Mary Lambert is having the busiest month of her life. “There’s like four huge things happening to me in the next two weeks, and I’m really just trying to keep my head away from my… I can’t even get words out! I’ve become inarticulate!” Four years ago, the singer songwriter was nearly homeless, but this Sunday evening she will step on stage to perform at the VMAs. That’s the whirlwind her life has been ever since she connected with rap artist Macklemore to collaborate on the song that has become an anthem of sorts for the LGBT community, “Same Love.”
The chorus from that anthem is now it’s very own fully fledged song, and Lambert’s very first music video. The project surrounding “She Keeps Me Warm” was a triumph in many ways. She ensured the video crew was entirely female, and entirely queer. The video, which premiered on Billboard.com today, is a love story at heart and really the first of its kind. “I just wanted to provide a visibility for a lesbian relationship.”
The songstress spoke with BuzzFeed about her new music video, the importance of curvy women, and the many struggles of online dating.
BuzzFeed: Did you think this would happen so fast?
Mary Lambert: No, I didn’t. I was like two shakes away from being homeless four years ago. I slept in my car for a couple of days, I didn’t have a bed. I mean, this time last year I was working three jobs, and I was working like 60 hours a week. I was really trying to save, I wanted to put everything in my music, and I had gotten back on my feet at that point, but my intention was to go to graduate school and be a teacher.
I took two years off, I was going to take two years off and record my album and really try to make it as an artist, because I felt like, it’s worth a shot. I know people don’t make it but why not just try and do it, and it was like as soon as I put that intention out there, I got this call, and my life was just dramatically changed.
“Same Love” has become an anthem for a lot of people, did you ever think it would have such an astounding impact?
ML: I think this was a song I wanted to write for a long time, but every time I tried to write a socially-conscious gay rights song, it just felt contrived […] So this provided a perfect context for this goal that I had […] I think at least for “She Keeps Me Warm,” it was never my intention for this song to be political. I think it’s inherently political because I think being gay is always political. For me, it’s just being genuine and honest about songwriting.
I think artists are scared to have same-gendered pronouns in their writing, and I don’t think it’s because they’re scared to be out, because gay artists are visible, but they don’t want to alienate an audience. So when you have “Same Love,” and it’s just really taken on a life of its own, and hearing women of all ages sing “She keeps me warm” at the top of their lungs — they don’t give a shit about what pronoun it is. They get that it’s about love, so I think that’s really given me perspective. I think people can deal with it, and they get it.
The song itself has received such a positive response from the world, but did you receive any negative feedback personally?
ML: I think I literally just got my hate email two weeks ago, and I’m just like bring it on. I think honestly that’s what is going to happen with my music video. I’m really gearing up for some heavy hate because it’s not just going to be about being gay— it’s going to be about me being plus-sized and portraying a romantic role. So, just gearing up, I sort of feel like I’ve toughened up. And of course there’s been YouTube comments, but at this point I just — It doesn’t affect me. I have one video up, and someone said, “Wow, she needs to lose some pounds.” And I’m just like, “Hey, I’m playing at the VMAs.”
Music, as well as your poetry, seems to have played an extremely therapeutic role in your life.
ML: Music for me is a bit more spiritual. There are moments when I’m sitting at my piano, and I don’t realize that I’ve been playing for two hours — it feels like divine power. I know it’s so cheesy.
I started songwriting when I was about six, and that was around the time that I was realizing that I was in an abusive home, and that it wasn’t normal to get molested, to be beaten, so for me it was this immediate outlet to express something. I wrote the saddest songs when I was like ten to twelve. I mean, I still write the saddest songs, I haven’t changed. But I think that if I didn’t have it, I would have killed myself. I think I would have died of sadness. I was a really, really depressed kid. I’ve always battled with mental disorders, but the music really creates this sanity.
I think that it’s important for — I think I just care so much about humanity, and I care so much specifically about women […] I would say 80% of the women I know have been raped, molested, harrassed, or felt violated by a man — and what that says to you psychologically? “I deserved that.”
I just want women to know that they don’t deserve that, that there is still so much beauty in themselves and their bodies are not a warground. There are redemtpive qualities in the world, and there are redemptive qualities in themselves.
Your music video for “She Keeps Me Warm” is so unique in that it portrays a lesbian love story. Was this always what you envisioned for the song?
ML: This is the reason I wanted to make this video. Two years ago, I had just seen some lesbian cinema, I mean there’s great lesbian movies out there. So I had just watched this great lesbian movie, and I had just met my girlfriend, and I was just so smitten with everything, and just excited about, I don’t know, I just wanted to watch a gay music video, and I thought, “Well, Tegan and Sara have got to have a video,” or Melissa Etheridge, and there’s nothing. There’s like really badly made, shot on an iPhone videos, and then the only visibility for lesbian relationship is over sexualized women rolling around in lingerie shit. That’s not depicting what it really is, because it makes our sexuality a novelty. It makes it trivial — It’s not like that.
I think that I had the idea for the video before the song came along. This was the video I wanted to make and put with any of my songs, even if they were general pronouns. I just wanted to provide a visibility for a lesbian relationship. But I think the other agenda in the video is that I’m a plus-sized woman, and I think plus-sized bodies are also under attack. Plus-sized bodies are often used as comedic relief — they’re not allowed to be sexy or romantic. I wanted to be in it, and say “I’m hot, I’m a bomb-ass femme, and I can make out with a girl and it can still be hot.”
You have a girlfriend, but she didn’t play your girlfriend in the music video, right?
ML: [Laughs] My girlfriend is so supportive of the art that I do, and she’s able to really separate herself, and I did ask her to play my girlfriend in the video. She’s much more reserved than I am. It makes for a very balanced relationship, because I get to be the star, and she gets to make food for me. She was very supportive of the whole thing, and it was — I kind of was like “Thankyou for letting me make out with another girl for the sake of equality.”
We actually met online. We met on OKCupid. I think it really works out really well for femmes, at least for me, because I go to a gay bar, and I’m percieved as straight. And so, it’s nice to put it out there online — “I’m gay and I want to date a gay girl, that’s what I’m looking for.”
What is the most exciting part about performing at the VMAs?
ML: I picked out my dress. I picked that shit out! […] I’m most excited about the visibility of singing on stage, because I think that it will also — not that I feel like I have something to prove, but it means a lot. It just means a lot. A gay rights song that’s not only gone platinum, but they’re also going to perfom it at the VMAs, that’s great.
It is a little scary to go across the whole country, and basically the world, and be like, “What’s up I’m gay, and you should let me get married everywhere.”I don’t feel like I’m a spokesperson. I just sing what my experience is.”