Mary Lambert on Critics of Macklemore's "Same Love": "I'm Gay and Part of the Song, Too!"
Though Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Same Love" technically dropped in 2012, the song really hit its stride this year when it became an anthem for LGBTQ rights as well as a hot topic. Mary Lambert-- the singer-songwriter, spoken word artist, and heartwrenchingly silken vocals behind the song's beautiful chorus--has been along for the ride with her fellow Seattle artists and has even joined them on their successful fall tour to sing along to the song that's helped make her a rising artist outside of just her local scene.
Last month, we spoke with Lambert about "Same Love" and her solo art just before she kicked off the tour with Macklemore. Now, she and the boys are in New York City, and when she's not uptown with them, she'll be making an appearance downtown, stepping out on her own with messages worth listening to.
See also: Critics Need to Lay Off Macklemore
Are you excited to be joining Macklemore every night to sing "Same Love"? I love it. I love it so much. It would be different if it were surrounded by ego, but everyone is confident and cares so much about what they do. It's so much about the craft and about family. It's the best environment to be in. They're my tour family.
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How far back do you, Macklemore, and Ryan Lewis go? Did you meet just for the song? Yeah! We met the day we recorded the song.
Oh, wow. How did they find you and how did you get into contact with them for this track? We have a mutual friend named Hollis. She's the one who sings on "White Walls." She's a good friend of mine and had been such a supporter of my work early on in the poetry community. In the Seattle scene, everyone just wants to see each other succeed. Hollis had been working with Ben [Haggerty (Macklemore)] and Ryan and helping them write on some stuff and knew they were stuck on this song. Hollis suggested me. They ran out of options, so she played them my YouTube video and they were like "alright, what do we have to lose?" I had about two hours with the track and wrote four different choruses. I went in and sang it for them, and they cried. We tracked it that night. That was my first time meeting them.
Were you wary at first about agreeing to sing on such a political song that deals with LGBTQ rights? I was nervous about my safety. I sort of accepted that when I came out that I was going to be fearless and that I was going to do whatever I needed to do as an artist. this song embodied all of that. And I've always wanted to write a social/political song, but each time I attempted, it felt really contrived. So when this presented itself, I was like this is my opportunity to express how I feel! And it's not just a song that's applicable to the gay community; it stands up for allies as well.
What kind of response did you most immediately receive in regards to "Same Love"? It was all warm. Lots of hometown pride, too. People from Seattle were fighting, and we're from Seattle so our gay marriage bill was on the ballot. So we were like "OK, we gotta push this." Then it snowballed. I don't think anybody expected it to be [this big].
How do you feel about the critique from the LGBTQ community about Macklemore being the figure delivering this message?
You mean, someone that's a straight white male speaking on behalf of the entire gay community? [Laughs]. I've definitely heard that, and I understand where people are coming from. I think it's also important to acknowledge what intention is and the actual lyrics of the song because the song is not appropriating the struggle of a gay person. It's coming from his experience which is an ally. And I think he does it in a really peaceful, thoughtful way. I think anyone, to be on such a massive platform, who gives a nod to this, I think it's really commendable. And sure, it would be great if it were someone else who were gay. The good news is that I'm gay and part of the song, too! [Laughs]. I feel like it's just all the right pieces of the puzzle. It's interesting how people are so negative! It's important to question and deconstruct the straight institution, but it's also important to stand back and think about [the fact] that this song actually exists and has taken off.
One really great product is that you were able to come out with the full-length single of "She Keeps Me Warm" and get your own music out there. Do you have any plans to roll with this and release an album sometime soon? Oh, yeah. This year has been crazy and it just keeps getting crazier. I'll be on tour with them, but I'm also trying to release an EP by January, and then keep touring as a solo artist. I want to do it all [Laughs]. I might be crazy, and I think I am a little crazy, but it's the right time for it. I'm feeling really sure and clear. This is what I need to be doing right now.
What can we expect from your upcoming release? I am not straying from my poetry. My poetry will still be an aspect of who I am as an artist. I still have my folk roots, so there's going to be some folk [elements] to it. Lyrics are my home, so hopefully the writing reflects that.
Let's talk about your live shows because I've heard they're a very emotional experience. Can you elaborate on the type of response you get when you perform live? It's really interesting because I had never done this many shows in a row, so after [my solo shows] I'm so emotionally spent, and I've just given myself and am just gutted. The thing is about the show is, I think what's beautiful about it is it's a mutual coping. Like, I'm completely opening myself up to perfect strangers and in turn they're showing their vulnerability and crying with me. I feel like it is a really emotional experience, but I also try to keep it light in between songs because I don't want anyone to go home and, you know, cry into their cat. It's important for me that there is balance. What's that quote I love? It's something like "your capacity to feel sorrow matches your capacity to feel joy," or something like that. I feel like that's part of my show. You can feel cleaned out but then that gives you so much more space to have joy in your life.
What, for you, has been the best moment from the journey "Same Love" has taken to becoming this massive hit? I'm torn between a couple of them. Definitely singing at the VMAs. That was an out-of-body experience to be on that platform and to be holding hands with Jennifer Hudson after I voted [on American Idol] for her when I was 16 with my mom. It felt just so surreal. I think the biggest part of it is the people who come up to me after my shows or after the Macklemore shows crying, and the fact that they're not freaking out over meeting somebody famous. They're crying because they're so emotional over something we've written. I think, for me, that's what I always wanted as an artist--to impact in a positive way and create something artistically beautiful as well. People come up and tell me their stories, like "you helped me come out" or "I had an eating disorder, and now I don't hate myself anymore." To be the catalyst for those things is....I don't even know if there's a word for it. It's beyond gratifying.
If you didn't grab tickets to see Mary Lambert at Macklemore's final Theater at Madison Square Garden date tonight, 11/15, then catch her solo show at SubCulture tomorrow, 11/16. She plays at 7:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.
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