It’s early December at the tiny club The Mint in Los Angeles, a week or so before singer / songwriter and “Same Love” collaborator Mary Lambert would be nominated for a Grammy along with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for their mega-hit about acceptance. Sparkling in a red Christmas dress out performer Lambert takes the stage and deftly guides her audience through an emotional rollercoaster ride that will have many laughing through their tears while taking in her heart-rending love songs, visceral poems, and often silly between-song banter. Her live performance of her hit single “She Keeps Me Warm,” a beautiful paean women in love, is enough to choke up her audience alone, but she's got quite the arsenal of emotion in her proverbial backpocket.
The Seattle native’s live performance mirrors her career this past year – a trajectory that surely must be the ride of her life. In just about a year “Same Love” has been risen to the tops of charts, been featured during a lesbian wedding on ABC Family’s breakout show The Fosters, and landed Grammy nominations. This September, Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson took the stage with Macklemore and Lewis at the Video Music Awards to belt the “She Keeps Me Warm” hook with Lambert. If that weren’t enough, Lambert was featured in the Sunday Arts’ section of the New York Times, an article she proudly displays at her concerts… And finally, she signed with the major label Capitol Records, a company that has not attempted to change her innately unique music or persona.
Earlier this week Welcome To the Age of My Body, Lambert’s first EP with Capitol Records, dropped with a new version of “She Keeps Me Warm,” and the intensely moving “Sarasvati,” along with the spoken word “Body Love.” In all, it’s been a very good year for Mary Lambert.
SheWired chatted with Lambert prior to the release of her EP. She touched on how she keeps it authentic in the face of all of her success of the past year, shared a beautiful story from a fan, and revealed just who was on her “list!”
SheWired: Congratulations on ‘Same Love’ and the Grammy nomination!
Mary Lambert: Thank you! I can’t really believe it!
You’re a bit of a fashionista… Did you immediately start thinking about what you would wear to the Grammy’s?
Oh I was already thinking about it…
So it’s all planned out?
Yes, I have an amazing designer – Helen Castillo. She did Project Runway. She was the girl with all the tattoos… She and I just really vibe and get each other. We’re working on a really amazing dress and it’s going to blow everyone away! That’s my plan.
You’ve had such an amazing year of firsts. Does any one moment or event stand out as the pinnacle?
It’s a series of things. I think the biggest thing is just the times that I get to talk to people. It’s a very tangible effect that you have on people. Performing in arenas in front of thousands and thousands of people that are screaming, “We love you Mary,” singing my lyrics back at me, is incredible and it’s addicting. It’s the utmost validation you can possibly get, but to be able to talk to someone in a very real, human connection that is affected by something that you’ve created artistically is awe-inspiring. I feel very privileged to be in that position and to be able to talk to them.
Do you have any particular moving stories of connecting fans who’ve been inspired by you?
There’s this one that really sticks out in my mind. I met this girl briefly in Austin. She was 21, she’d been dating her girlfriend for a year, she was super in love, and she was like, “My mom doesn’t accept me and we just don’t talk about it.” I signed an autograph for her and I went about my way. She sent me an email about two weeks later, and basically, her mom was picking her up from Austin to drive home to Dallas and there was a lot of silence in the car.
The girl decided, “I’m gonna play ‘Same Love’ for my mom. I’m gonna do it. I think it’s important.” She explained to her mom that she got my autograph and she was really inspired by me. And she put the song on, and her mom was immediately in tears, and the girl started crying too. The mom said, “I’m so sorry that I haven’t tried to understand and I’m going to try to understand more, and I would love to meet your girlfriend…”
(Pauses) I always get choked up…
They started this dialogue and the girl told me, “It’s the first time I felt like someone was on my side, and I just wanted to thank you for making that possible.” It’s just so touching. It’s those little conversations. It’s that song that’s opened up those little conversations. And we have, we have fucking changed it.
Thank you for sharing that. You mentioned the dichotomy of the work you’re doing – the mega-arena shows and the one-on-one conversations… This is all so new to you. How do you manage to keep it all in perspective?
The thing that I struggle with is, “How can I be present in my real life, in my personal relationships?” I give so much on a regular basis emotionally, especially musically. That’s what I want to do, but if I’m at the end of the day, too exhausted to even function and have a conversation with my mom, then I have to figure out how to balance both of those things.
As far as remaining true to who I am, I don’t know how to be any other way, and I think that’s what people like about my music. That’s just who I am. It’s me being just entirely vulnerable. I don’t feel like I’ll have that problem.
We’ll call you the Jennifer Lawrence of music… Keeping it real and humble in the face of fame.
Ahhhh! That’s so cool! She’s so cool!