By Jill Christensen
A half-eaten jar of Nutella and a birthday card given four months too early.
This was the gift that three-time Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Mary Lambert gave to one of her best friends, Rose McAleese, to make her feel better after losing the National Poetry Slam in Boston almost seven years ago.
“It wasn’t even my birthday, but she just thought a birthday card was better than a sympathy I’m sorry card,” said McAleese. “It was practically the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me.”
Today, Lambert continues to channel that same sincerity through her songs and poetry by speaking about tough issues, embracing all parts of herself, and admitting that life is rough, but it does get better. With the launch of her first EP Bold, earlier this year, Lambert began the Everybody is a Babe Tour on Oct. 21 in San Diego.
Lambert is widely recognized for her collaboration with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on the Grammy-nominated and award-winning song, “Same Love”, as well as for her 2014 Grammy performance with Madonna.
“If I’m talking in a classic sense of achievement, my greatest achievement would be like yeah the 2014 Grammy’s, doing a duet with Madonna,” said Lambert. “But personally what I feel as an artist, is the album I’m working on now … being in the production chair and not having a lot of voices encouraging my sound one way or the other and taking charge in that sense has been really empowering and feels like an achievement.”
Originally from Everett, Wash. and a graduate from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Lambert will return to the rainy city on Oct. 29 for her Seattle stop at the Crocodile Cafe.
“I get to tour with my best friends and play really fun music and dance around on stage and it’s like a big feelings party,” said Lambert. “It’s also really a celebration of Bold and this new chapter of being and sharing my whole self.”
The tour consists of song, poetry, and performances from Mal Bum, as well as other spoken word artists. Opening for Lambert in Seattle is Ebo Barton, a six-time finalist of the Seattle Poetry Slam Grand Slam.
“Being able to introduce such an incredible performer is what I’m most excited for,” said Barton. “Mary has inspired me to tell the truth that is the truth for me.”
In Lambert’s catchy pop single, “Secrets,” the first couple lyrics of the song read: “I’ve got bi-polar disorder. My shit’s not in order. I’m overweight. I’m always late.”
“Mary genuinely wants to make the world a better place and I think one of the most important things about what Mary does, is she does it from like a non-cheesy positive way,” said McAleese. “She kind of comes from it like yeah life sucks but how can we make it better.”
Lambert does not hide who she is. She has publicly shared her story multiple times about being sexually abused by her father, surviving gang rape, contemplating taking her own life, and growing up gay in a Pentecostal household.
“Mary’s childhood was full of a lot of sadness and a lot of darkness yet that never stopped her,” said McAleese. “I feel like her childhood really taught her how to be humble and how to love and how to see light in the darkest of moments.”
Throughout her work, Lambert continues to express her vulnerability, whether it’s posting a photo on social media of herself crying after experiencing a bipolar episode, or dancing around in a crop top.
“She just wants to remind people like it’s okay if you’re having a shitty day, it’s okay if you have mental health problems,” said McAleese. “I think she really wants to be kind of a reminder it’s okay to be bold. … It’s okay to be who you are no matter what that is, no matter what that looks like.”
Some of the ways Lambert is attempting to help others move past their dark times and look forward is by focusing on honesty and self love.
“Mary has portrayed someone that I want to be,” said Kassie McNamara, a local fan of Lambert’s. “She tends to be honest almost to the point of being brutal and I think a lot of people who have lived through what she has lived through appreciate that.”
McNamara originally connected to Lambert’s music when she was going through a tough time herself.
“We both have very similar stories. We both grew up in Seattle and we both come from conservative places in church,” said McNamara. “When I was like 16, I felt like no one understood what I was going through and then I found her music and I was like, she gets it.”
Lambert recently started selling her “Everybody is a Babe” red crop top. Through social media, Lambert has been known to flaunt crop tops as a way to embrace her own body image. By doing this, Lambert inspired McNamara to purchase the first crop top she owns.
“For me, the real healing has been painful and dirty and not fun and not a rainbow,” said Lambert. “It’s been really intense and the best way I think to encourage vulnerability is to put the lense on yourself, because if you’re coming to the table and being authentic and transparent and showing all aspects of that then it’s an immediate invitation for some else to meet you there and say, ‘me too.’”
Lambert used music and spoken word as a way to help her express her pain and feelings in her own healing process that she originally learned from her mother.
“For a lot of my childhood my mom was in an abusive relationship and she would channel a lot of her pain into songwriting,” said Lambert. “She’s got a glorious voice and just hearing her play piano into the night was really comforting and I understood the power of that cathartic healing that music could do and so I sort of took from that example.”
Lambert first started to play guitar when she was about eight years old. When she was 13, she had seven songs written and told her mom she was ready to be famous.
After being turned down by numerous coffee shops, when Lambert inquired for a in-house musician job at the age of 13, she finally started playing guitar at a Starbucks near her house in Everett for free.
“Mary easily could have given up. Life really gave her the short end of the stick and she was always able to bounce back and make the best of it,” said McAleese. “She is living her dream right now of touring and making music.”
Whether it’s unapologetically dancing and crying, or making fun of herself, Lambert continues to embrace this positivity on and off stage throughout her tour.
“Mary is still the same nerdy girl that I met when were like 16,” said McAleese. “She’s a huge nerd. She loves cats, and she cries all the time.”