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Mary Lambert: From Poet to Pop Star

The 25-year-old Seattle-bred singer, who dominated the charts with her vocal hook on the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis smash ”Same Love,” talks about her full-length solo debut, telling secrets, and sobbing with Madonna

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The lyrics for ”Secrets,” the first single off your new album, Heart on My Sleeve, touches on serious things like your family and your sexuality, but the song also jokes about mom jeans. And the chorus is basically ”Yeah, so what? This is me.”
There was a time in my life when I thought I was too much. I was constantly told I was too loud or too excited, and I just felt like I was freaking people out because I was crying all the time. I came to a place about four years ago when I realized this is who I am and I can’t change anything about it. I’m gonna just embrace that.

How do you try to balance all that on stage?
I want there to be humor regardless of if I’m doing a song about cancer, because we’re all multifaceted…. [My] show is part comedy and part crying music and part spoken word. It’s a true variety show. It’s basically like Carol Burnett.

You’ve said you hope this album helps people the way other artists helped you growing up. Which ones were important to you?
Definitely Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink. That’s the primary reason I sought out [Heart on My Sleeve co-producer] Eric Rosse, because he produced both those records. But I also grew up on Jewel, who has this really candid openness about her issues. Spoken word had a lot to do with it as well. It’s an intense emotional experience, and so vulnerable.

You famously performed ”Same Love” with Madonna at the Grammys earlier this year while Queen Latifah officiated a mass wedding ceremony of gay and straight couples. That must have been nuts.
I was emotional for weeks leading up to it, just a weepy big baby, because it meant so much to me — not just in my career or for my ego, but as a member of the gay community. We had one more final dress rehearsal, and I just got so emotional, I lost it. Everyone was rolling their eyes and getting kind of concerned for the show. And Madonna comes over, she’s got her cutoff leather gloves on and her grill in, and she stands there and goes, ”Oh, sweetie,” and she wipes the tears off my face. I remember standing there stunned, going, What is my life? In what world? I was bartending a year ago! Everything’s coming up Milhouse.