Sound & Vision: Mary Lambert On Her New Album Grief Creature

Sound and Vision
Emily Fox

KEXP's Sound & Vision airs every Saturday morning from 7-9 AM PT, featuring interviews, artistry, commentary, insight, and conversation to that tell broader stories through music, and illustrate why music and art matter. You can also hear more stories in the new Sound & Vision Podcast. New episodes are out every Tuesday. Subscribe now.


Seattle’s Mary Lambert recently self-released a new album called Grief Creature (Tender Heart Records). The collection of music is deeply personal – 17 tracks based on her life. KEXP’s Evie Cooke spoke with Lambert about the confessional nature of her latest album and being dropped by her major label.

On the themes of Grief Creature:

It's very confessional and it's kind of my life story. I talk about trauma. I talk about sexual assault and mental illness and heartbreak and falling in love and all of it being messy. And there's some compositions of quartets that I've written and spoken word pieces. And it all kind of goes together. It’s my life's work. It feels like my magnum opus.  

On this record being part of a healing process::

It was everything. I started doing this alternative kind of therapy and really delving into some deep trauma. I’ve been pretty explicit about the trauma I've experienced. I released a collection of poems last year called Shame is an Ocean I Swim Across and, in that, I'm just I'm pretty seasoned talking about my sexual assault or child abuse or being molested by my dad. Like I'm used to talking about it.

On the freedom and difficulty of producing an album that discusses her life:

There’s something different about producing an album of songs where I'm saying those things because it's like the expression is also in the sound and the reverb choices and the snare, and it feels like a full expression of myself through everything. And it was so healing in a way that I did it. I wasn't expecting this to happen. Honestly, like the album has been pretty much done for like a year and I just haven't been able to let go of it because I'm scared. I'm scared of the reception. I’m scared of potentially triggering somebody else. I'm scared of triggering myself.

On getting off her major label and self-releasing Grief Creature:

I pitched this album to [Capitol Records] and they loved it. But they said that it wasn't pop and they didn't really know what to do with it. And the only way that we could move forward is if I started working with like a big name music producer, which generally means like a straight white cis guy translating my voice to lots of listeners. And I just didn't want to do it again. It didn't feel like the statement I wanted to make or my voice.

On the importance of music in her life:

Music is the reason I'm alive. I really think there are some people that write music because they love the craft and they want to make the best song possible. And I've been in modes like that before, especially if I'm getting hired from a client to write a song for something. But I'm of the mind that the best music comes from what’s like burning inside of you. And you're going to die if you don't say this thing.

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