EXCLUSIVE: Mary Lambert on the Grammys, Madonna Wiping Her Tears Away, and on Her New Love
As recently as January, 2013, those in and around Mary Lambert’s native Seattle could still happen upon her slinging cocktails behind a bar to make ends meet. Fast forward to a year later and the singer/songwriter of “Same Love’s” gorgeous hook “She Keeps Me Warm” has taken the Grammys’ stage with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and Madonna as part of the watershed moment where Queen Latifah officiated the marriages of 33 same and opposite-sex coupes on primetime television. By the time Lambert and Madonna sang the final notes of “She Keeps Me Warm” together, and those couples were declared legally wed, there was hardly a dry eye to be found in the Grammy audience or at home.
The 24-year-old musician and spoken word artist has had the year of her life beginning with “Same Love’s” chart-topping success and as a rallying cry for equality. She also signed with the major label Capitol Records and released Welcome to the Age of My Body, an EP that includes “She Keeps Me Warm,” but also features two of Lambert’s stunningly visceral spoken word poems.
Last fall Lambert sang with Jennifer Hudson at the Video Music Awards, and recently she’s toured with Macklemore and Lewis, and Tegan and Sara. This April, Lambert will play the Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend, the de facto spring break for lesbians.
If the meteoric rise of Lambert’s career weren’t enough to keep her busy, she’s also found new love in her life – The Voice finalist Michelle Chamuel, who was at Lambert’s side following that historic Grammys’ moment.
SheWired nabbed some time with Lambert to chat about her part in the Grammys’ wedding ceremony, how she did not lose it singing with the legendary Madonna, and on falling in love with Chamuel.
SheWired: Mary! You’re so famous now. I can’t believe you have time to talk to little old SheWired (this is admitted shameless fishing for love from Mary because she makes us happy).
Mary Lambert: Oh my god, I love SheWired, are you kidding me? You guys are so nice to me.
Well, we love you! First of all, congratulations on your big Grammy night.
I kind of lost my mind a little for you when I saw that you were singing with Madonna. How was that?
Incredible, I mean, what do you do? She’s freaking Madonna, and she’s singing your lyrics. In rehearsal I was so emotional. How do you not cry? The biggest thing was watching the couples in rehearsal exit, holding hands, they’re crying, they’re making eye contact, and they are mouthing, “thank you” to me. It was so beautiful.
What was your response when they told you you’d be singing with Madonna?
I freaked out! It was a total freak-out. I’m really analytical, so I wanted to be sure that it made sense conceptually and that it makes sense for the song. I thought about it and I was like, “This is the best possible thing that we could have done.” She was the right person for it.
The whole performance was so emotional. People in the audience were crying, people at home were crying. I realize you are an artist and you have to compartmentalize but that seemed like an extraordinary scenario under which to keep it all together.
You have no idea. In the rehearsal leading up to it I couldn’t get through the song. I was just so choked up. The day before I had cried for about 10 hours straight. I couldn’t keep it together, and I even took my bipolar medication that day (laughs). I was just really, really emotional about it. And, Madonna wiped my tears… She was really sweet to me.
Madonna wiped your tears? I love that.
Everyone was really nice to me. But the day of the Grammys… I’m a performer, that’s what I do. That’s what I was born to do and you have to be on the whole day, especially during the red carpet doing press.
In the week following the Grammys alone there seemed to be a sea change in your visibility – you were on Access Hollywood… You are really in the limelight. How are you coping with the extra attention?
I don’t feel like I’ve shifted. I know that my schedule has shifted. But I feel like this is its natural course. I was born to do what I’m doing, so all of it feels like, “Okay, this is the next natural step.” I’m trying to take it in stride – being able to balance my personal life and my work life.
So much has happened in your career in just 12 months. What were you doing a year ago in January?
I was bartending. The song was released. I think we had finished up the first tour, but it wasn’t enough to sustain myself financially. I was bartending and I think I still worked occasional shifts at the French restaurant (laughs), and I was routing my own solo tour. I did a solo tour in the end of January that was really fun. It was a really good experience for me to be my own agent and to see how difficult that process is.
You mentioned your personal life…
You have a new romance you talked about recently. Congratulations.
I do. I’m very happy.
When we chatted a few months ago I think you said you were single, so is this fairly new?
Yes, it’s new. It’s wonderful.
Can you say how you met?
I would, but Michelle really likes to keep things private. There’s an amount of keeping things sacred.
Can you tell me if you felt sparks right away?
Um… (laughs). Uh, no, I can’t. Believe me, I would divulge everything.
I do think that if the two of you went to prom together you’d be voted “Best Dressed.”
That picture. I think we really look good.
We did a short news item after you told Access Hollywood that you were an item, and it blew up. Everybody loves you two together.
Oh my god, I love it. Did you see the picture? She’s the most adorable thing on earth.
Readers want to know when they can expect a duet between the two of you.
You know, I wish that it was happening, but I think we’re really focusing on our careers as solo artists. We’re not ruling it out, but for the time being, since we’re both emerging, we want to remain autonomous for the time being. It’s inevitable when you’re in love and want to write songs about each other?
Let’s just say you dueted at karaoke…
(Laughs). We’d probably do a Cher cover. We can both do the Cher voice really well. Real priorities in the relationship…
You’re EP was released not too long ago. How’s that process been?
It’s really incredible. I’m so proud of it. Welcome to the Age of My Body is so much of a declaration of what I wanted to say. It’s just about feeling empowered and strong, and hopefully it resonates with people. Half the EP is about body image, and the fact that I got to release that on a major label and have the backing support of the label – that means a ton. I’m really excited about the full-length coming out in spring
You’ve now sung with Jennifer Hudson and Madonna. Who’s next on your list of legends who’ll sing with you on “She Keeps Me Warm?”
I’ve topped out.
I think you might have.
No more… (laughs).
Can you summarize what it means to have been a part of such a historical moment at the Grammy’s?
I don’t know what I did in my life to deserve this, but there’s so much beauty in the life, and I’m still processing it. I think, in terms of someone who’s been self-destructive, or who’s had low self-worth in the past… I think for anybody, even if they haven’t had low self-worth, it’s like, “Why is this happening to me?” I hope that what I do remains authentic and genuine and I just don’t take it for granted in any sense. I’m really trying to be conscious of that. I feel overwhelmed – at all times, in every aspect of my life, in my relationship, with my family, with my friends, in my career, everything. I I’m living in an alternate universe dream world. There’s not a word in the language that I think can describe it.