10-Day GRAMMY Countdown

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February News

Last night I was named International Artist of the Year at the Americana Music Association UK Awards in London! What an incredible honor. Thank you again for all of your support this year, and congratulations to all of the nominees!

Today we begin our 10-DAY Countdown to the GRAMMYs!

Over the next 10 days we will be sharing videos, interviews and highlights of each of the tracks of from Rifles & Rosary Beads, nominated for a GRAMMY Award in the Best Folk Album Category. Be sure to follow us on our social platforms to follow along with the countdown! 

The 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards Ceremony will be held February 10th at The Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 

FOLLOW COUNTDOWN

"Soldiering On" 

We begin our 10-Day GRAMMY Countdown with the video from the first track on the record. I wrote "Soldiering On" with veteran Jennifer Marino, a retired Marine and co-pilot of the first ever all-female crew to fly a US President.

"What saves you in the battle
Can kill you at home..."

Along with telling Jennifer's powerful story, one of our goals with this song was to raise awareness of the current epidemic of Veteran suicide, which is estimated to claim 7,400 lives each year. Thank you, Jennifer, for your service and for your courage in telling your story in order to help others.

We premiered the video with American Songwriter Magazine shortly before the album's release in January of 2018.

"One of the album's most affecting tracks is 'Soldiering On,' a powerful, guitar-driven song that explores, with unflinching honesty, the immense difficulties veterans often face when integrating back into post-combat life."
- American Songwriter

WATCH "SOLDIERING ON" VIDEO

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2019 NASHVILLE PERFORMING SONGWRITER CLASS

"FINDING YOUR WRITER'S VOICE"
Thank you to all of you who joined me in January for the
Performing Songwriter Creative Workshop in Nashville!
And thank you to our special guests:
Beth Nielsen Chapman, Roger Cook and Ruthie Foster

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MARY GAUTHIER ON TOUR

February 1st: London, UK*
Cadogan Hall

February 10th: Tampa, FL
CAYAMO CRUISE: SOLD OUT

March 1st: Calgary, AB**
Bella Concert Hall

March 2nd: St. Albert, AB**
The Arden Theater

March 23rd: New York, NY**
City Vineyard
"Voices On The Hudson"

March 24th: Washington, DC**
City Winery DC

*with Beth Nielsen Chapman
**with Jaimee Harris

VIEW ALL TOUR DATES

2018 Highlights

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RIFLES & ROSARY BEADS
2018 HIGHLIGHTS

Nominated for Best Folk Album
GRAMMYs 2019

Nominated for Album of the Year
Americana Awards 2018

Nominated for International Artist of the Year
UK Americana Awards 2019

#1 Best Singer/Songwriter Album of 2018
LA TIMES

#1 Song of the Year: War After The War
NPR/Malcolm Gladwell

Nominated for Best Album of the Year
International Folk Music Awards

Rifles & Rosary Beads Makes American Songwriter's Top 25 Album List

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20. Mary Gauthier, Rifles & Rosary Beads

“It would have been easy for Gauthier’s latest album to glide by on the power and profundity of its premise alone: a collection of songs about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars co-written entirely with amateur veteran songwriters. But because she chose to center veteran voices so prominently, Gauthier’s album functions as a stark, crucial de-romanticization of warfare told through the eyes of storytellers whose voices are so seldom given a platform: the female army mechanic more frightened by her male comrades than her supposed enemies in “Iraq;” the Marine wives who subsist on their own camaraderie in “Stronger Together;” the veteran distrustful of the shallow rituals of supporting the troops on “Bullet Holes In The Sky.” Rifles is not only one of the most vividly rendered singer-songwriter albums in recent years, it’s also one of the most vital pieces of art to arise from the never-ending, ongoing American military involvement in the Middle East. It’s also a reminder of the endlessly radical humanist potential that folk music can still hold.” — JONATHAN BERNSTEIN

GRAMMY NOMINATION!

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Rifles & Rosary Beads Nominated for GRAMMY Award
in the Best Folk Album Category

This collaborative collection of songs came about because of the tireless efforts of Darden Smith, Mary Judd, and the entire team of SongwritingWith:Soldiers. They invited me into their visionary non-profit work, and changed my life. They are my teachers, along with the brave Veterans and their families who were willing to go on record, literally, with their stories. It takes courage to be a soldier, and it takes courage to tell the truth about the effects of war on your life, your family and your soul.

I am but the midwife here, a witness to layers and layers of bravery. The producer of this record, Neilson Hubbard, brought the songs to life, hired an amazing band, and made it easy on me by bringing his studio to my house.

My publicists, Jim Flammia, Donica Elliot, and Michelle Steele All Eyes Media carried the story of these out into the world, and they kicked ass.

