Besides being the year of rapper Macklemore and his producer Ryan Lewis, 2013 was a year that introduced singer Mary Lambert to the world.
Macklemore’s “Same Love” became an anthem for those supporting gay marriage, and it was Lambert’s short but powerful hook — “She keeps me warm” — that made the song one of the most poignant of the year.
The song became a highlight of the 2014 Grammy Awards earlier this year, with scores of same-sex couples getting married during the performance, which also included Madonna joining Lambert and Macklemore onstage to show her support.
Lambert will be opening for singer-songwriters Matt Nathanson and Gavin DeGraw on Sunday, June 29, at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City. She answered questions posed by The Salt Lake Tribune about the song (which sparked her own “She Keeps Me Warm”) and her memorable year.
When did your creative relationship with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis develop, and how?
Ben [Macklemore] and Ryan and I had a mutual friend in common, Hollis. Hollis had been so supportive of my work and saw an opportunity for me when the boys were stuck on the hook for “Same Love.” I was actually a last resort. I think the stars aligned for the song, though. When I do think about it, there is magic surrounding “Same Love.”
Did you expect the type of response “Same Love” received, as well as the grand performance that became a momentous event at the Grammy Awards?
Absolutely not. Not in a million years. Maybe in my most indulgent dreams, though.
Did you have any memorable experiences at the Grammys or elsewhere since “Same Love” became popular?
I really treasure the stories I hear from fans. How the song impacted another human is the most gratifying above any celebrity interaction. There are fun things like Madonna wiping away my tears at rehearsal. That’s kind of priceless, but to me, getting an email about how the song became a vessel for a kid coming out to his parents is so meaningful. That’s huge. That’s the stuff that propels you.
How long did it take you to compose the hook for “Same Love,” and where did you draw the imagery from?
I wrote the hook to “Same Love” in 3 hours. I just wanted to tell my story. I felt like this song was a gift from the universe, asking me to write my story for other people to hear. I wanted to reach into people’s hearts on an emotional level. Ben had sort of already unpacked the rational side of the gay marriage debate, but I knew my story needed to fit in too.
Is it OK to cry when I hear “Same Love” or your other songs?
Yes! Crying is so good for you. Cry! It’s healthy and it cleans your eyes out. I cry every day. I just feel everything so intensely all the time that the only way I know how to process it is to just cry. I cried at the lady doing my nails for an hour yesterday. Which seems silly, right? But the beauty of that extreme vulnerability is that we had a really heartfelt conversation. You can’t buy that.
Why do you summon up such intense personal traumas — are you worried about appearing too vulnerable, or is it more of a cathartic experience?
That’s something I have to ask myself a lot. I don’t want to be exploitative about my trauma, but I think vulnerability will save us all. I’m never scared of being too vulnerable. That’s my thing. I am scared of crying too hard that I can’t get words out. That’s not my thing. Talking about my childhood abuse isn’t necessarily as cathartic as much as talking about body image is. I have to be careful when and how I’m talking about any abuse. But talking about those difficult things on a massive scale hopefully encourages others to be more open about their issues. So much of society’s issues are surrounded by shame and guilt, so we never end up talking about them. You think about the influx of shootings that we’ve seen, and you ask yourself, “How could this be prevented?” I believe it’s the sheer act of honest conversation and our connections to other people that can prevent tragedies like that.
Tell me about your music career and where you hope it will land.
I am constantly overwhelmed with the beauty and response that I get from my music. It is an honor to continue to do what I love. My wish is that I make music that is thoughtful, beautiful and catchy. I want to put music out in the world that isn’t for the sake of my own ego, but makes the world better. Writing “Same Love” taught me that it is possible for a thoughtful song with depth and real message to be successful. Which shouldn’t be mistaken for “I don’t care about the money,” because I want to buy a house for my mom this year. Someone whose career I really admire is Adele’s. She made such incredibly successful albums, all with depth and class, and then totally bounced to have her baby. I want to have babies in the future. I am ready to be on the road and work really hard for these next couple years, but I am really looking forward to the time I can just settle down and get married and hide away in the woods.
How did the tour with Matt Nathanson and Gavin DeGraw come about? Will opening for them be a great opportunity to expose people to your entire work? Could you talk about your new album?
I am so excited to open for Matt and Gavin. It’s an honor to play with such talented guys. They also have a different fan base than I do, so that is going to be new territory for me. I’ll be playing my upcoming single on this tour, “Secrets,” and my full band is with me to help. I just wrapped up recording my first full-length record called “Heart on My Sleeve” and couldn’t be more thrilled with how it turned out. It is a lyric-heavy album with pop production, but there are some neat hip-hop elements, and some straight-ahead singer-songwriter tracks, too. It’s my dream album. It’s so hard to keep it under wraps. I want to tell everyone.
Gavin DeGraw, Matt Nathanson, Mary Lambert
When • Sunday, 7 p.m.
Where • Red Butte Garden, 300 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $45 to garden members, $50 to general public, at redbuttegarden.org