Mary Lambert’s Body Politics


2013 has been a big year for Mary Lambert, who brokethrough when she worked with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on the award-winning track “Same Love.” Following that, Lambert recently released her own song “She Keeps Me Warm,” which makes a pronoun revolutionary. Today, Lambert’s sophomore EP Welcome To The Age Of My Body comes out, a follow up to her first EP Letters Don’t Talk. After independently releasing her music for some time, Lambert recently signed to Capitol Records and was just nominated for two Grammy Awards.

The Seattle-based singer is an openly gay, hilarious, inspirational, and honest advocate; she tells ridiculous stories and cries with her audiences during her shows. She has become an outspoken proponent of loving your body in a critical world, and her music covers topics including depression, sex and sexuality, love, heartbreak, and growing up. We spoke with Mary Lambert about first loves, working with Macklemore, and changing the world with her music.

ILANA KAPLAN: I saw yesterday you were named one of 11 “Body Image Heroes” of 2013 by the Huffington Post. On that note, what is body love to you?

MARY LAMBERT:  Yeah! Let’s see. Body love is more than acceptance of self or the acceptance of the body. Body love is about self-worth in general. It’s more than our physical appearance. We are more than what has been done to us. It’s reclamation of self. It’s a bunch of things. It’s not super light. It means self-care. We are such a society built on work, work, work. I think having self-care and time to nurture the self.

KAPLAN: After seeing you at SubCulture, I learned how hilarious you are. I was laughing so hard. Do you do stand-up when you’re not playing music?

LAMBERT: You’re so sweet! I have thought about it. My brother is funnier than I am, so when we get together, it’s hysterical. I’m going to leave that to him, because he should be doing that. I think it brings a different dynamic to my show to where not everyone is bummed out and depressed after these really depressing songs. You’ve got to have some kind of release. It’s sort of that adage: with great joy comes great sorrow or vice versa. We have the capacity for both. It’s really strange how we laugh really hard [until we] cry, and when we’re crying, we laugh. I think those two emotions are a far closer than most people think.

KAPLAN: Interesting. I remember you told this story at SubCulture about not being able to get into your seat at the MTV Music Awards. Did that really happen?

LAMBERT: It did. It was someone’s bodyguard. It’s a little exaggerated, but it’s just a fun story to tell. People like to hear the inside scoop. It was a traumatic experience, actually. I was hyperventilating.

KAPLAN: I would have too!

LAMBERT: Those things can be comical afterwards, though.

KAPLAN: Definitely! What’s really cool about your music is how you integrate spoken-word with songwriting. What has driven the creativity behind your spoken word? Does it come from your own personal experiences?

LAMBERT: It’s always personal. I think in that sense, I’m trying to figure out how to write outside of myself. I think that’s something I want to tackle next. If you have an intense experience, it’s how you process it. I don’t know how other people process it. I go crazy if I can’t process it. For me, writing is just processing. I decided I wanted to share it once I realized it was affecting people positively or allowing them to be vulnerable to you. It’s as simple as that, I think.

KAPLAN: You just signed to Capitol Records—congratulations. Do you feel like your creativity has been able to flow freely?

LAMBERT: Massively. They’re really giving me the freedom to explore myself creatively. Now I have the tools and all of those options in ways that I didn’t before because I was limited financially or in the time crunch. I’ve been working with Eric Rausch, who is the catalyst of it all. He is Tori Amos’ producer, and he did Sara Bareilles’ album. He and I have really similar writing styles. It’s nice to be in the studio bouncing back ideas. It’s really smooth and easy. We have great communication. I’ve been writing a ton. I was kind of concerned. I thought I’d be consumed on the business side of music that I’m not going to be able to write. If anything, it’s given me the ability to think more creatively because someone else is taking care of the business side of it. I get to be in control of what’s being put out there. You can’t ask for more than that.

KAPLAN: Side note: where do you get your sparkly dresses?

LAMBERT: I went to Rent the Runway before. Now my main dress, I usually buy from Badgley Mischka because the dresses are so figure flattering, really pretty and elegant looking. Now I’m working with a designer called Helen Castillo, who was on Project Runway. She’s amazing. She’s making me my glitzy gowns.

KAPLAN: Songs like “Forget Me” and “This Heart” are very emotional. Are the songs from Letters Don’t Talk about one relationship or time in your life?

LAMBERT: Letters Don’t Talk was definitely surrounding one specific relationship. It’s your first love. Both of those songs have very similar tones and lyrics. You can’t live in the past and this divide of past to present and being able to let go. Letting go is the most difficult thing on the planet. It’s funny because in different years of my life when I performed these songs, I related to them differently. Every time I performed them, I relate to them in a new way. I’ve been going through a breakup, and I’ve been relating them to currently where I’m at. I think that’s my job as a performer.

KAPLAN: Sorry to hear that. You’ve really been an inspiration to girls who aren’t a size zero. Loving your body is a challenge across the board no matter what your age. What do you love most about your body?

LAMBERT: [laughs] Ooh! I love this game! Let’s see, I think I have really amazing hips. I think I have a cute butt, and I have a great rack, let’s be honest.

KAPLAN: Love it. So, you’ve been nominated for two Grammys. How does that feel?

LAMBERT: So crazy! Growing up, people are like, “Mary, we’ll see you at the Grammys.” You’re like, “I’ll be at the Grammys.” Then, you’re actually at the Grammys! That actually is happening, it’s not just something people are saying because they like your music. It’s real!

KAPLAN: It’s real! What are you most proud of on your EP that’s coming out this week?

LAMBERT: That’s so hard. I can’t decide. I’m proud of everything. I’m so excited that the label is supporting me and providing this massive muscle to push things that I think are really important and going to change the world. The fact that “Body Love” is on there and there’s going to be a push for that and “She Keeps Me Warm,” which is revolutionary in its own right, a love song that just happens to be about lesbians and a song about body image. The other song on there is heartbreakingly dark about a time that I was going to kill myself. They’re making that a massive priority at the company. I’m really excited. I start talking faster, and I’m just really excited!

KAPLAN: Oh wow. It is an exciting time. So, how was working with Macklemore?

LAMBERT: He’s the best. He’s like my big brother. He’s been so supportive and with me every step of this whole process.

KAPLAN: Can we see another duet coming with you guys?

LAMBERT: I think so! He came to my EP release party a year ago and really cheered me on. I think we really understand each other musically and artistically. I mean we’ll see. He’s in a totally different place in his career than when we last spoke about it, but we’ll see, for sure!