vice president Al Gore, she wrote the song I Need to Wake Up for the environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and ended up with an Oscar for her efforts.

lelissaCome July 7, Etheridge will lend her voice to Live Earth, Gore's seven-continent concert to raise awareness for what he has coined SOS, Save Our Selves: A Campaign for a Climate in Crisis.

Etheridge has also kept busy in her personal life. The 45-year-old cancer survivor and partner, actress Tammy Lynne, are proud new parents of twins. In her spare time, Etheridge is putting the finishing touches on her first studio album in three years, which is scheduled for a fourth-quarter release. She hopes to tour next summer - with the whole family in tow.

On Wednesday, Etheridge will be receive the ASCAP Founders Award during the performing rights group's 24th annual Pop Music Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. The ceremony is part of ASCAP's I Create Music Week to celebrate songwriters and music-makers. Other festivities surrounding this event include the Film & Television Music Awards honoring composer Marc Shaiman, and the second annual ASCAP I Create Music Expo, a three-day conference dedicated to songwriting and composing, at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel.

How has winning an Oscar affected your work?

I was recording my new album in between rehearsing for the Oscars. So I would record for seven hours, go and rehearse for the Oscars, and then come back and record. When I won the Oscar, it was a huge honour. It was like a sign saying, 'You're doing the right thing.'

In the 1960s and early '70s, artists were not afraid to speak their political mind in their music. Might this become the norm again?

I think we are done making music just for commerce sake. I think the days of bringing a consciousness back to the music business is upon us now.

Did surviving breast cancer change your worldview?

Yes. It's like I have nothing to lose, so why not have amazing positive things to think?

How does the new album differ from past releases?

It's the same as my other albums, in that all my albums have been a biographical stamp of my life at that time - my thoughts, my memories, my hopes, dreams, plans and pains in my life. Each album was a little journey. When I was on chemotherapy, I listened to all my albums back to back. It was therapy for me. I realised what I had been saying to myself in my music - the things that I would put down that I wouldn't think consciously, but I would think subconsciously. When I started creating this album I asked myself, 'What (would happen) if I create from a subconscious level consciously?' There are very personal things on the album, including one of the greatest love songs I have ever written. These songs are 100% truthful about me and how I am feeling.

When did you start writing the songs?

I started writing at the beginning of 2006. I went out to Malibu (Calif.) with my band, and we lived out there and recorded the album.

What does the ASCAP Founders Award mean to you?

I have never had an honour like this where folks get up and pay tribute. It makes me feel like I'm old, but as long as everyone knows I'm at a halfway point, then it's good. I have been on the other side. I have paid tribute to many artists, so it is a big honour.

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