Unafraid to speak her mind, Mary Lambert is proud to say that in her eyes, everyone qualifies as a babe. Conveniently, “Everyone is a Babe” is the name of her tour, where she’ll be showcasing her newest EP “Bold.” Lambert, who is openly gay, got a kickstart to her career in 2012 when she had just graduated college and had begun setting herself up as an artist in Seattle. Her friend was working with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on a song called “Same Love.” The track was missing both an LGBTQ voice and its hook. In less than three hours, Lambert wrote it and it translated to a track that got 189 million views on YouTube. Since then, Lambert has been hard at work promoting her newest tour and her latest music project. BTL caught up with Lambert while she was en route to her Houston, Texas, performance to chat about her exploration of various mediums, not being a phony and the importance of being OK with one’s emotional state.
“Bold” takes the listener on a journey. It starts off with a spoken word piece, goes into high-intensity pop, and ends with a peaceful duet with your mother. Was that wave-like approach intentional?
I wanted a good arc. My passion is in music composition, so I’m really focused on orchestral writing and symphonic composition. I feel like that’s always in my blood a little bit, so I think of things in terms of a mathematical quality, of a balance, of making sure that things always come out to zero (laughs). And I think that’s why that arc is really necessary that there’s balance. I’m also bipolar (laughs) – that’s got to also be part of the equation.
Did you always have plans to include a spoken word piece as the second track?
Spoken word is just a part of my artistic expression. I love songwriting, but there is sort of desire to think pragmatically about how something functions or the techniques, “Does this fit right here in the chorus?” I just feel like there’s a bit more freedom with spoken word. They’re just different beasts, and I love the ability and the privilege to do both recording-wise and performance-wise. I just feel like if I could do pottery, I would also do pottery (laughs). I just have so many feelings and I need to get them out. I need two art forms to do it, because there’s so much. Do you really think everyone is a babe? Everybody is a babe is something that I tweeted three years ago (laughs). It’s just something that I always felt like saying: “Everybody is a babe!” Of course, it’s the same theme of like, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and those sort of things. There’s just so many great things that “babe” means. As a femme, I feel like it’s very prevalent in our world, and I think there’s been this resurgence of the word which I love. I’m working on the next album, and it’s dark and sad, which is good. It’s cathartic and important, but I wanted to have a celebration before I just punch everyone in the throat. (Laughs)
Where did you get the idea for your latest single, “Know Your Name”?
I just wanted to start partnering with different producers, and I would love to write some pop songs. And so they (Kobalt Publishing) introduced me to Tobias Karlsson who was sort of from the Max Martin camp. I went to his house and the musical track was already done and I thought, “Oh, this is so punchy and fun.” And it’s a familiar narrative of – I don’t know if anybody else does this, maybe I’m just totally delusional – but if someone cute walks into a room, I’ve created an entirely new life (laughs) and we have children, and we have dogs! I just wanted it to be fun, and I wanted people to crank it in the summertime and think about their crush, too.
Where did the arcade setting come in for the music video?
There’s a barcade by my house that I love so much, and I was there with my assistant and she kind of was like, “Hey, what if the ‘Know Your Name’ the tag was about someone having the best score and you don’t know who they are, but you know their initials,” and I loved it. I love the “Bad Blood” music video. I just think it’s so badass, and I was like, “I want to make my own girl group!” I knew I wanted it to be very queer and diverse and so I had to have some of my friends in it and have this sort of hilarious, post-apocalyptic vibe in an arcade, and just have these babes that were taking over the arcade in modern time, during the day. I wanted the absurdity to be part of the humor, and I had met Sara Ramirez a year prior to that and I had asked if she wanted to do it. She was super into it, too.
By the time you’ll be at the Blind Pig, your tour will be nearly over. Do you find you change how you perform songs throughout your tours?
Absolutely. Yeah, if there’s one thing that I try to be firm with myself about it’s to be sure that I’m connected when I’m performing. I cannot stand lying through a song that I don’t believe in. If I don’t feel a song, I’m not going to perform it. There’s quite a few songs that I don’t feel, so I don’t perform. I’m performing it, because whatever the desire is, it has to be there. Otherwise, I’m a phony. I don’t want to be a phony.
If you had to sum it all up, what’s the one message you hope fans get from your tour? That it’s OK to be where you’re at. I feel whether you just got out of college and you don’t know what you’re doing, or you’re dealing with trauma and you feel like you haven’t come far enough, or you’re continually making bad decision in relationships, it’s OK to be where you’re at. Everybody is doing their best. And come to my show and cry! (Laughs)
Mary Lambert will be at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor on Feb. 8. More information about the show and ticket information can be found at marylambertsings.com.