Q&A: Singer Mary Lambert

Jennifer Hepp, Reporter


Songwriting has always been a part of Mary Lambert’s life — her mother was a singer and songwriter as well. Lambert, who was nominated for a Grammy Award for her collaboration with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis on the song “Same Love,” talked to The Daily about her use of music as an outlet of expression. She also spoke in Lutkin Hall on Tuesday night about the art of songwriting.

The Daily: What does the art of songwriting mean to you?

Lambert: What I like to dive into is really vulnerable songwriting. I would say that I talk about a lot of tough stuff in my art, and things that I think are typically difficult to talk about in regular life. To put them in a song and broadcast them is sometimes a challenge, but also incredibly rewarding. That’s a big part of what I do. It’s what I know to talk about, and that’s kind of my experience.

The Daily: How did you initially become interested in songwriting?

Lambert: For me, writing was a way I knew how to express feeling, and I grew up in an abusive home. Songwriting for me was a means of survival. And I know for some people it’s more of a craft or an art form. As I become more stable and grounded in my personal life and own mental health, it has become more of a craft. It’s nice to have both sides where there’s the really emotional pure raw feeling when you write, and then there’s actually thinking technically about how my songs respond to my audience and form and structure.

The Daily: What is your songwriting process?

Lambert: I’ll sit at my piano, and I’ll come up with a few chords and come up with something that is enjoyable for my ear to play and then I start humming. I’ll come up with a melody that I like, and then to that melody I’ll start singing random words that don’t make any sense or phrases that are really cliche so I can feel really free and know rhythmically how my lyrics are going to fit into the melody. And from there, I start dissecting what my feeling and my intention is for the song. I think about what needs to be said in my life, what needs to be said in the world. First I think about intention, then I think about ways to communicate through that lyrically. And then from there just form develops — what could be a chorus, what feels more like a verse, and then there it is.

The Daily: How did it feel to collaborate with Macklemore on “Same Love” and to get a Grammy nomination for the song?

Lambert: Doing “Same Love” was such a rich experience because it really started from me doing spoken word, and spoken word is a big part of my life and artistry. … A mutual friend of mine and Macklemore’s told him that I was also a songwriter, and they were stuck on this song about gay rights, and the song talked a lot about the Christian church and being gay in the church, and as a gay Christian I talked about those things and to kind of find a home in that intersectionality. So they asked me to do it, just as a trial, and they loved it and I loved doing it, and it was such a natural fit. It was really fulfilling. I felt like it was a very rare honor to be a part of that experience and to have contributed in that way. And I think it was life altering. It really threw me on this trajectory of where I am now, and I wouldn’t be here without that song.

The Daily: What’s next?

Lambert: I’ve been working on a song with my girlfriend. We wrote the song together and we’re producing it together, and I’ll be releasing it in June with a music video, and it’s gonna be really huge. I’m so excited for that. And then an album should be coming out in the fall.

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