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Grammy-winning rocker Melissa Etheridge appears on second installment of SPIN and FIRE’s video interview series, ‘Free Speech + Other Dirty Words’

Melissa Etheridge

WATCH: Free Speech + Other Dirty Words interview with Melissa Etheridge

Grammy-winning rocker Melissa Etheridge appears on second installment of SPIN and FIRE’s video interview series, ‘Free Speech + Other Dirty Words’

LOS ANGELES, March 21, 2023 – In the ‘90s, two-time Grammy-winning artist Melissa Etheridge made waves when she publicly came out after struggling with censorship during her first three records. Since then, Etheridge has remained outspoken on LGBTQ rights and other issues. 

Today, the artist-turned-activist sits down for an episode of “Free Speech + Other Dirty Words,” the provocative and engaging new video series created by legendary media brand SPIN and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. The program weaves together the fundamental right of free speech with thought-provoking artist interviews and features iconic artists sharing their stories about freedom of speech, self-expression, and the barriers they crossed to avoid censorship.

In her interview with host Ryan J. Downey, Etheridge recalls the issue of her sexuality being raised by Island Records just before the release of her debut album. “There was a meeting at an office with a conference table where everybody was sitting round, and someone said, ‘So…what are we going to do about the gay thing?’” she remembers. “I am not going to pretend I am something else and find a guy to take pictures with — I am going to be me. They said, ‘Well, as long as you don’t flag wave.’ This was before we had the rainbow flag, and four years later, I was flag waving.”

The conversation also turns to the challenges of free speech when the speech deeply offends, as it did for Etheridge with Eminem’s first big homophobic lyric controversy that climaxed at the 2001 Grammys with Elton John and Eminem publicly joining forces. “It works both ways,” Etheridge says of free speech. “We want the freedom to say what we like even though it offends others; I gotta let him be even though it offends me. Because that’s freedom.” She continues: “The American Experiment is about can we all live together inside those differences?” She also boldly addresses her decision to stay at Sirius XM after considering quitting over the platform having Steve Bannon host Breitbart Daily News. “This is a hard one; free speech is hard,” she says. 

This series is the latest way SPIN is sparking important discussions and creating inspiring music-related print and video editorial. Since 1985, the cutting-edge media brand has developed a reputation for award-winning journalism and a willingness to dive into provocative topics. Today, SPIN brings this tradition into the digital age, creating a platform where the old school and new school come together to pave the way for new conversations in our current cultural landscape.

For more than two decades, FIRE has been the nation’s leading defender of student and faculty rights on college campuses. In 2022, the organization announced an expansion initiative into off-campus free speech advocacy and legal defense. 

“Free Speech + Other Dirty Words” airs exclusively on and the FIRE YouTube channel


The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought — the most essential qualities of liberty. FIRE educates Americans about the importance of these inalienable rights, promotes a culture of respect for these rights, and provides the means to preserve them.


SPIN is one of the most recognizable names in music and pop culture. In early 2020, SPIN launched a new generation of the legendary media group, putting the brand back where it belongs — at the center of the zeitgeist.

SPIN's digital covers have featured some of today’s biggest stars, including Demi Lovato, The Black Keys, YungBlud, Machine Gun Kelly, Rüfüs Du Sol, Jack Harlow, Denzel Curry, Run the Jewels, and Kehlani, coupled with probing journalism and in-depth interviews, hit series 5 Albums I Can't Live Without, A Day In the Life Of, and Artist x Artist, as well as original videos. The company launched SPIN IMPACT, a platform that harnesses the music industry’s most powerful voices to raise awareness and take action around some of society’s most pressing issues.

SPIN has also brought its legendary music brand to merchandise, joining forces with Life Clothing to release a series of T-shirt designs at Urban Outfitters. A powerhouse in the media world, SPIN launched in Japan, as well as partnered with Best Ever Channels (BEC) for a music free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channel exclusively on Amazon Freevee. In 2023, the company launched SPIN Labs, an incubator for music tech startups that is designed to help artists thrive in the quickly-changing music technology space.

To learn more, visit

Media inquiries: 


Dawn Kamerling

The Press House 


Katie Kortepeter

Communications Campaign Manager, FIRE

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