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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at and a music writer for and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the News Center Maine TV show “207” to talk of course.

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Posted: June 24, 2016

Rock singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge opens up about music, touring and politics

Written by: Aimsel Ponti
Melissa Etheridge performs in Portland on Saturday, July 2. Photo by John Tsiavis

Melissa Etheridge performs in Portland on Saturday, July 2. Photo by John Tsiavis

Rock singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge is bringing her M.E. Solo Tour to Portland for a Saturday night performance on the Maine State Pier. Etheridge released her self-titled debut album in 1988. Thirteen more have followed, along with two Grammy Awards for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the songs “Ain’t It Heavy” and “Come to My Window.” All told, she’s been nominated 15 times. Etheridge also won a Best Original Song Academy Award in 2007 for “I Need to Wake Up,” from the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”

By telephone from her home in Los Angeles, Etheridge, 55, talked about the tour, her musical catalog and politics.

This is a solo show for you with guitar and piano right?

Yes. I will have a piano, and I will have a little technology with me, which is really fun. It’s this looper, and by the end of the show you’ll think I had a band with me. I believe in live music, so I lay all the loops down live, I definitely want to create everything from the stage.

Is someone assisting you with this from off stage?

It’s all foot pedals. It’s all me. I’ve got to do it right.

How long have you been doing this for?

It’s funny. I started my solo show two or three years ago, and I’ve gotten so much better at it. It has grown, and I’ve gotten much better at it.

How many guitars come with you on tour?

There’s usually about eight to 10 on the stage and a couple backstage. So it’s 11 or 12.

You play a 12-string right?

My staple acoustic guitar is the 12-string Ovation. On the solo tour, I’ve got a vintage Gretsch, a Fender Jaguar, a Les Paul (Gibson) and a Strat (Fender Stratocaster). I’ve got a lot of different electric guitars, but as far as acoustic goes, my Ovation is what I play.

What does your setlist look like these days?

Because I’ve got so many gosh darn songs and I know that people come to see me, I play the hits. I love the hits. I will sing “Come to my Window” until I’m gone. It’s just gonna be there, and you’re all going to sing along and we’re going to enjoy it. And I’m going to sing “Bring Me Some Water,” and I’m gonna rock out “Like the Way I Do” and “I’m the Only One,” because that’s fun. And I’m gonna dig a little deep into my albums for those people who know every single song I’ve ever done. I’m gonna bring some of that out. I’m gonna do a song or two from “This is M.E.,” and I’ll probably do a song from my upcoming Memphis rock and soul album that’s coming out in October.

Wait. What?

It’s Memphis rock and soul; “Melissa Etheridge re-imagines songs from Stax Records.” It’s Otis Redding, it’s Sam and Dave, it’s just me like you want to hear me.

You’ve tweeted your support of Hillary Clinton who is now the presumptive Democratic nominee. How are you feeling about that?

I’m actually glad to see the dark underbelly of humanity, the fear of the other being so personified in that other guy and those that resonate with him. It’s a thought and a belief that used to be powerful, was very powerful behind doors, but there are no doors anymore. Everything is open, so we know where he’s coming from and that he’s sort of proud of it. I think our history books will show us that this was when a great shift happened in our country and in our world where fear of women, fear of weakness, fear of different religion, fear of different color, different race – all these fears that we finally had to let go of and say, OK, our diversity makes us strong and a woman can absolutely lead us. This woman has more experience than anybody running for president has had in a long time. She’s been senator. She’s been secretary of state, for god’s sake. It just proves that a woman has to do 10 times as much as a man does to be taken seriously.

Is there one song in your own repertoire that is particularly near and dear to your heart or that best represents you?

I’d probably pick “Bring Me Some Water.” I can play that anywhere and people know it. I mean anywhere. That’s an emotion and a nerve that I was able to touch.


Melissa Etheridge

7 p.m. Saturday. The Maine State Pier, Portland, $18.75 to $69.75.


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