By Setota Hailemariam
Transparency isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think about the entertainment industry, but Mary Lambert is aiming to change that.
The singer/songwriter and spoken word artist, most famous for singing the heartfelt chorus of Macklemore’s hit “Same Love,” came to this university April 26, where she performed several of her empowering and often brutally honest songs at the Hoff Theater in the Stamp Student Union.
Lambert is not afraid to speak openly about her past hardships, and that truthfulness comes across in her work, which is a unique combination of sweet, yet somber pop music and spoken word poetry.
The Writer’s Bloc caught up with Lambert before the show to talk about that honesty and its place in her music, as well as her upcoming projects.
Setota: Welcome to Maryland! Do you often come to college campuses and speak or perform?
Mary: Yeah, I would say probably once a month I’m in a college/university world.
S: I see that you not only do music, but you’re really into spoken word. Can you explain how you first got involved with that?
M: When I got into spoken word, it almost felt divine, like sort of a saving grace. I was on a three-day bender. I used to be addicted to drugs and alcohol, and I had stayed up for three days straight. I was pretty messed up, and this was around the time that I had attempted suicide, so I was kinda at my wit’s end.
I went through a YouTube rabbit hole, like just clicking random videos that led to other things … I stumbled on some spoken word artists, and it changed my life from there. It lit this fire under me, and then I started competing two months later.
S: You’re very open with your past struggles in your music. Can you talk about why you choose to be so personal in your songs?
M: It almost feels like I don’t have a choice. I believe there are two kinds of songwriters: people that are hungry to create for the sake of creating … and then there are people that will die unless they express what they need to express. And both are super valid in their intentions, but I know the latter, for me, is something that rings most true.
Song writing’s also a two-part process … there’s the thoughtful moments of peace and sacred aloneness, and then there’s the — if you’re a performer — there’s the invitation and the sharing of it. Some people feel fulfilled by one or the other, or both, and I’m one of the people that needs to do both.
S: You have an EP coming out in May — what’s the inspiration behind it?
M: Bold [the EP] doesn’t feel as cohesive as maybe some of my previous work. It’s really song-based. Some of these songs were written four years ago, five years ago, and then some of them were written three months ago.
When I parted ways with my label and my management, it was a big endeavour to decide I was going to stay independent. It’s a scary world to do it by yourself, and I think the big thing for me was I wanted to produce … and have that hold on my music. Being independent really afforded me that ability, so there’s about three songs on there that I produced that I’m really proud of.
There’s a song on there that my mom wrote, that we sing as a duet, and there’s a really gay, dance-y, pop song … it feels bold. Each song has its own sort of story and origin, I feel like I could write an essay about each of them and what they mean to me.
S: Your work has meant a lot to the LGBT community. How does it feel knowing that you’ve touched so many people?
M: I mean, it feels great! [laughs] The intention for me, as a performer, has never been “Look at me! Look what I can do!” It’s really been about connecting and about facilitating healing and doing something that’s more than just showing off. And there’s a place for that … not everything needs to mean something all the time … but I know for me, my shows are about catharsis, it’s about healing.
You have to be careful, because you can almost get a savior complex, the more people that are like, “You saved my life” or “Your songs helped me come out” … you could pat yourself on the back … but it’s like, you’re not the reason, I’m not the reason. I might’ve been a catalyst for somebody … my hope and wish is that I always remain a catalyst for someone else’s healing. If my music can be a comfort or be a friend to somebody, then I’m doing my job.
Mary Lambert’s EP Bold will be released May 5 on iTunes.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mary Lambert’s Facebook Page
Setota Hailemariam is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.