Mary Lambert is the Seattle based singer-songwriter who writes fearlessly about her personal demons, the struggle for gay rights, and the crucial power of empathy. Ben Kelly went to find out how the voice behind Same Love developed into a voice for an empowered generation.
“I was so shocked when I heard Same Love on hip hop radio, on rap radio,” Mary explains, as we sit down in The Langham Hotel in London, where she’s kicked off her shoes and tucked them underneath her. “It was already a big deal that it was on the radio, that was insane. Cos we did the song and I was like ‘I don’t know if it’s gonna go anywhere’, it’s a rap song about gay rights, that’s not gonna go anywhere! I never expected it.”
Same Love was a slow burner, but gradually built to become the biggest song, and the biggest talking point in the world; culminating in a 2014 Grammy Award performance which saw Queen Latifah officiate the marriages of 33 couples on stage, before Madonna joined for a rendition of Open Your Heart. Standing with her arm around Lambert, singing the Same Love lyrics with her must have been the greatest moment of her career? “Yeah it’s up there!” she giggles. “We had intense rehearsals, like four 3 hour rehearsals, so we spent a lot of time together, it was amazing. I mean, she’s Madonna! It was really exciting because we were trying to figure out how to best make the two songs mash and she would be like ‘How do you do this part’ and I’d be stammering like, ‘I sing it like this, but you don’t have to, you can do whatever you want!’ I was really nervous. But she was really sweet.”
Watching the clip back on YouTube, it’s hard not to get teary eyed, and Lambert herself lets it all out towards the end. “I cry all the time and we were at the very last rehearsal and I cried for collectively like six hours during one of the rehearsals, but Madonna came over and wiped the tears off of my face, and I was like ‘I’m dead!’ I haven’t washed my face since!”
“I think the world changes because of social and political facets and I am proud to say that we’re part of a pop cultural movement – especially the Grammy performance. That is something you can point to and say ‘this is important’, and the reason I was crying so much was because, it wasn’t just big in my career – it meant so much to me as a lesbian and as part of the community, and that I get to do this in my lifetime, I get to witness it, and be there, and be a part of it, and that feels really big. It feels important. I’m proud to be a visible figure in some way. It’s OK. It’s OK to be exactly who you are, people love and accept you for exactly who you are. I’m like, a plus sized bipolar lesbian that talks about social issues,” she laughs heartily, “and if I am up here on a platform getting to do those things, I think there is definitely positive change in the world. I never thought I was going to be able to do this.”
Mary Lambert releases her single She Keeps Me Warm on 24 July and the album Heart On My Sleeve on 31 July. She plays the Hoxton Bar and Grill in London on 29 July. marylambertsings.com
Mary chats about her religious upbringing, surviving abuse, and her forthcoming music in the full interview, available in the July issue of Attitude out now in shops. It’s available to download from PocketMags.com/Attitude, and in print at NewsStand.co.uk/Attitude.