Melissa Etheridge apologises if she sounds a bit tired, but she's got a good excuse. The singer-songwriter, who is on the phone to the Weekly from Los Angeles, partied the night before at Ellen DeGeneres' star-studded 60th birthday party, and she's still recovering.
"It was an awesome night," says Melissa, who is doing back-to-back media interviews to talk about her upcoming tour of New Zealand and sounding a little croaky.
"My favourite part was hanging out with people I hadn't seen in a while."
Among those she got to see were Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Adele, and she says one of the hot topics of discussion was juggling motherhood with a career.
"I found myself talking to a lot of women there about how you shouldn't have to choose between a career and having children – you can have both," says Melissa, a mother of four.
When it's pointed out that the same subject has been much debated in New Zealand recently thanks to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's pregnancy, she says, "Well, good for her. We need to be talking about it.
Bringing a child into the world and having a busy career isn't easy, but we as women are cut out to do it. I told some women last night that we can love our children and do a great job."
At 56, and with more than 30 years' experience in the cut-throat music industry, Melissa is well- placed to dispense advice. Over the years, the Grammy and Oscar winner has spoken out about a lot of subjects she's passionate about, including LGBT and women's rights, and the use of medical marijuana.
"I never thought I was going to become some kind of activist, that was never my dream. I just wanted to be a rich and famous rock star, and live that life," she laughs.
"But life lays things out differently to how you might think and I have seen that I can make a difference in the world."
She still gets people thanking her for coming out as a lesbian in the early 1990s, when very few women in the music industry were being open about their sexuality.
"People still come up and to me and say, 'Thank you, you saved my life.'
"When I grew up, there were very few well-known women who were lesbians. I'm glad things have changed. I have so much happiness because I can be 100% who I am."
Melissa, who is married to actress/writer/producer Linda Wallem, is also a keen supporter of women's rights, and recently performed at the Move On Women's March in Los Angeles.
The I Want to Come Over singer says she didn't have the same issues with sexual harassment that some of her actress friends have come across in their careers, but she has encountered incredible inequality in the music business.
"I remember with my first album, going around radio stations and staff there telling my record rep, 'No, we're not interested, we're already playing a woman'. They had one woman on their playlist all day long, that was it. That kind of imbalance was just normal. Thankfully, we have come a long way since then."And talking of inequality, she was very unhappy about Grammy nominee Lorde not being asked to perform at the event earlier this year.
"That was not okay. It's time the Grammys production team got an understanding that it is a new day. That was just wrong.
"I have had the opportunity to meet Lorde and she's so delightful and sweet. It's nice to see that in this business, especially with the level of success she's had. She's great."
Medical marijuana is another subject Melissa advocates for, since using it herself to deal with the effects of chemotherapy she underwent for breast cancer 13 years ago. Today she has her own company, Etheridge Farms, making cannabis-based products.
"There have been a tonne of regulations to deal with when it comes to setting the business up, but hopefully it's worth it because this is something that can really help people."
While standing up for causes she believes in does take up a fair amount of her time, most of it is split between being a mum to Bailey (21), Beckett (19), Johnnie Rose and Miller (both 11), and making music.
"I've been in the studio recording, I'm doing lots of touring, and I can't wait to come to New Zealand. I'm touring with my friend Sheryl Crow, and although we've known each other for 30 years, we've never toured together before so I'm very excited.
"We're very similar to each other – we're mothers, we've been around, and we love good music and having a good time."
Melissa, who recently won a She Rocks icon award for her contribution to music, says she can't ever imagine her life without it.
"I love playing music and I am so blessed that I can do that. I'm having so much fun – it feels like I don't have a real job, and that's awesome!"
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