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Mar 31, 201509:41 AMCulture

Fun and Culture in the Mid-State

Q&A with Mary Lambert

Mar 31, 2015 - 09:41 AM
Q&A with Mary Lambert

Photography by Kelly Ann Shuler

The song “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis is what brought singer-songwriter, Mary Lambert out of the Seattle music scene. Since then her song “Secrets”  has been playing on radio stations nationwide. The 25-year-old songstress will be performing at 8 p.m., March 31 at the Sunoco Performance Theatre in the Whitaker Center, 222 Market St., Harrisburg.


What/who inspired you to become a singer?


Mary Lambert (ML): I was around my mom all the time who is a singer-songwriter, she plays piano and guitar. Watching her channel her emotions and channel anything she was feeling into a song was a way that I learned to cope with my difficult upbringing. It’s nice to have that as an example. My mom was listening to a lot of James Taylor, Tracey Chapman and Fleetwood Mac and then when I was 11 I discovered Jewel. When I saw her I said, “I want to do that.” I kind of followed in her footsteps in a lot of ways.


[At the age of 12] Starbucks picked me up, they let me play 2 hours every Friday for 2 years. I got a lot of training in that time. I was so surprised because the manager was very different from any Starbucks corporate manager. He was a music composition major and was really cool.


What do you think makes you stand out among other artists?


ML: I guess everyone has their own voice, that’s kind of cliche but nobody has the experiences you do. There’s nobody that can translate it like you would. We all just communicate differently. For me that means a lot of things: spoken word, piano, emotionally connecting through music, there’s a lot of facets to me as an artist.


Tell me a bit about your tour. What can audiences expect?


ML: I’m in the middle of a Northeastern college run, these shows are really intimate and it’s just me and my bandmate, Tim. I do a lot of poetry and will be on a grand piano most of the time. I talk a lot too and story tell.


My feelings about the purpose of the show isn’t just to say, “Look at me,” I want to connect with people on a deeper level and for people to connect with each other and make a deeper connection within themselves. It’s really ambitious as a musician but I want to invite people to feel whatever they need to feel and the only way to ask for that is to show. I’m just really vulnerable on stage. Everything I’m experiencing is happening, I’m reliving every moment in a song and hopefully people feel that.


If i’m not completely transparent I don’t feel like myself. It’s not purposeful, it’s just how I am. I just don’t know any other way to be, it just translates through my music.


Your single “Secrets” shares a lot about your personal life, is it odd to know that your “secrets” are playing on radio stations nationwide?


ML: I think I had this truth hangover when I got out of the studio the next day after writing, “Secrets.” I was on this high with my producers and everyone in the room. I was like, “Of course I’m going to tell everyone I’m bipolar in the first line!” In the morning I asked, “Do I really want to do that?” It’s the best thing I could have done. I realize that now that I’ve never heard anything like that on the radio with people being really real about their feelings.


I really just want people to know that people have their own crap and baggage and hurdles and their own stories, everybody’s fighting a battle. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. The sooner we’re honest with what’s going on the sooner we can connect, I believe that connection is what’s going to save the world. Connect through vulnerability, invite others to know that it’s okay to be open about your baggage and your flaws, or what people perceive as flaws.



How did you get connected with Macklemore to have your song “She Keeps Me Warm” intertwined into his  song “Same Love”?


ML: I ended up working with Macklemore because of spoken word. When I was 19 I got really active in the spoken word community and I met a girl named Hollis who performs on “White Walls,” she’s incredible. She was helping them on their album,The Heist and they were stuck on this song about gay rights and Hollis knew my work and that social issue was the main ingredient with my music. She kept pushing me, “You have to hear this girl.” They asked a whole bunch of other people, I was a last resort.


When I heard the song I thought it was divine, this is about fate, this is my story 100% so I get to share that. I also felt, “What would I tell the whole world?” just image what this song could do. I wrote it in about 2 hours and recorded it that night. Then the song blew up, I dreamed about it but didn’t know that would really happen.


After that had taken off I was still doing solo shows and people would say, “Why didn’t you do ‘Same Love?’” I don’t sing to track or rap well so I decided to craft the song around it. “She Keeps Me Warm,” I did it for a radio show and people wanted me to record it. A lot of same-sex couples wanted to have “Same Love” at their wedding but didn’t want a rap song so “She Keeps Me Warm” is a good alternative.


How do you show support for the LGBT community through your music?


ML: I try to do it on as big of a scale as I possibly can. The biggest thing for me over the last 5 years, is I always wanted to make a music video that depicted a love story with two women. I remember being 17 and coming out and I assumed there’d be something for me to relate to but there wasn’t.


I felt really lucky to have the “She Keeps Me Warm” video, it was my baby. I think that the goal is to provide visibility. I think there are two really important ways to further gay rights: legislature and visibility in pop culture. Just being myself and inviting others to do the same is how I can help best move forward.


What would you tell a young person who is struggling with their sexuality?


It depends, I always like to evaluate how solid their support system with their family is. My mom’s gay! I had a tight-knit group of friends, no discrimination. It’s a completely different area if they’re in rural Louisiana, it’s a completely different experience.


The important things are that: you’re not alone, you’re strong enough to do this, and find your safe space, it’s not necessarily a hangout, it can be a place online or someone you confide in. Talk to somebody about your feelings with a therapist or someone you trust. It’s most important to have people love you and understand you for who you are. There are a lot of resources for people who are looking for that.


For more on Mary Lambert and her latest album, Heart on My Sleeve go to marylambertsings.com

Check out a photo gallery of Mary Lambert's performance here.

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