Messages from around the globe, from Connecticut to the Netherlands, streamed through Melissa Etheridge’s Facebook Live page as she performed from her home recently, in what has become a daily visit with fans.
“I can’t believe we get to see you live, every day,” said an appreciative listener, in one of the thousands of notes that flowed up the screen like a fast-moving river of love. “‘Come to My Window’ was my very first karaoke song,” said another, referring to Etheridge’s 1993 hit. Tiny red hearts and thumbs-up symbols floated alongside the words.
And then there was the message from a fan who said she’d been working in a hospital and that this was her first time getting to see one of the Grammy winner’s daily songfests, because she was home sick. Sick with what? We don’t know. But it certainly made listeners think about how this pandemic has rocked everyone’s world, and not in a good way.
Etheridge said when social distancing was called for in mid-March, it took just a few days for her to realize she could not stay home without sharing her music. Yes, shows like her April 15 gig at Torrington’s Warner Theatre would not take place, but that didn’t mean she had to stop playing.
After postponing her tour, the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter and activist began sharing these brief concerts via Facebook Live; they take place at 6 p.m. (Information on her intimate minishows, and live performances from dozens of other artists, can also be found at www.livenation.com/livefromhome.)
“For my own sanity, I have to sing,” Etheridge said, in a phone interview. “I have to bring my music to the people who were looking forward to it, and I will do this every single day until this is over.”
Etheridge announced her home shows on social media. “Invite your friends and family!” she said. “See you all soon #TeamME pic.twitter.com/6YTgSPcXjH — Melissa Etheridge (@metheridge). She did the first one from her living room; her wife, Linda Wallem, held a camera-phone so people could see and hear the performance.
It evolved from there. She decided a brighter room was needed and moved the gig to their office. They also set up a tripod so Wallem wouldn’t have to hold the phone. Now she uses two rooms; one has a piano. It’s fun for fans to see the colorful and artistic music/concert memorabilia that graces their walls.
“I can be as hopeful as I want to be about this (coronavirus situation), but people are not going to be gathering in public places for a while,” she said. “The response to these concerts has been incredible.”
So, what’s it like playing to an empty room when you’re used to mega crowds? “I miss the response from the audience. It has me missing people, yet even through that little phone, I feel people watching. People are commenting and I know people are out there.”
Indeed they are; the stream of comments was continuous as she played and spoke to fans as if they were parked on her couch, just feet away. People sent messages requesting certain tunes and saying they loved hearing the stories behind such songs as “Company,” in which she sings, “And all I want is company / Someone to understand this misery.” Although that one is about a breakup, she said it seemed especially appropriate, since people are really craving company these days.
Etheridge said she’s a hugger, and misses being out and about with others. But for now she’s determined to do her part with her family to practice social distancing, so the country can get back to normal. It’s the best thing we can do for each other, she said.
“I’d say my biggest challenge is to maintain my own personal state of health and happiness, really, you know, be in charge of that; I know the best thing I can do for the world is to be happy and healthy and spread that. That’s how I look at it. It’s not always easy... I’m staying in now, and not letting my fears and worries get me all worked up.”
Etheridge tries to exercise every day. “It’s very important,” she said. “I do a combination of things. I actually have a Peloton. I live in a wonderful neighborhood that has beautiful walking and hiking trails, so I do that a lot, and yoga and Pilates.”
She and her wife have been cooking and cleaning a bit, too. And now that the sun has started to shine more often, they’ve been gardening. Those activities, plus choosing which songs to perform, keep her pretty busy.
“We also play board games with my kids,” including Uno and Monopoly. “Sometimes we play a little poker; the kids are pretty good.”
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Etheridge said when it comes to Monopoly, she always chooses the same piece to move around the board. “I am the race car person, every single time.”
Offering some encouraging advice to fans, Etheridge said, “Let’s keep ourselves healthy, emotionally and physically, drink lots of water, take walks, stay connected and stay busy. But also give yourself personal space and time to relax. If you don’t learn to knit or crochet today, don’t stress. Be in the moment. We won’t be here forever.”
email@example.com; Twitter: @LindaTKoonz