The Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Mary Lambert has embarked on a new adventure with her upcoming independently released album ‘Bold,’ a feel good “queer pop” album. ‘Bold’ highlights Lambert’s poetic and playful side. Three of the seven track are written and produced by Lambert herself.
Before the success of ‘Same Love,’ co-written with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Lambert was winning awards in the slam poetry community. Mixing her poetry with music, she has created a safe place for her and her fans. Growing up in an abusive household pushed Lambert into using writing as an outlet. Coming from a slam background, Lambert’s music is raw, the lyrics she contributed to ‘Same Love’ are very personal and explain what it feels like to be gay and a Christian.
To fund her new album, a Kickstarter campaign was started. In only 8 hours it raised over $68K, fully funding the project. This wasn’t the first Kickstarter success for Lambert. In 2012, she used Kickstarter to create her debut album, Letters Don’t Talk.
Inspirer spoke with Lambert about using writing to cope with tough situations, her background in slam poetry, and her new album ‘Bold.’
Was music always important to you as a child?
Yeah, it became part of my survival growing up in an abusive household. My mom was a singer/songwriter and I watched her channel her own pain into beautiful songs. I learned how important that was at an early age. I don’t think singing or playing piano was my thing then, but I know writing was. It’s a soul experience for me. My soul resonates when I’m writing.
Do you remember at what age writing became your coping mechanism?
I think I was 6 or 7. I don’t think it was something I was conscious of though. I just made me feel better.
Your personal story is tough, what got you through the hardest times?
As tough as my upbringing was, I have a core family built out of love. I’m very grateful for my mom and sister, they are a big part of my life. My mom has a partner of 17 years, and we are all together because of love. So my family is an important part of helping me get through. As valuable as music has been to me, family has really been there, too.
You were very prominent in the slam poetry world, how did you get involved with that?
Yeah, I was 18 and in my first year of college. I don’t really know how I fell down that rabbit hole. I was probably on a three day bender. I was pretty unwell at that time. I was on YouTube and discovered slam poetry, I was like — “Holy crap, this is something I need to learn.” I then joined a group called, ‘You Speak: Seattle.’ It’s a youth run group for young writers, ages 13 to 19. I got really involved in the world of “slam.” The people are so open and vulnerable, you go into a slam and realize these people are up there all alone reading their truth. It’s very raw. You take your pain and sort of paint it into a butterfly. I was amazed. It became another outlet to help me. Slam came into my life when I needed it most.
This is around the time you got the call about Macklemore & Ryan Lewis needing help, right?
I had been pretty active in the slam world for three or four years, and had won Seattle’s Grand Slam. I competed a lot. I started putting spoken word into the music I was writing, and bringing my music to my poetry. A friend of mine, who’s an amazing singer, writer, and business woman, actually called me about Macklemore and Ryan.
The lyrics you brought to ‘Same Love’ are very personal to you and to many of the people listening to the song.
It was just so relevant for the time, and the subject matter meant so much to me. When I was handed what they had written, it felt divine. It reminded me of when I was 17 and attempted suicide. I had this voice in my head saying, “Stick around, you’re going to do something important.” I couldn’t follow through. And when this song came along, I knew this was it. This was what I was supposed to do.
It must have been gratifying to share your story through the song.
It really was. I had been exploring the idea through my poetry and song about being a christian and a lesbian. In the christian community I was blasphemes, and the gay community couldn’t understand why I would want to be in this sort of abusive culture. I had a hard time coming out in the church, so when I was writing the song I wanted it to speak to all people. What can I tell someone who is misguided? How can I boil my identity down to a chorus? The idea is love is universal. Everyone wants someone to keep them warm. And the sentiment of not crying on Sundays, I don’t want to cry at church.
Other than your mom, who inspires you as a songwriter?
My very first tattoo, I have it on my wrist, is sort of a tribute to Jewel. I was 10 or 11 when I discovered Jewel. Her songs were the first I learned how to play. I must have listened to her ‘Spirit’ album for two years straight. Her story was inspiring to me as well. I knew she had a tough life and I thought, “I’m following in Jewel’s footsteps!” She was unique and flawed. She was perfectly imperfect. I grew up listening to Tracy Chapman, and James Taylor. As I got older, I really fell in love with Tori Amos. Then moved into older stuff like Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald. There was a phase of Weezer and that kind of music. I was in a hardcore band for like a year in high school.
What’s the story behind your new album ‘Bold.’
When I parted ways with Capitol Records, I had a catalog of songs that I was determined to release. I had a feeling that I could do this on my own. There’s this idea that artists need a big corporation behind them. I think it’s a different time, and that’s not true. Especially coming from the Macklemore camp, I’ve seen it work, I’ve seen people do it themselves. I felt inspired. I wanted to put out a record of pop songs and fund it through Kickstarter. I just wanted to feel it out and see if people were actually into it.
Was there a time when you doubted what you were doing?
I definitely went through a period of depression. Not knowing what I was doing or if what I was doing was worth it. But I stuck with it and I’m really glad I did. I’m really excited about this next year, I start my tour in the fall. I just have to detach myself from what people’s reactions may be. I just want to feel proud of my work and what I’m putting out there. So much of the industry is built on a weird success rhetoric, that this is what success is and you have to fit into a box. That cuts artists off at the knees. How can you grow creatively when you’re worried about paying a team? It forces you to make decisions you otherwise wouldn’t have to make. It feels good to be doing this independently and having it in my own hands. It’s exciting because even though it’s independent, it’s still a pop album.
You seem to really love this record.
I do. It’s fun and bright. I produced three of the songs myself. This record feels like home, I feel like I’ve come home to myself.
Is there a particular song on ‘Bold’ that is special to you?
I have like three. I can narrow down the seven tracks to three. ‘Do Anything’ is pretty symbolic. It’s the first song on the EP, and the first song I’ve creatively produced. There’s a sentiment at the end that says, “I could have stayed and been fine.” Then there’s ‘Know Your Name,’ that I wrote with Tobias Karlson that I’m really excited about. That song is actually released on the 21st. It’s so fun and upbeat. My girlfriend actually mixed the track and made a remix. It’s just a super cute, super gay, dancey love song. The third song is really special to me. My mom wrote it, and we sing it as a duet. It’s always been a dream of mine to have a song with my mom. I produced the track too, producing my mom seemed too surreal.
What do you hope your fans take away from your music?
I hope people are comforted when they listen to the music. I hope people know it’s ok to be complex and your authentic self. There’s a reward for being yourself. I wanted to create a joyful record, so I hope people feel that.
What can fans look forward to from you?
I go out on tour in the fall, so come out and see me. There’s a music video coming out soon and Sara Ramirez is in it. She plays Callie on Grey’s Anatomy, so that’s really fun. The video has a femme squad and is very trans-inclusive. I’m really excited for that, it should be out mid-May.
To stay up to date on Mary Lambert visit her website marylambertsings.com