If you don't know who Mary Lambert is already, you will soon. The 24-year-old from just north of Seattle is best known as the singer on "Same Love," a gay-rights anthem featured on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' popular debut album The Heist. Lambert, who is openly gay, will be releasing her own version of the track entitled "She Keeps Me Warm," set to debut later this month. It has no doubt been a whirlwind year for the young artist, who sat down with SheWired to describe her journey.
Lambert had a tumultuous upbringing she and has spoken candidly about the abuse she suffered as a child. "I had a pretty traumatic childhood," she said. "I ended up being a depressed eight-year-old. I was really, really sad." Desperately in need of an emotional outlet, Lambert’s obvious choice was music, an inclination that runs in her family. "We always had a piano in the house, and Mom always had her guitar," she added. Lambert continued to struggle with overcoming sexual abuse, bipolar disorder, and realizing her sexuality, but said she considers music to be what she can pinpoint as, "an immediate turnaround."
Lambert caught the performance itch when she was just barely a teenager. Laughing, she reminisced about her youthful conviction, saying, "I was 13 years old, and I walked down to Starbucks, and I said, 'do you need a live musician?'" Nevertheless, the Starbucks manager saw something in her, and she began to play free shows every Friday, collecting tips in her guitar case and averaging $40 a night. After two years of that, she was hooked.
Lambert was raised Pentecostal, and saw firsthand the prejudices many within the church have against the gay community when her mom came out as a lesbian. "My mom started dating women when I was six," she said, "and the church ostracized us." Growing up in poverty, their forced severance from the church took not only a toll on their faith-based lives, but also on their finances. "We were sort of a charity family, and so we lost all of that, and that connection to that community."
Despite that experience, Lambert continued to grow in her faith, and she soon discovered the Evangelical Church, which appealed to her ever-growing passion for music and her love of community and family. When she was 17, however, Lambert began her own struggle with her sexuality. "Even though my mom was gay, it never occurred to me that I could date women, and it's so funny because I was always attracted to women," she recounted. "I was like, 'I think women are way prettier than men.'" When she met the girl who would become her first girlfriend in high school, she said her coming out was almost instantaneous.
Still, Lambert and her girlfriend were both deeply Christian, and while their religious beliefs didn't deter them from pursuing their relationship, they decided they would ask for daily penance, in hopes of finding understanding and mercy from a God they had been taught saw them as sinners. "We did that for a bulk of our relationship, and then it's like I woke up, and I was like, 'this is so screwed up!'" Her doubt about the teachings of her church paralleled her certainty about her newfound sexuality. "I was like, there's no going back. Everything makes sense now."
After high school, Lambert attended Cornish College of the Arts, which appealed to her on multiple levels, from its location in Seattle, to its music composition concentration, to its lack of an SAT score submission requirement. At Cornish, however, Lambert fell into the party scene quickly. "My first year at Cornish, I was a total hot mess," she admitted "I was going through my first real breakup with my first real girlfriend, and I was just partying a lot, and I was really just super f-cked up." Once again, Lambert found solace in music. Stumbling upon YouTube videos of spoken word, she found an outlet for poetry and art that she hadn't been exposed to. Looking for a new medium for self-expression spoken word "ended up being one of the greatest things I have ever done,” Lambert said.
Partnering with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis was certainly the game-changer for Lambert. "Same Love" began as a tribute to Macklemore's gay uncles, and was independently released just prior to Washington's 2012 Election Night vote on gay marriage. Partnered with Sub Pop and Music 4 Marriage Equality, the trio hoped the anthem would reach people in the Northwest, but as Lambert said, "I don't think we expected it to go global." She learned more about the struggles of marriage equality all over the world, from Australia to the UK. "I didn't realize that this was a huge moment for gay rights internationally; I had no idea. So that's why I think it's caught on so much."
With such a controversial theme, backlash for the song could have been expected, but Lambert has learned to laugh about any of that negativity, she said. "It's really interesting when you go look at the YouTube comments, and the ones that are hateful and in spite usually have really bad grammar!"
Far more important to Lambert are the supportive and thankful emails she has received since the song's release. "I got an email from a 50-year-old woman, who was like, 'I've been against the gay community, but my daughter showed me this song, and it's really opened my eyes.' Those emails spark this fire. It's so gratifying, and it makes me feel like I'm doing something right."
At the moment, Lambert is able to enjoy both success and anonymity, the latter of which will most likely be short-lived. She released a book of poetry in January called "500 Tips for Fat Girls," and has been featured on The Colbert Report andThe Ellen DeGeneres Show. For now, Lambert continued to appreciate the simple things in life. "It's like a dream to perform in front of 20,000 people, and then just go home and make my girlfriend lunch," she laughed.
Along with the release of "She Keeps Me Warm" later this month, Lambert is thrilled to be performing at SubCulture in NYC n May 21. Never one to shy away from embracing the emotion in her songs, Lambert describes her live performance as, "A total cry fest." She continued , "I go somewhere in my head, and I feel like there's a moment where everybody's with me, and I feel like I'm carrying the whole room to this place of vulnerability." Tickets for that show are still available!
A true activist of the LGBT community, Lambert's story is not one without heartbreak and suffering. Still, she exudes humility and humor, and possesses an undeniable talent. We expect to hear a lot more from this young woman, but we think this is a pretty good start: