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Mary Lambert on Queering Hymns, LGBTQ+ Visibility and the Indigo Girls

Mary Lambert

Grammy-nominated musician Mary Lambert has been spreading her wings while sheltering in place. The singer, songwriter, and poet released her most personal album to date, Grief Creature, late last year. Now, she’s turned to voice-over work and to composing music for the documentary 1946, about the first mistranslation of the Bible that has been weaponized against LGBTQ+ people ever since.

In May, Lambert gave an interview from her rural home to Inside With the Advocate about how she’s taking care of herself amid stay-at-home orders, her work on 1946, and the queer artists who inspire her. The “She Keeps Me Warm” singer also shared her praises for some of her faves, like the Indigo Girls, and sang a snippet of their song “The Language of the Kiss.”

Regarding her work on 1946, Lambert shared that it’s something she’s always hoped to do.

“This is my first official film composition work. It’s a bit of a learning curve for me but I feel really excited about it,” she said. “This is the kind of work I wanted to do when I graduated college, and I got my bachelor’s in music composition, kind of with the hope that I would do film composition.”  

“It feels really exciting to try the thing that I always wanted to do that I thought I might be good at,” she added. “I’m also singing a little bit in it and kind of repurposing old hymns. I think the inherent identity of being queer makes the hymn gay, and I love that. I grew up Pentecostal, so it feels really natural for me to do this.”

Lambert, who published a book of her poetry, Shame Is an Ocean I Swim Across, in 2018, couldn’t reveal too many details about her voice-over work, but she did say, “It’s an animated musical. It’s a movie and a series.”

“I’ve always wanted to get into acting, and this is the perfect time to be a voice actor,” she said.

Ahead of Pride Month and discussions about representation, she talked about the first time she felt seen in media.

“I think the first time I saw Adele on TV was really powerful for me — to see someone who kind of looked like me, and she was singing,” she said. “For so long, what I’d heard from my family and the culture was that if I wanted to be successful or I wanted to be a performer, I would have to be thin. It showed that someone who looked like me and had my body type could be successful.”

In terms of shaping her queer identity, she mentioned Tegan and Sara, the Indigo Girls, Tracy Chapman, and Melissa Etheridge as some of the first artists whose visibility resonated with her.

She closed the interview with an a capella rendition of the Indigo Girls classic.

Watch the interview above. And watch other episodes of Inside With the Advocate, which features an array of virtual stories with LGBTQ+ artists, trailblazers, and allies including Rosie O'Donnell, Emily Hampshire, Harvey Guillén, Ross Mathews, Kalen Allen, Sherry Cola, Fortune Feimster, Brandy Norwood, Bruce Richman, Tonatiuh, Josh Thomas, Ser Anzoategui, the Indigo Girls, Sara Benincasa, Dustin Lance Black, Alphonso David, Jonica "Jojo" Gibbs, and Lena Hall

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