I’m With The Band – Susan Rose and Melissa Etheridge

Posted on June 4, 2024

If touring with one legend is a dream come true. What do you call lighting two? For Susan Rose, the term “doubly blessed” might do. The talented Tennessee LD spent 19 years touring with Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band, something that qualifies as a career highlight in any book, especially when you throw in that you got to work with the great Jeff Ravitz.

After the pandemic, Rose began another spectacular chapter in her career when she became the touring lighting designer for the iconic Melissa Etheridge. Rose began working for the multi award-winning (including a couple of Grammys and an Oscar) mega-talented artist in August 2021 when Etheridge’s longtime LD, David Hamilton retired.

The next year, Rose had to make a decision when Ringo began touring again. With all the love for the ex-Beatle, she knew it was time to begin a new chapter. Two years later she is flourishing with the Etheridge tour. She gave us an inside look into the joys and challenges of living the LD’s dream part two!

You’ve long been associated with another legend, Ringo. How did working for him prepare you for working for Melissa?
“In 2022, I had to make the decision between the two tours as Ringo resumed touring. Ringo and the whole tour, as well as Jeff Ravitz, was so instrumental in launching my career and I’m so grateful and thankful for that. The fall of 2022, it was time for me to make the decision between the tours, so I chose to move full-time to the Melissa Etheridge tour. I’m thankful for my 19 years with Ringo. Now, I am also very thankful and grateful for being on a tour where I am so happy. I feel like this is where I belong – it’s what I was meant to do. The crew and Melissa have become family to me, and I enjoy every single day with them and getting to truly do what I love to do. Make pretty lights!”

The music of Ringo and Melissa is different in terms of overall vibe. How does that impact you as a LD?
“They are two completely different tours. I loved working with all of the rock and roll legends on the Ringo tour. It was definitely a lot of fun. On that tour, the show was programmed, so it was the same show every night. On Melissa’s tour, I punt every single show. I have a different lighting rig every day, and being true to the Gemini persona that I am, I personally love the challenge. I make the best of what I have to work with every show.

“Our show is never the same, since Melissa has over 100 songs – and I absolutely love that. I feel like I’m playing her show with lighting being my instrument. As I always say, I make people see the music and I truly love using the musician part in me to feel her music and make people see it. I’m still performing, just from the other side. I have to say, she is an amazing songwriter and I’ve loved every single song that she does. They all tell a true story and there are times I even find myself in tears because I feel the power of what story she is telling. I then express it through my lighting.”

What has surprised you most about Melissa as you’ve gotten to work with her?
“She is an amazing performer, musician, singer, songwriter, and storyteller. I love what she stands for. She’s such an inspiration to so many people, including myself. And for that I am grateful. I feel like I can truly be myself without judgement. And that in itself says a lot.”

How involved does she get in lighting?
“She actually doesn’t have a whole lot of specific things that she wants or doesn’t want. I’ve learned to read her very well and know the little things that she does like. We’ve even worked together on a few specific cues in the show, and I have to say that is kind of fun! I love that she trusts me with my creativity.”

What is the best thing about touring with Melissa?
“The best thing about touring with Melissa is all the friendships I’ve made. Both on our team and with the fans. I work with such an amazing team that have become family to me. We’re not just coworkers. We are friends. We support each other, help each other, and are there for each other. There are no clicks. We are all equal. And that goes for Melissa and her family as well. Like I said, I really truly feel like I’m where I belong. That is such an important feeling to have. I also love her music and love hearing and singing along to the songs every single night. It always helps when your work with an artist that you absolutely love – and love their music as well. It really allows me to truly express my creativity.”

What is the most challenging thing?
“The most challenging thing is having a different lighting rig every day. Some days they are great rigs, and some days they seem like they’re from 1920. Although I do advance several plots for different scenarios, they are merely more for suggestions of what I’d like to make out of what they have.”

“Fortunately, I do carry my own console, so the way that I patch it, since it’s my console, at least I can approach punting and the show overall, the same every day, just with a different lighting rig. I love making the best out of what I have to work with. Even a bad day out here is a good day. The more challenging days I call a PIOOMA day… (you can guess that that stands for… pull it out of my a…) And in the end, even with just a few lights, I’m able to be extra creative and make the best of it, no matter how few lights I have to work with. I always use the stage as my scenic pieces to light. I try to always put something on the upstage Black Curtain whether it’s floor lights and gobos, or whatever I have to work with. If I have a pretty ceiling to tent to work with, I incorporate that too.

“I feel like LDs like myself can often get overlooked in our industry, because we’re not touring with the fancy giant lighting rigs and LED walls. I’ve always told up and coming LDs, if you’re a good LD, you can make even a few lights look good. You don’t have to have hundreds of lights to make a good show. That’s where true creativity and creativeness falls into play. Every day. I love the challenge of being creative — every single day, and I have to say, some days turn out spectacular and beautiful, even when at the beginning of the day I could have never guessed how good it would turn out. PIOOMA!!!”

If you had to describe your experience with Melissa in three words, what would they be?
“Happy, grateful and blessed.”