FAIRBANKS — While growing up in Leavenworth, Kansas, Melissa Etheridge listened to Kansas City radio station WHB, absorbing the music of Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and soul tracks from the 1950s and ’60s. She listened to Sam and Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin’’’ over and over.
Her 2016 album “Memphis Rock and Soul” pays homage to the music she loved growing up, much of which was recorded at Stax Records in Memphis. Etheridge says when she’s writing songs, she often will reach for the feel of those old records.
“When I get the space to write a song, I sit down and say I’m going to create something that’s got this feeling like when Otis Redding sings ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (to Stop Now,)” that feeling, that place in your gut that just gets you, that’s where I want to write from,” she said. “That’s kind of the inspiration. Or I want to sing in that high, sexy way, then I will pick up a guitar and play a rhythm and music and then just write to it.”
Etheridge’s soulful, smoky voice and deeply personal songs have kept her in the spotlight since her self-titled debut in 1988. Her first single, “Bring Me Some Water,” garnered a Grammy nomination. In 1993, she won a Grammy for the song “Ain’t it Heavy.” Two years later, her album “Yes I Am” went multiplatinum and launched her to megastardom on the heels of songs “I’m the Only One” and “Come to My Window,” the latter of which garnered a second Grammy Award.
Over her three decade career, Etheridge has been nominated for a Grammy 15 times. She also received an Academy Award for “I Need to Wake Up,” written for Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” Over that span, she has sold millions of albums and is a noted activist for gay and lesbian issues, climate change and legalizing marijuana.