Mary Lambert Gets Distance From Trauma, Now Has Album and TV Show To Focus On

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

For longtime fans of the singer, Mary Lambert, who rocketed to fame in 2012 with the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis hit, “Same Love,” it may be something of a revelation to hear that she’s doing pretty darn good right now. Lambert, who has been vocal over the years about struggling with past traumas, mental health issues and enduring a violent past, hasn’t always felt safe or comfortable in her own skin. But now, with perhaps a pair of fingers and toes crossed for luck, Lambert feels relatively at ease. The artist, who has seen success in multiple mediums since singing the indelible chorus on love, is poised to release a new holiday album on Friday. She also recently announced a key role in a new Netflix television show, Arlo The Alligator Boy. Now, therefore, is as good a time as ever to celebrate the season with the forthcoming record, Happy Holigays.

“I was doing some really serious trauma therapy,” Lambert says. “Digging through and trying to heal through it. That’s not to say I’ve closed the chapter on all my trauma but I feel like I have some distance and space from it in a way I haven’t ever before in my life. I think part of it is because I sat in it for so long. I wanted to look at it under a microscope and learn about neural pathways and how trauma affects the brain. I needed to know all that so that I could have some peace. I feel like I’m in my peaceful era!”

After “Same Love” sailed around the world millions of times over, the type of success that Lambert experienced taught her an important lesson. It created a baseline from which her work would forever be compared and from which her work should grow, she says. When you’re there as Madonna is marrying couples left and right at the 2014 Grammy’s with Queen Latifah, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis in attendance on stage – that can change you.

“In terms of that era,” Lambert says. “It’s a foundation of my career and my life. It’s active for me. All those memories charged so much of what I do and how I want to accomplish what I do now. It was such a profound gift to have ‘Same Love’ by my first breakout song, to have that be the start of this incredible career with lots of different turns.”

Lambert’s new holiday record is tremendous. There is joy baked into the six-track album, a type maybe not so clear or evident on past releases. There’s always a great deal of skill in Lambert’s work, whether a book of poems, a new record or a TV appearance, but an honest sense of comfort wasn’t always evident in the music. On Happy Holigays, Lambert begins with the teary-eyed, “Seasonal Depression” but then nimbly moves to the cute “Christmas Cookies,” and the eye-opening operatic, “Ave Maria,” to the delightful, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”

“I just wanted to make something fun,” Lambert says. “I wanted to create something with a bit of levity.”

The concept for the record’s debut single, “Seasonal Depression,” went through a few iterations. At first, Lambert wanted to call the song, “All I Want For Christmas Is Therapy,” but Lambert wanted the song to be filled with self-care ideas that were accessible to everyone. Since therapy isn’t always accessible to everyone who needs it, she thought the idea over again and landed on smaller, more personal ideas of things to sing about that she likes around the holidays, including napping, snacking and spending time with her partner.

“I always wanted to make a holiday album,” Lambert says. “I love saying, ‘Happy Holigays!’”

Lambert is often considerate of her devout audience. They have stuck by her through thick and thin, ups and downs, chaos and now peace. Lambert is close to her audience – so much so that she bristles at the term “fans.” That word is too impersonal for the musician. Instead, her supporters often feel like friends and chosen family. Lambert considers herself immensely lucky for these connections because she knows deeply what life can be like without warmth, access and in fear of what others might do to her in the name of violence. Lambert, who grew up in a Pentecostal Church outside of Seattle, said the congregation disowned her and her family when her mother divorced an abusive partner. And when she fell in love with a woman, all ties were cut.

“We were completely ostracized from the church almost immediately,” Lambert says. “We were in extreme poverty and we relied on the church for clothing and food. So, all of a sudden my mom had no partner, no child support and no support system. She had to figure out how to do it.”

Lambert watched her mother, who had been a worship bandleader in the church, subvert her pain through music. Songwriting was her key to a better life and Lambert followed in these footsteps. Art, expression and simply making things that were her own became Lambert’s primary focus. She stayed focused on these despite enduring her own abuses and difficulties. Today, however, all of the hard work, all of the perseverance is proving worth it. The new album and the new Netflix cartoon role, in which she voices a 15-foot tall lady named Bertie, is a sign that she’s on the right journey.

“I’m just a big, fat, angelic girl that has felt alone her whole life,” Lambert says of Bertie. “This is a character I wish I would have seen when I was eight-years-old. That’s my life goal. I want to be the person I needed when I was younger.”

This year, Lambert will celebrate the holidays with her loving partner, who gifted the artist an honest-to-god metal detector for the Christmas prior. The present, she says, along with the guitar her mother gave her on Lambert’s thirteenth birthday, may be the best gifts she’s ever received. That she can celebrate a goofy gift like that is a sign Lambert is, well, doing just fine. And while she’s put in the internal work for this to be the case, it is thanks in large part to the influence music has had on her life that the best days for the artist are yet to come.

“The power and influence that music has can affect many people at the same time,” Lambert says. “That’s uniting, empathy building. It’s about connection. That’s what propels me.”

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