by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
She's back and she's bolder than ever. Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and producer Mary Lambert is set to release her new EP Bold, on May 5, which includes the lead-off single 'Know Your Name.' The former Seattle resident, who gained international recognition when she collaborated with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis on the pro-equality anthem 'Same Love' is continuing to spread positive, inspiring messages about Gay culture and relationships through her music, including the seven tracks on Bold that are best described as 'feel-good queer pop.' Lambert, herself openly-Lesbian, dug deep into her own emotions as she penned each song on the EP, and self-produced three of them. I caught up with the accomplished artist via email to discuss her new music and to find out if we'll be seeing her perform in the Emerald City anytime soon. Read on to find out what she had to say on this and more:
Albert Rodriguez: The last time we spoke, you had just relocated to the East Coast. Are you still there now, or have you moved back to Seattle?
Lambert: Yes, I'm still on the East Coast! I love it here. Seattle will always be a place that I call home, and I make sure that I visit every two months or so.
Rodriguez: Bold is being described as 'feel-good queer pop.' What was on your mind when you wrote these songs?
Lambert: Man. These songs come from all over - some of them are 5, 6 years old. But I would say the general feeling of each of these 7 tracks are resilience, joy, and being completely, head-over-heels in love. Bold means a lot of things - but one dictionary definition that resonated with me is 'necessitating courage' - like there's a self-urgency to being brave. And each of these songs encapsulates their own sort of definition of boldness - whether it's the spoken word in 'Lay Your Head Down,' or the overt female pronoun usage in 'Know Your Name,' or the fact that a lot of this EP was made by women. I hope that the joy and celebration of independence translates to whoever listens to it.
Rodriguez: What's your favorite song on Bold?
Lambert: Each song has a very different origin story, actually, and I think that's kind of what makes it fresh. 'Do Anything,' the first track that I produced on the EP, came about when I parted ways with Capitol Records. I sing a refrain repeatedly at the end: 'I could have stayed and been fine.' That sentiment is about acknowledging the safety in complacency, and that taking a risk and betting on yourself is scary. There's also a duality in that thought: Could I have really been okay on the major label route? Had I continued the intense schedule and pressure of financially-driven music, I don't know that I would have actually been mentally or physically okay. I also had a lot of people within the industry telling me I simply 'couldn't do' something - whether it was foregoing traditional management, or self-producing an album, or pausing my schedule for mental health breaks. The second repeating line in 'Do Anything' just simply says 'Watch me.'
'Know Your Name' is one of my favorite tracks on the EP - it's dancey, it's kind of sexy, and it uses a lot of female pronouns, which I'm super excited about. The producer of this track, Tobias Karlsson, did an amazing job making this punchy, kind of aggressively fun dance song. I wrote it channeling a bit of how I felt when I met my partner - this consuming feeling of 'WHO ARE YOU, I NEED TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU' is pretty relatable, so even though it is gay-gay-gay, I think it's also a universal experience. Not to mention, it was pretty neat having my partner be the mix engineer on this track!
I would also be remiss to not mention that MY MOM (Mary Kay Lambert) is featured on Bold. She wrote a beautiful song for her wife this last Summer, and asked me to sing it. I begged her to let me put it on my record at the last minute, and even though she was adorably nervous, she let me talk her into it. We sing it as a duet, and it still makes me cry.
Rodriguez: You produced three tracks on the new EP. What does that entail and what was that experience like?
Lambert: I have always wanted to be in the producer's chair. It is a daunting and rewarding (and usually ergonomical!) chair to be in. I have so much respect for good producers, because the goal (hopefully) for a producer is to best serve the song and artist, and when you are a creative and hungry artist yourself, sometimes practicing that restraint to serve the art can be very challenging - especially to one's ego. I mean to say that as someone who has 100% only worked with cis, white, male producers up until this EP, I never realized that my voice was never fully expressed. To no fault of those producers - I think this experience is a microcosm of being a woman: The impulse is to take up the least amount of space, and allow for those who 'know best' to take charge. The main incongruence here is that there is no 'correct' way to express your voice - expression is fluid and is very much tied to identity.
An artist can express themselves through the music, but the producer really controls the sound and the way that the music reaches the listener. Depending on what reverbs you use, what preamp or microphone the vocals are recorded through, the sound of the snare - all of those small things add up and can either enhance the listener's connection to the artist, or inhibit it. Therefore, the artist (whether they have more 'technical' know-how or not) might actually have a deeper understanding of how to connect with their listener than the producer. At the end of the day, I guess it's about what an artist is trying to create. If I'm attempting to make a super fun dancey pop song, there's no way I'm going to be the right producer for that - I'm looking for a collaborator. If I'm attempting to make songs that grab you by the chest and pull you emotionally, my voice and direction need to be all over that recording.
I wouldn't have come to these realizations, had it not been for my partner, Michelle Chamuel. She is a beast when it comes to being the sole conduit for her own music. Not only does she engineer her own recordings, but she plays every single instrument in the recording, produces them, mixes them, masters them, designs the artwork, releases it herself - literally start to finish. I am so inspired by her. I may be doing the producing on a few of my tracks, but I still have an engineer work with me to navigate the technical end. Producing 'Do Anything' was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life, and is actually the impetus for the next album.
Rodriguez: Will you be touring again in 2017?
Lambert: Yes! We are looking at this Fall to do a national tour. It's been almost two years since I've toured, and I think I'm officially ready! Fully recouped now!
Rodriguez: Do you still keep in touch with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis? Any possibilities of another collaboration with them?
Lambert: Absolutely. I saw Ben (Macklemore) a few weeks ago - they brought me to Los Angeles to sing 'Same Love' for Zedd's ACLU benefit at the Staples Center. It was a beautiful night and it felt so good to see their whole crew. I consider them both dear friends, and I'm sure we'll be working together again in the future.
Rodriguez: Are you making any live appearances, on television or in-store CD signings, to coincide with the release of Bold?
Lambert: Stay tuned!
Rodriguez: What's the last piece of music you downloaded?
Lambert: Ugh, I've been obsessed with Phoebe Bridgers and her single 'Smoke Signals.' I've had it on repeat for weeks. I, like everyone else in the world, downloaded the new Kendrick Lamar album the second I woke up and felt overwhelming admiration for his artistry. I'm grateful that Kendrick makes music and shares it with the world - we are lucky recipients. Also, unrelatedly, this week I rediscovered my love of The Pixies - like damn, 'Debaser' is so good. It's got to be one of the best rock recordings of all time.
Rodriguez: Will you be attending any Pride festivals this year?
Lambert: I've got a few on my calendar, actually! I think it's been announced by now, but I'm playing Seattle PrideFest this Summer! So excited to come back and dance and cry and serenade my home city.
Rodriguez: Which social media site are you the most active on and how can we follow?
Lambert: I'm pretty decent at Twitter! Most of my handles are @marylambertsing if you want to stay in the loop!
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