A GoPride Interview

Mary Lambert

Mary Lambert plans to keep us warm at Milwaukee PrideFest

Wed. June 4, 2014  by Gregg Shapiro

I’m excited to meet the people and to serenade, for sure.
Mary Lambert
Mary Lambert is nothing if not grateful for her newfound popularity. The out singer/songwriter and performance poet's swift and meteoric rise to fame occurred via her collaboration with the duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on the groundbreaking song "Same Love." A YouTube sensation and hit single, the song received Grammy Award nominations, and was performed live during the Grammy telecast, featuring a mass-wedding including several same-gender couples. Shortly thereafter, Lambert released the Welcome To The Age of My Body EP, featuring "She Keeps Me Warm," a song that expanded on her contribution to "Same Love." Lambert, who performs at Milwaukee PrideFest on the Miller Lite Mainstage on June 7, recently spoke with me about her career.

GS: (Gregg Shapiro) Mary, I'm sure you've been asked about your Grammy performance with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis a million times, but now that there is some distance between that night and now, what was the experience like for you?

ML: (Mary Lambert) It's a life-altering experience. Performing for that many people and being nominated for a Grammy is pivotal enough for an individual. But what the song stands for and what I'm singing about and what I've written, that to me is more gratifying. The actual content and the social impact; it was life-changing for me. I feel so fortunate that this is the song that will be remembered for years to come. I feel very lucky that it's the song for which I will be known for sure.

GS: I'm glad you mentioned the social impact. Your religious upbringing also plays a role in your artistic life. What kind of an impact do you think your work is now having, if any at all, on conservative religious organizations such as the Evangelical church with which you have been involved?

ML: I'm not sure if it has. I feel like I've been out of touch in terms of those actual communities.

GS: Have they reached out to you at all?

ML: I have been working with some churches. There are churches that have reached out. I do think that Christianity and the whole Evangelical sect is in a shift right now. But I don't know if I am solely responsible for that. I do feel that there is a shift towards the idea of gay marriage.

GS: "She Keeps Me Warm," the full-length song that grew out of your "Same Love" collaboration with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, is featured on your Welcome To The Age of My Body EP. What was involved in deciding what you wanted to include on that disc?

ML: I wanted to make the EP an introduction to who I am. I wanted "She Keeps Me Warm" on there. There was a push to have it in a collection of songs and to have it out and make a statement about who I am and what I do. "Sarasvati" is on there, too, and that's very confessional, a deeply emotional song to sing. "Body Love" is on there and that's an encompassing idea of what I do. They all speak to those different forms.

GS: I'm glad you mentioned "Body Love," because the EP opens and closes with the spoken word tracks "Body Love Part 1" and "Body Love Part 2," putting your poetic skills on display. Who are some of your favorite poets?

ML: I have so many! I was fortunate enough to do a little stint with Andrea Gibson, who is one of my favorite poets. Buddy Wakefield and Shira Erlichman, too.

Like Beth Ditto, you have become a body image advocate, most recently launching The Body Love Campaign. What can you tell me about it?

ML: The Body Love Campaign is something I feel very strongly about. It's just the idea of self-worth and self-care and propelling that in our culture when our culture is so invested in breaking down women; women asking for validation from men. I don't think it's anybody's fault, but I think it's perpetuated by both genders. Something I really wanted to attack was the fact that it starts before you are 16 or 17. That was the peak of it for me, when I felt pressured to be somebody that I wasn't and then feel really guilty about it. I wanted to make a declaration of "You are beautiful, just the way you are." But I also didn't want to smooth over it the way a lot of other people do. It has the open and close quotes and I think it's a lot rawer than that. I think it's about girls self-harming, drinking heavily and escapism because the pain of our bodies and our self-destruction.

GS: Have you started working on a full-length album and, if so, will the songs from EP be included on it?

ML: We considered that. But I want the full-length record to be a new body of work. I want it to be really fresh and state where I'm at right now in terms of my career and what I'm creating. We have a single that will be released in June and then the record will be released in the fall. I couldn't be more proud of what we're making. I wanted to retain the emotional content of what I do, but I wanted to make a commercially viable album. I want to hear these songs on the radio, so I've fused those ideas together. I couldn't be happier with it. It sounds like magic.

GS: You have the distinction of being the queer voice on the upcoming summer concert tour with Gavin Degraw and Matt Nathanson. What does that mean to you?

ML: I hope that I represent well. I'm trying to. It's really flattering. I never intended to be an activist. I just wanted to write songs about things I feel strongly about. I'm flattered with the recognition from that viewpoint. I love my community. It's going to be an awesome tour.

GS: Speaking of your community and warm weather concerts, you are performing at Milwaukee Pridefest on June 7. Have you performed at other pride festivals?

ML: Not a lot, but this year I will be. It's been really fun to see the different cities, the different vibes and things like that. I'm looking forward to Pride season. I'm excited to come to Milwaukee. I've never been.

GS: What are you most looking forward to about at Milwaukee Pridefest?

ML: I'm excited to meet the people and to serenade, for sure.

For more information on Milwaukee Pridefest, June 6-8, 2014, visit pridefest.com


Interviewed by Gregg Shapiro. Gregg Shapiro is both a literary figure and a music and literary critic. As an entertainment journalist, his work appears on ChicagoPride.com and is syndicated nationally.