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Mary Lambert talks music, emotions at NU event
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Vern Hester
2016-05-03

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On April 26, the Northwestern University Arts Circle hosted a live interview featuring out singer-songwriter/Grammy nominee Mary Lambert and celebrated music journalists Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis at Lutkin Hall on the school's Evanston campus.

Kot, who is the popular music critic for the Chicago Tribune, and DeRogatis, a noted author and former music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, are co-hosts of Sound Opinions on WBEZ Radio.

The event was sponsored by the university's department of creative writing and is part of the ongoing "The Arts Together" program that runs on the Evanston campus until June 4.

Lambert, who has won widespread acclaim for her music, including the hit songs "Secrets" and "She Keeps Me Warm," as well as her book 500 Tips for Fat Girls ( United Reprographics Publishing ) broke out worldwide as a controversial artist when the song "Same Love," which she co-wrote with rap duo Macklemore and Lewis, was performed on the 2014 Grammy Awards. The song, which speaks openly of LGBTQ life, was performed with multiple same-sex couples getting married on the global telecast and has been embraced strongly as an anthem.

As an out, "large" ( her word ) woman who has been open about the sexual and psychological abuse she received while growing up with her family, as well as her bipolar condition, Lambert and her honesty have ruffled a lot of feathers.

Kot and DeRogatis, who have a comfortable though mildly sarcastic on-air relationship, opened the evening with questions about Lambert's creative process. Lambert set the stage by speaking about growing up in the Pentecostal Church and how her mother was scorned for coming out as a lesbian and divorcing her abusive husband. Lambert turned to music and poetry as a coping mechanism but admitted, "I always wanted to be a performer."

When asked about the balance of writing personal and commercial songs, Lambert said, "There are two kinds of composers. There are people who love the craft and there are people who write songs because there is something burning in them." Lambert noted, "That guy Hozier, who did 'Take Me To Church,' I got the feeling that he was going to die if he did not get that out."

While speaking about her creative process Lambert said, "I think the most important thing is the emotional connection from the artist to the listener. Me, I wanted to evoke a feeling and make people feel."

Lambert cracked at one point that "I am severely out," and then spoke about dealing with disrespect from the media and religious critics who have attacked her for who she is. Lambert remarked, "One lady asked me, 'How can you be a lesbian and call yourself a Christian?' I had to ask her, 'How can you be a bitch and call yourself a Christian?'"

During the discussion, Lambert previewed a new song from her upcoming full-length album, which is tentatively titled Shame Is An Ocean That I Swim Across. She also performed "She Keeps Me Warm" and "Body Love" for her rapt audience. After the presentation, Lambert greeted her fans and signed autographs.

For more events at Northwestern University, visit artscircle.northwestern.edu .


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