This Labor Day weekend, instead of the fan cruise she’s been doing for years, Melissa Etheridge is hosting her first fan destination festival, Etheridge Island, at a Mexican resort. Melissa tells ABC Audio that the festival, which started Tuesday and runs through Monday, is a better solution than a cruise ship for her fans — and not just because of COVID.

“COVID…ecologically…[and] there’s some fans that are just like, ‘I’m not getting on a boat, I’m just not going to do it!"” Melissa laughs. “And many asked for this: a destination, a place we can go. And I can also get more artists to come. There’s less artists that are willing to get on a boat for a few days. So it just made sense.”

The artists are a key ingredient in both the cruises and Etheridge Island: This year, in addition to three shows by Melissa, fans will also see Elle King, KT Tunstall, Ani DiFranco and lesser-known acts. Melissa loves that her fans tell her how she’s helped them discover new music that way.

“That’s my favorite thing: when they say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know this artist until Melissa introduced us [to them],"” she says. “And that means so much to me, because I spend the year finding these artists.”

She adds, “Since the late nineties I’ve been doing that: [I] really, really enjoy finding artists — especially females — that are so good, and [I] can really get them in front of people, knowing that my crowd will like them.”

To prove that she’s got a talent for, well, spotting talent, Melissa recalls doing a VH1 Duets show in the ’90s when she insisted on singing “with some artists that no one’s ever heard of.” Their names were Paula ColeJoan Osborne and Jewel.

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