As recently as 2012, Mary Lambert was working as a bartender in Seattle. But these days, the 25-year-old singer/songwriter is signed to Capitol Records, which released her EP Welcome to the Age of My Body in December and has slated her full-length debut (tentatively titled Burn Bright) for this summer. She’s been written up in The New York Times, appeared on Good Morning America, and sang at the Grammys with Madonna. “It happened so quickly,” Lambert says. “That’s a phrase you hear all the time—but it did. I was changing beer kegs when the song was released.”
“The song” she’s referring to is “Same Love,” the double-platinum hip-hop megahit by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis in support of gay marriage for which Lambert provided the unforgettable R&B hook. The duo found Lambert through a mutual friend, producer and performance artist Hollis. “I was a last resort [for Macklemore],” she admits. “Hollis was like, ‘Can you do it in a couple of hours and come to the studio?’ Everybody talks about that one call that they knew was their break. I just remember thinking, ‘This is my call! I have two hours to make the best hook in the world!’” And she did. Lambert—who is a lesbian and also a Christian—supplied the now-ubiquitous “I can’t change, even if I tried” lyric as well as the line “I’m not crying on Sundays”—a reference to her Pentecostal upbringing, which first instilled in her the belief that being gay was a sin.
Welcome to the Age of My Body is just four songs long, but it covers more ground than many albums. The melancholy “Sarasvati” is deeply confessional, while the spoken word pieces “Body Love, Parts 1 and 2” bookend the disc in fierce form. Over an electronic beat, Lambert declares, “You are worth more than who you fuck/You are no less valuable as a size 16 than a size 4.” A plus-sized, openly gay woman who also happens to be openly bi-polar is not typical major label fare, and Lambert knows how unusual her situation is. “The majority of [my] time is spent [thinking], ‘Am I honoring this incredible gift?’” she says of her recent rise to fame. “I don’t want to just be in the spotlight for the sake of ego. I want to do good. I think I can really change some shit.” In truth, she already has.
By Dave Steinfeld / Photographed by Jeaneen Lund
To read more great stuff from our latest issue, please pick up a copy on newwstands or order from bust.com/subscriptions or for single copy go here.