Before 2013, virtually no one knew the name Mary Lambert. At the time, the Seattle native was performing politically-fueled spoken word poetry at small venues around her hometown and bartending on the side, biding her time until something better came along. Then Macklemore called. "I wanted to deeply impact the world, and I thought politics was going to be my route," Lambert told InStyle. "After I got asked to do 'Same Love,' I thought, 'Maybe this is where the real impact can happen.' I think you can really shift popular opinion through pop culture."
After the gay rights anthem dominated the charts, Lambert, who holds a bachelor’s degree in music composition from Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts and served as a delegate in the democratic caucus for Obama at the ripe age of 18, continues to change the political conversation via her music. Her latest album, Heart on My Sleeve, draws from her real-life romance with The Voice's former contestant Michelle Chamuel, and this spring, she's set to cameo on MTV's Faking It, the teen dramedy about a same-sex couple.
We caught up with Lambert at our NYC office before she embarked on tour with The Script. Here's an excerpt from our conversation:
First off, how did the collaboration with Macklemore come about?
Honestly, those guys ran out of options—they had already asked everybody. I was very much a last resort. They sent the track to me, I had two hours with it, I took a shot of tequila and was like, "Okay, let’s get down to business." Then I went in the studio that night and recorded it with them.
It’s become somewhat of an anthem for same-sex couples. Did you ever have any idea it would have such a big impact within the LGBT community?
Not at all. I try to take everything with a grain of salt, so I was prepared for it to not end up panning out. Then when we went on Ellen, I thought to myself, "Nothing is real."
Your life must have changed dramatically after the song came out.
I was bartending when I recorded "Same Love," and when it was on the radio too. I remember overhearing people talking about the song while I was making them drinks. When the video came out, things really started blowing up. I went from playing shows for 15 people to 8,000 people.
The Grammys was such a big moment, too.
It was the most emotional day of my life. I was just a wreck in the weeks leading up to it. During the dress rehearsal, they brought all the couples in that were going to get married onstage and I just lost it. Then Madonna came and wiped the tears off my face. I just melted after that.
Let’s talk about your new single, “Secrets.” Do you actually wear mom jeans and cat earrings?
At this point, I have 10 pairs of cat earrings, because fans bring them to me. The next song I write, I'm going to be like, "I love Chanel."
Where do you like to shop?
It’s taken me a long time to enjoy shopping. As a plus-size girl, you walk into a store, and it can sometimes be like a designer doesn’t know you exist. It’s become a fun treasure hunt. I like City Chic, Rum+Coke, ModCloth, and ASOS.
You have such an internal energy when you perform. What’s your mantra?
Self-love has been a big process for me. I just had a revelation two nights ago where I was like, "It’s taken me six years to stop hating my body and myself." I genuinely want to connect with people on a human level—that’s what propels me. I think vulnerability is the key to empathy, and if we can all collectively be vulnerable, I think the world’s going to be better.
Have you ever considered going into politics?
I think I have a clearer much more profound impact in pop culture. I’m one of the writers that would die if I didn’t say what I needed to say. For me, it’s a matter of survival to write.
Watch the video for "Secrets" below, and buy Heart on My Sleeve for $12 on the iTunes Store.