Mary Lambert is best known as the singer who adds the velvety, heart-stopping chorus to hip hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ double-platinum gay rights anthem “Same Love.”
That’s her cooing “She keeps me warm/she keeps me warm,” and it was Lambert standing alongside Macklemore, Lewis — and Madonna and Queen Latifah, no less — at last January’s Grammy Awards where the hit song served as a springboard for a massive live-on-TV wedding ceremony among same-sex and straight couples.
“That was just surreal,” Lambert confirms to Samaritanmag during a recent tour stop in Toronto supporting Gavin DeGraw and Matt Nathanson.
“I would imagine it’s like your wedding day — you spend months and months planning it and then it happens very quickly and you try and hold on and be present in the moment, but it’s okay if you’re not. It’s not necessarily about you. It’s about the experience and the impact.”
Great memories for posterity for sure. But Lambert has no intention of letting the bright white spotlight of fame — which proved so galvanizing with “Same Love” — fade away without doing her altruistic bidding.
Indeed, as the ebullient 25-year-old American says, her sights are firmly set on continuing to change the world, one song at a time.
“Music is the way you can really affect change because no one is listening to politicians. Real effective change happens in pop culture. You have to get into the face of celebrity. So I’m kind of just sneaking in there. That’s the plan with ‘Secrets,’” she says, referencing her new single from her forthcoming album, Heart on My Sleeve (due Oct. 14), produced by Eric Rosse of Tori Amos fame. “The song is a super-poppy, fun song but the meaning sneaks into you.”
“I've got bi-polar disorder / My shit's not in order / I'm overweight / I'm always late / I've got too many things to say…,” she sings, and then, “They tell us from the time we're young / To hide the things that we don't like about ourselves / Inside ourselves / I know I'm not the only one who spent so long attempting to be someone else / Well I'm over it.”
Lambert is waging battles on multiple fronts. Gay rights continues to be a major theme: witness the video for the song "She Keeps Me Warm," which Lambert developed as fleshed-out offshoot of “Same Love” and made available on her 2013 EP, Welcome to the Age of My Body. Its video advances a rarely-seen, not salacious lesbian love story starring Lambert opposite her BFF and tour manager Bryn Santillan.
Lambert, an out lesbian, has been candid about many issues: being bi-polar and negative body issues and self-esteem. For proof of the latter, see her insanely powerful spoken word anthem “Body Love” or check out her book 500 Tips for Fat Girls.
“I’ve seen conservative, heterosexual, 50-year-old men weeping when they heard ‘Body Love,’” Lambert says. “That tells me [my music] is not a niche thing only for high school girls who so far have been the most vocal in their support. Everybody is going through something painful. We are all hurting.”
She has also examined her abuse of drugs and alcohol (prior to being diagnosed with bipolar disorder), surviving a gang rape at 17, and enduring sexual molestation in her childhood by her own father, which is openly in her official artist bio. Yet Lambert herself remains breathtakingly positive; where others shake hands with newcomers, Lambert hugs.
Despite her music’s emotion freight, Lambert insists it’s cool if fans are into her stuff just for the melody, not the message. “Totally,” she agrees. “I want my music to be accessible.
“You don’t have to be totally conscious and pulling apart every single lyric to like it. That’s the beauty of writing pretty music. I want five-year-olds to be able to sing my music and love it despite any subversive messaging it might have.
“Striking that balance was the trick but I feel like I found it. This new record [coming in October] is my dream record. And the whole writing process feels divine. I wish I could claim some control over it but it really feels as though I am just a vessel for something that needs to be said.”
Asked what cause she’d drop everything to play a benefit concert for, Lambert responds: “I would do a lot of things. I did a benefit for the National Eating Disorders Association of America (NEDA). I am doing a benefit for a foundation that offers emergency pediatric care for kids.”
She continues: “My dream when I make some serious money – and this is going to sound so Miss America – is: I would really like to start a charity where free mental health services were offered to those who need them, especially among the homeless population.
“So many people need mental health care and it’s not often included in insurance. That’s crazy to me. As someone who is bi-polar, I live with this issue every day. And thank god I am privileged enough to be on medication, which is crazy expensive.
“Honestly, there are a ton of things I would love to improve upon,” she cackles sweetly. “And I plan to.”/homme/nike-dunk-sb