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'Same Love' Singer Mary Lambert on hate crimes, body love, her pal Macklemore and pop music
Mary Lambert, 24, who produces the spine-tingling female vocals in "Same Love" the song by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis that went platinum and won the "Best Video with a Social Message," award at the VMAs in August, has just released her own version, "She Keeps Me Warm." A trail blazing Seattle singer-song writer and spoken word artist whose work deals with female identity, love, oppression and body image, Lambert is also a West Coast Regional and Seattle Poetry Slam winner and issued her album, "Letters Don't Talk" last year. Lambert will be performing at GLAAD's annual benefit at the Gansevoort Park Avenue, 420 Park Ave. So., 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12.
Marriage equality is gaining steam across the country and DOMA has been half demolished, but hate crimes are increasing, and we've even had killings in NYC. Where we are in the struggle?
The love is getting bigger, but the hate is getting stronger. It's a very polarizing time and both sides are getting more extreme. I came out about seven years ago and a year later, I was with a woman and someone threw a lit cigarette at me and a full can of soda at her. I'm a femme, and femmes face less discrimination but it makes me think a lot about what passing means: The only time I face discrimination is when I'm with my partner, but of course, that's quite often.
What did singing on "Same Love" with Macklemore do for your career?
It was a massive catapult: My career just totally exploded! Before that song came out, I was playing to venues with four people and my mom was one of the four. The music I was writing before was very emotional, vulnerable, and not all that socially conscious. I had tried writing politically, but it always felt contrived and not realistic. That song finally allowed me the opportunity to express something political in an honest, authentic way.
What is it like for young gay and lesbian people to grow up always listening to music with a heterosexual frame of reference?
Heterosexual artists could always use specific pronouns and it always pissed me off that there weren't songs for us. I never thought of myself as an activist: I just wanted to be 100% genuine. The fear of so many artists is that they'll alienate their audience (by singing about same-sex love). Even though the responsibility was overwhelming, I was so excited when I was approached to sing on "Same Love." I thought, "this is my opportunity to be specific and I can do what I'm already doing!" And the audience has a capacity for acceptance! "Same Love" is obviously written with female pronouns but people really like it.
What have you learned about yourself in your song writing?
That it's okay to be 100% vulnerable. There's so much beauty in authentic human connection. I was originally planning on being a teacher, but this is what I want to do.
So do you and Macklemore hang out in Seattle thrift stores, poppin' tags?
Since he's blown up, we talk once in a while and text back and forth, but every time I see him, he's so exhausted, I feel sorry for him. I tell him, "we're not going to hang out: You're going to go home and get some sleep!"
You eloquently critique women's need for validation from others on "I Know Girls." Do you feel you have finally accepted yourself?
It's really cathartic when I perform that song. But I still get insecure. I look at tapings of my performances and can be critical: 'I look huge in that! I've gained so much weight!' So many women have body dysmorphism. They think they're so much bigger than what everyone else sees. You have to take your hands over your body and remember your self worth. A lot of women have been sexually harassed, and had lots of unfortunate experiences of being sexually abused and violated. Think about what all these repeated violations do to our gender! I really have to keep myself in check. Focusing on the beauty within ourselves - there's so much power in that.
It seems that discrimination in the music industry against heavy women is more pronounced than discrimination against gay men and lesbians.
I 100% agree. There is a lot of pressure and sexism in the industry. I can't think of a single major music label run by a woman! I talked to my mom when I was 13 or 14 and told her I couldn't identify with a single woman out there: There were no visible big women and just no identity out there for me. I was so overjoyed when Adele became popular. I get more feedback and email from fans about my message of body love than I do about gay love. And no wonder: There is a war on women's bodies right now.
So what are you listening to right now?
I love so many of the younger local artists around Seattle: Courtney Marie Andrews, The Pollens. I'm also super into Top 40. I can't help it! A lot of it is just really well produced. No matter what you do as an artist, you're making a statement. I'm socially conscious, and very aware, but sometimes I just want to shut off, dance and have a good time and not think about all the things in the world that need repairing.
Your voice is so stunning: How did you come by such gorgeous pipes?
My mom and gramma and great gramma were all singers. My mom had severe stage fright, but I'm just fearless: I just sang all the time. I'll harmonize with anything.
So are you the stereotypical "I- always-cook-with-honey-virtuous eating-Northwest vegetarian?"
I was vegetarian for three years in high school, then a pescetarian, and then, well - I missed bacon. My partner is a really excellent cook and she will try to make us eat healthy and turn recipes vegan. I love bacon, but I try to be really socially conscious and pay the extra $2 to make sure the pig was raised in a humane way. Seattle has the best cuisine in the U.S., but I'm really excited to eat NY food and have NY cocktails. I like Scarpetta in the Village - the food is just incredible there. And I like Angel's Share, BaoHaus and of course, Momofuku.