Mary Lambert is not afraid to get real with you. Nor does she care if her show makes you uncomfortable — or even leaves you in tears. Fortunately, the singer-songwriter is also quick to follow up with a good fart joke. It might sound crass, but the effect is, in truth, more heartfelt than off-putting.
Known best for her featured voice in hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ 2012 song “Same Love,” Lambert went on to release her own full-length album “Heart on My Sleeve” in 2014. Gay City News caught up with her after her November 17 show at SubCulture in SoHo and asked about the early days of her career, her rise to fame, and where she is today.
Recalling when she was one of the first acts to ever play at SubCulture, Lambert explained that her mental state has shifted a lot since then.
Mary Lambert is open to a real give and take with an audience open to same
“I was sort of chasing this thing that I thought that I wanted — that I thought was what everybody wants,” she said. “I was never like, ‘I want to be famous,’ but I really wanted my message and my reach to be as big as possible.”
Almost as a self-described “freak accident,” Lambert’s career took off with the viral success of Macklemore’s “Same Love.” She’s certainly grateful for the exposure and what it did for her career, but she admitted that the overnight success took a huge emotional toll on her, keeping her away from her family and girlfriend for most of the year that followed.
“I don’t care if a million people would cut off their arms to do it, I want to have a balanced life,” she said. “I am not someone who can do this forever. So I wanted to figure out how to make it sustainable for me.”
That sustainability came with Lambert taking a step back in order to take control of her career and make peace with herself. It can be a tough, brave decision to back away from celebrity and take stock of one’s career, but it is one Lambert seems comfortable with.
A trademark of Lambert’s shows is her mix of brutal honesty paired with a unique whimsical humor. Even some of the most experienced entertainers would have trouble talking about their troubled family upbringing before transitioning to a joke about puppies. But, Lambert explained, this whole truth is her only truth.
“I feel that I don’t know any other way that I could possibly exist and that would be fulfilling to me,” she said. “If I was anything less than completely and cuttingly vulnerable, I would be unhappy.”
And that, she believes, is key to the strong bond she enjoys with her fans.
“If I want to connect with people, I’ve never seen being vulnerable backfire,” Lambert said. “I talk a lot about vulnerability. There have been times when I’m like, ‘Man, is it worth it because some people feel entitled to your story?’ But I think that you never know what impact you’ve made on somebody. And even if you feel like they have taken something from you, it could be good.”
And it’s good for her, too.
“I feel like I have a story to tell and I want to speak my truth,” she said. “That’s empowering to me and an experience I enjoy and I think other people enjoy.”
Judging by the packed crowd at SubCulture on a chilly November evening, it is safe to say that the impact Lambert is having is something people are eager to come back for more of.