Etheridge will share a little ‘Memphis Rock and Soul’ with fans on Thursday | ParkRecord.com

Etheridge will share a little ‘Memphis Rock and Soul’ with fans on Thursday

Big Stars concert starts at 7 p.m.

Melissa Etheridge loves playing at Deer Valley.

She played at the Snow Park Amphitheater in the summer of 2011 and at Montage Deer Valley during the Celebrity Skifest in 2012.

So it's no wonder the Grammy winner is looking forward to her Deer Valley return at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 27.

"I've always loved Deer Valley and (am) looking forward to getting back up there again," Etheridge said during a telephone call to The Park Record from a tour stop in Springfield, Missouri. "I know that there are people who are coming to see me for the first time and there are people who are coming to see me for the 100th time.

"So the show will always feature the hits. I'm so fortunate to have a handful of hits people want to hear. People will also hear four or five 'Memphis' songs, because they rock so much and are so much fun."

The "Memphis" Etheridge talked about is her new album "Memphis Rock and Soul." The album is comprised of songs from the legendary Stax Records label that inspired her to become a musician.

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"There were a lot of artists that really shaped the kind of music I make," Etheridge said. "When I would hear these artists, I would just feel it inside."

Although Etheridge had thought about doing a cover album like "Memphis Rock and Soul" for sometime, it wasn't until the past couple of years that she got serious.

"I, my gosh, have almost had a 30-year career now of my music in making it clear that I was my own singer and songwriter," she said. "Yet, I come from a history of playing cover tunes for the first 10 years of my career from when I was a teenager and young adult."

Many of those artists such as Otis Redding, were on the Stax label.

"So when we decided to do this, I wanted to do something very different and go outside the lines and see what we could come up with," Etheridge said.

She connected with Stax Records through its current owner Concord.

"Stax Records is only a catalog label now, and it hasn't made a record with the Stax label for years," Etheridge said. "So when Concord gave the OK, we decided to go to Memphis and get totally immersed in the project.

"That's when I got super excited, because I wanted to go to Memphis and play with the cats who had been making this music for the past 50 years. And the experience was more than I could have ever hoped for."

Stax gave Etheridge full access to its catalog, and she selected the songs she wanted to remake.

Finalizing the song list for the album was the hardest part of the process, she said.

"I didn't just want to play the most popular Stax songs, because they've already been done," Etheridge said. "I wanted to do the songs that moved me and made me want to play."

Etheridge dug deep and found a handful of gems.

"We even did a song called 'Wait a Minute' that even the people at Stax didn't really know about," she said. "This song was the one hit for Barbara Stephens. The song just had a great beat and she really rocked on it before anybody was rocking."

When Etheridge finally came up for air, there were 100 songs on the list.

"I narrowed it down to 50 and then to 20," she said. "Then I went in and recorded 15."

The "Memphis Rock and Soul" includes Sam & Dave's "Hold On, I'm Coming," Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sing" and Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)" and "I've Dreams to Remember," to name a few.

The album was engineered by Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell, the son of renowned producer Willie Mitchell, and recorded in the famed Royal Studios.

"First of all, Royal Studios down in Memphis is a piece of history," Etheridge said. "It's an American landmark right in the middle of a neighborhood. And Boo is an amazing soul who has kept the integrity of the studio that his father put together."

Etheridge felt like she was making a trip to the past.

"It has not changed, I swear, since 1964," she said. "The magic is still there. The instruments, which I feel are part of the magic, are all there. They even brought out Al Green's microphone for me to sing on. What a total treat."

Etheridge recorded the album with some of Stax's legendary session musicians such as The Rev. Charles Hodges on organ, Leroy Hodges on Bass and Archie "Hubbie" Turner on keyboards, who all played with Al Green, Ann Peebles and Rufus Thomas.

Other musicians included Bar-Kays guitarist Michael Toles, drummer James "JRob" Robertson — who has played with Bobby "Blue" Bland, Little Milton and Z.Z. Hill.
Even John Mayer added his touch on songs such as "Rock Me Baby" and "Born Under a Bad Sign."

"Every day I would go in and, I swear, I would just listen to their stories for about an hour before we got to playing," Etheridge said.

The musicians would reminisce about touring in a van in Alabama during the 1960s.

"I heard about them playing with Albert King and how they got pulled over," she said. "They talked about being taken to the judge and then getting driven to a farm where everyone went looking for nooses in the trees.

"The funny thing was that they were laughing about these memories, and I was in total shock."

Etheridge learned so much history from the sessions, and she feels lucky to have made the album, especially as a cancer survivor.

"Going through cancer was hugely life-changing for me," she said. "It was important to make a lot of changes and that set me on a new path and still dictate how I run my life from my kids and family to how I tour."

Although Etheridge is touring in support of "Memphis Rock and Soul," she is writing songs for a new album that she plans to record at the end of the year.

"I've been writing a lot because there are things that are happening in this world that are very inspiring." said Etheridge, who is an outspoken supporter of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. "I think this is when art, music, words have so much power to inspire people to be strong and make my world better."

Park City Institute will present Grammy Award-winner Melissa Etheridge at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, at Deer Valley's Snow Park Amphitheater as part of the St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights concert series. General Admission tickets are still available for $49. They can be purchased by visiting http://www.bigstarsbrightnightsconcerts.org.