The haunting voice of singer/songwriter/poet/spoken-word artist Mary Lambert on the pro-gay marriage song "Same Love," by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, is filled with restraint and understated elegance. Lambert is a survivor of so many tragedies that one might expect her music to be an angry soundtrack to her life. Although she does wear her heart on her sleeve, she draws one in with thought-provoking lyrics that act as a quiet storm against the past and present traumas in her life.
Windy City Times: Your music and voice brings me to tears, especially on your new song "She Keeps Me Warm."
Mary Lambert: You're going to make me cry! Thank you.
You are a self-confessed crier.
Mary Lambert: In the last year or so, I cry most of the time because I am so happy and overwhelmed with the beauty of life and of humanity and how supportive people are. I think I'm just really empathetic so when I see someone in pain or when someone is overwhelmed with happiness, too, I am so there with them and I'm feeling everything they're feeling.
Did you write the chorus for Same Love before turning it into "She Keeps Me Warm?"
Mary Lambert: I wrote the chorus specifically for Same Love and that was where everything started. There's something I wanted to say that wasn't political and I just wanted to write a love song that happened to be about a woman. It's not for the purpose of writing a lesbian love song; I'm just being honest about the way that I'm writing.
How did you come to work with the hip-hop duo?
Mary Lambert: We have a mutual friend, Hollis Wong-Wear, and she is the singer and songwriter for their song White Walls and we did spoken word poetry together. I got a call from her in the morning and I wrote the hook for Same Love in about two hours, went to the studio that day and recorded it that night and the rest is history.
"She Keeps Me Warm" is, like, the next phase after "Same Love," where the couple got married and now they are living comfortably in their relationship.
Mary Lambert: That's what I think it is, too. It's sort of post-politics at the base of it all and something that we need to remind ourselves that connects us to each other is this universal love. Everybody has had their exciting attraction and their first crush on somebody.
In the song "Body Love," you talk about body image and self-acceptance. Do you still struggle with that today?
Mary Lambert: I starting realizing that I was being self-destructive when I was 19. I was partying really hard and I was running my body into the ground and I was ready to die. I hated my body, I didn't feel attractive and no one wanted me. So I was a cutter for awhile and I've always had issues with eating and food and I've always been a heavy drinker and at the time I was doing a lot of cocaine and screwing up my life.
I was also being very promiscuous because if anybody wanted me then I felt validated. It's so sad and I realized that I was not alone in that and almost every single woman I knew was reacting in a similar destructive way without recognizing it and realizing that their validity was contingent upon an attraction to another person. And I don't know if I have all the answers and I'm still navigating that because I still go through issues with my body and things don't always fit right and I feel self-conscious at times.
But in general, I've come to this beautiful place of self-worth and love of my own body and I recognize that I'm a fat girl, but I have a great butt and I feel very attractive and it's not just because someone else thinks I'm cute.
Tell me about the process of coming out.
Mary Lambert: When I met my first girlfriend I was 17 and everything made sense and I was like, "Holy cow! Why isn't everybody a lesbian? They should be because it's awesome and I'm totally in love with this girl!" So basically it was; I like this girl and I'm going to be her girlfriend and that was the end of the story.
Tell me about your debut book of poetry, entitled 500 Tips for Fat Girls.
Mary Lambert: The book is a collection of poetry about all these vulnerable things and not just about my sexuality. I'm bipolar so I have a mental illness and I was raised in a severe amount of trauma such as incest, sexual abuse and rape. So this book is a way of trying to find the beauty in all of that. And the beauty of all of these traumatic events is the power of writing and the power that art provides for catharsis.
As I was writing this and realizing that I'm going to put this out for this new fanbase of "Same Love." I'm going to put faith in humanity and just put all these really sad things out there. The whole book is just an extension of my heart, so I hope that it reaches people and they don't think that I'm a total freak. [Laughs]
Your songs are not political, but do you think that you've changed people's views about gays and lesbians?
Mary Lambert: That's a big statement and it's hard for me to swallow that and say that I've changed someone's opinion about a group of people. I got an email from a 60-year-old white woman in the South, which is the demographic of someone who would be homophobic in general. She said that after listening to "Same Love," her opinions changed. It's one step and it's not the solution to everything but I feel that it's a little victory.
For more on Mary Lambert, go to www.marylambertsings.com .