Melissa Etheridge uncovered some scandalous truths about her family’s distant past on Sunday’s season finale of TLC’s genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?
The singer tells Billboard she agreed to be on the show partly because her wife, Linda Wallem, is friends with one of the executive producers, but also because she wanted to fill some gaps in her ancestral history. “I knew stories from my mother’s family,” she says, “but with my father I didn’t know anything past his parents, so it was a delight to all of a sudden open a door to all these stories and be like, ‘Oh, that’s where my father came from?'”
It took more than a year of research, but the show turned up ancestors in French Canada namely, Melissa’s six-time great grandfather, Francois Janis. In a scandalous twist, Melissa finds out Francois sued a man who had allegedly “seduced and impregnated” his teenage daughter.
“I was shocked, yes, and delighted, too,” Melissa says. “I didn’t take anything personally although when you start realizing there were these people in the 1600s going to court to clear their daughter’s name, and of course it’s so salacious and about sexuality, I’m like, ‘Duh — welcome to my line of making our sexuality public,’ and that sort of makes me laugh at those parallels.”
She acknowledges that the newfound branches in her family tree might spark some song ideas one day, but first she has a busy summer of touring ahead. “I actually haven’t sat down to write much now,” she says. “I’m more in the touring mode. It hasn’t inspired me yet, but once I do sit down to write again maybe I’ll go there.”
On June 9, Melissa will release A Little Bit of Me: Live in L.A. on CD, DVD and Blu-ray, and the next day she’ll kick off a solo U.S. tour. A mixture of solo dates and co-headlining shows with Blondie will take her through the end of U.S. summer.
Who Do You Think You Are screens in Australia on SBS.