Ever since my personal songwriting lesson with rock icon Melissa Etheridge in November, my conversations have changed. Now I refer to Melissa in almost everything I say:
“According to Melissa…”
“When I was with Melissa…”
“Melissa told me…”
“What I learned from Melissa…”
“Melissa puts it this way…”
My two hours with her were so impactful that I think about it every day.
I’ve listened to the audios (Melissa was kind enough to let me record my time with her) several times. I even transcribed the audios so I can get the information visually and not just audibly.
Apparently, life changed forever when I sat with Melissa in her home.
Since so many people liked my “Attracting Melissa Etheridge Part Two” post, I thought you might enjoy this third installment. If nothing else, it’ll give me a chance to say Melissa’s name a few more times.
When I sat with Melissa and her loving spouse in their kitchen, she wanted to know about my life in music.
“Music is sacred,” she said.
“Music is life. Music is nature. When you break reality down, and the dimensions down, it’s all music,” she said. “Tell me about you and music.”
So I told her about growing up hearing the crooners, from Frank Sinatra to Perry Como. But that was mostly because my father played their music. The breakout music for me was Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond.
Melissa loves them all and added she is a huge Neil Diamond fan.
She held each one as if it were a blessed gift from above.
She studied the photos of my band and wanted to know about each musician.
She was impressed that my drummer has the same name as me.
I was really touched that she was so interested and present with my music and me.
And then she wanted to know about my current music.
“Let me see your journal with your song ideas,” Melissa said.
I handed it to her, which I’ve never shown to anyone.
“This is your safe place to write any ideas,” she said.
“You have to throw just anything in there,” she explained. “Believe me, I didn’t think my song ‘Somebody Bring Me Some Water’ was a good thing. And I almost didn’t put ‘Come to My Window’ on the album. I didn’t think anyone would understand it. We are the worst critics of our own ideas.”
I found that fascinating, shocking, revealing and encouraging.
If Melissa Etheridge can doubt her songs, then it’s okay if I do, too.
We just can’t let the doubt stop us.
“You need a safe book and a safe place and a good pen,” she said.
“I regard the connection to the Universe when you write as a sacred place,” she added. “And Divinity is only going to come when you are lined up with it.”
That’s when she told me to only write from inspiration.
“Get excited. Look forward to writing. I walk, read poetry, and I believe greatly in the power of cannabis connecting us to the Divinity,” she explained.
Well, she lost me there.
Cannabis isn’t legal in Texas.
I had given her a copy of my newest book, The Miracle.
I still kick myself for not taking a photo of her holding the book. I still see her in my mind, smiling bright, congratulating me on the new book.
Why didn’t I take a photo of that?
I told her I wanted to write a song about miracles.
“Miracles is your big overall subject,” she said. “What is it about miracles? You have to break that down to get to your core message.”
I showed her a few lyrics in my sacred book.
“Ohhhh, nice!” she said, clearly impressed. “Do you have any music for it?”
“You get to choose what you do next,” she explained.
“You can work on melody, chords, more lyrics,” she advised. “You get to choose.”
She urged writing from the first person, like I do in most of my blog posts and books.
“When you come from your personal space, the music is super powerful,” she explained. “So stay away from ‘you’ in your songs. Write from your own perspective.”
That was a big takeaway for me.
As a copywriter, I was trained to write about you, not me.
But as a songwriter, Melissa suggests I write from my view.
Writing from the first person is what I am now doing with the songs for my forthcoming new album.
“Our job as artists is to help people to ascension and a wakefulness,” she explained. “Thus we contribute to the societal reality that becomes better.”
She explained how she wrote the song ‘Pulse’ about the Florida nightclub shooting.
“What I’m trying to show, and the chorus is, you know, I am human, I am loved, and my heart beats in my blood, love will always win, underneath the skin, everybody’s got a pulse. So how simply can I say this big old thought that I’m trying to get out is yes, a man came in and shot 49 people, killed them all with a gun, and do you know why? Because he is in so much pain.
“And if I don’t look at him and feel as much sorrow and sadness for him as I do for everyone who died and everyone who went through that experience, then I’m losing out, then I can’t get past this. If I believe in the duality, if I believe in the good and evil and that there’s evil, well, then I give all my power to that. So how can I gather energy to forgiveness and even understanding beyond the forgiveness? Because forgiveness still implies good and bad.”
“Forgiveness still implies good and bad.”
I didn’t realize how deeply Melissa dug into her own thinking and her own soul to create such masterpieces as ‘Pulse.’ It made me reflect on my own songs and songwriting.
I decided right there I had to be even more focused on my messages.
“As a songwriter, you’re always coming up against cliché,” Melissa explained. “So I always dance around the simple, the cliché even, yet sometimes the simple is right on, and then take the thought one level deeper.
“My junior year English teacher gave me the best advice I’ve ever, ever had. She said, ‘As a writer, you want to write just above the masses, just above. ‘ You want the masses to be able to understand, but you want them to reach up.”
That was more food for thought.
Make listeners “reach up” to fully understand.
We talked more about my idea to write a song about miracles. She wanted me to brainstorm and ad-lib and free associate. As I did, she kept urging me to write it all down in my sacred book.
“Editing is the fun part. You can do that later. That’s where the craft of songwriting comes in.”
When I said I used the phrase “The Great Something” as a way to hint at God, Divinity, or the Universe, without alienating anyone, Melissa lit up.
“Oh, that’s good. The Great Something. Write that down,” she said, pointing at my sacred book.
And it’s going to be the title of my forthcoming album.
“Miracle is a little weak just from overuse,” she told me. “People say it was a miracle their car started. Well, not really. This is why I use a thesaurus. You want to dig deeper, find other words.”
She added, “Be as specific in your writing as you are in your writing.”
I loved that line, even though I had to think about it more than once.
“Be as specific in your writing as you are in your writing.”
As you can see, Melissa and I covered a lot of ground in just two hours.
At another time I might share her singing advice, which I also found profound, but let’s stop here for today.
Again, thank you, Melissa!
Come to my window!
PS – My other posts about Melissa Etheridge are at:
Note: You can watch Melissa Etheridge sing her song ‘Pulse’ here: