Twenty-four years after releasing her debut album, Melissa Etheridge says she's hit her creative stride. "To actually be creating at the peak of my creative abilities is very exciting for me," the 51-year-old rocker, who will release her 12th studio album, 4th Street Feeling, on September 4th, tells Rolling Stone. "This has been my favorite, most enjoyable time in the studio. I believed in myself more in this album than I ever have." The 12-track follow-up to 2010’s Fearless Love was recorded this spring in Los Angeles at HOB Studios with producers Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Norah Jones) and Steve Booker (Duffy), and is highlighted by the country-infused single "Falling Up," which you can now listen to exclusively on RollingStone.com.
"Falling Up," Etheridge says, was written after a long night out. "I was getting ready to go to bed and I picked up my guitar and it was in D-tuning," she recalls. "And I just started coming up with the music. I thought, 'Isn’t that fun? I just want to clap my hands to that song. I'm gonna write to that.'" So the next day Etheridge fleshed out the song. The finished product finds the guitarist growling over a foot-stomping melody while simultaneously playing banjitar – a combination banjo-guitar – during the chorus. She says the track was one way she could express her lifelong affection for "roots" music. "That's where I've came from and I've always loved," the native Kansan says. "The first bands that I was in were country bands. I was singing Tammy Wynette songs and Loretta Lynn." The song was also a positive emotional release for the songwriter and mother of four. "It was a feel-good thing," she explains. "It's about me moving on, feeling good, I'm falling up. I might be learning these lessons hard. They might be coming hard and fast to me but I'm falling up. I'm going somewhere good."
The album, which Etheridge estimates was written over a year's time and on which she plays all of the guitar parts, includes a handful of songs that she says will also appear in a musical she's currently developing with her girlfriend, Nurse Jackie creator Linda Wallem. "The musical is very much like me," Etheridge says. "It's about love and the relationships and the trap doors that we come across in our life. And our hopes and our dreams and plans and disappointments."
Click to listen to "Falling Up": Falling Up by Melissa Etheridge