Michele Gazich convinced me this was a good idea to pursue and gave me the courage to take it on.

And my love, Jaimee Harris, makes every single day on earth better.

I am richly blessed, and deeply grateful.

Thank you to all who have supported this project!
And congrats to all the artists nominated along side us!

https://www.billboard.com/…/…/2019-grammy-nominees-full-list

NPR's 50 Best Albums of 2018

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Rifles & Rosary Beads Named One of NPR’s 50 Best Albums of 2018!

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FULL LIST

“Few singer-songwriters have mined their own autobiographies with a stronger belief in the unifying potential of human affliction than Mary Gauthier, but she arrived at her most compelling expressions of empathy to date by fixating intently on others' stories. Rifles & Rosary Beads, her eighth proper studio album, was the fruit of songwriting retreats with American military veterans and their spouses and partners; with the participants' permission, what began as a therapeutic exercise led to a riveting collection of testimonies, recollections and vignettes. Gauthier is a tough, almost surly singer who makes her emotional commitment to the material felt, and her choice of producers, and multi-instrumentalist Neilson Hubbard, framed it with bristly folk-rock gravity. The greatest source of the 11 songs' power is how they capture contradictions in excruciating, unshakable detail: the feelings of fierce camaraderie beneath heroic displays of stoicism; the mixture of pride and anguish that service leaves in its wake; the trauma that alienates vets and their loved ones even after they're reunited beneath the same roofs. That degree of attentiveness was an especially needed salve during a year when differences in experience and perspective were treated as unbridgeable, hostility-stoking barriers.”
Jewly Hight

Home For The Holidays: December Newsletter

Mary Gauthier and Michele Gazich

Mary Gauthier and Michele Gazich

December News: Home For The Holidays

I looked through my 2018 calendar to try and remember where I've been this year, and it amazed me to see I've played 134 shows this year, and spent over 300 nights in hotel rooms. 13 Festivals. 6 Countries. 2 TED Talks. 5 week-long Songwriting Workshops. What a year, whew!

2018 has been the busiest traveling year of my life, and I have been in constant motion. I now know the TSA folks at the Nashville airport by name!

I had a short few days off the road for Thanksgiving, and I'm back out playing shows again with Michele Gazich on the West Coast. I’ll head south on the 10th, for benefit shows in North Carolina and Tennessee with Greg Brown and Malcolm Holcombe, for folks who could use a hand this Christmas season.

I am so grateful that Rifles & Rosary Beads was nominated for Record of the Year this September by the Americana Music Association in Nashville, and grateful to be nominated for the 2018 International Artist of the Year by the Americana Music Association in the UK.

2018 has been a whirlwind for me, and the wind is still blowing!

What do I remember most?

To be honest, right now my memory is a blur. That said, I do remember moments of kindness, moments of love, moments of genuine human connection. I remember the day that Kees, one of my long time Dutch promoters who’d had a deeply debilitating stroke this year that left him in a wheelchair told me over lunch that he’d just returned from seeing the leaves change in Montreal, and that he’d decided he was going to opt for assisted suicide this May. All in one sentence, a sentence that took my breath away. He told me not to worry, he is ready, and that he is not afraid. After the show, when I hugged him close and said goodbye, I remember meeting his eyes and knowing I will probably never see him again. I will not forget the feeling of deep love and connection to a man who’d brought music to his village for many years, who’d promoted multiple shows for me, whose love of music and songwriters was his true passion and introducing them to other people was his gift to the world.

I remember the day Paolo Caru’, the getting-on-in-years legendary publisher of Buscadero Magazine and owner of a beloved little record shop in Italy took us to lunch. Out of nowhere, he told us to order dessert without him. He needed to walk his wife of 40 years to the beauty shop across the Village to get her hair done. He left his credit card with the waiter, and left the cafe holding his dear wife’s hand. My heart exploded. Seasoned, enduring love, the kind that continues to deepen with time. Seeing this kind of love can make me cry. Paulo returned in time for a post tiramisu double espresso, and while the coffee and sugar took effect, we talked and talked. He walked us back to the shop, and we talked about the condition of the world today. There was a swastika and racist, anti-immigrant, hate-filled graffiti spray painted on the wall of a building we walked past. I asked about it, what it meant, and he said, “The darkness is expanding again, yes?" It is terrifying, but at least we have the music.” He paused, and with his deep, wise voice, said one more time, “Maria, we still have the music.” He looked me in the eye with a sad smile, grabbed my hand, squeezed it, and kissed me goodbye on my cheek. I hugged him close. I do not know if I will ever see him again either. But he is right, and I am like him - I believe it is the music that will see us through.

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SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR VETERANS

This year I was blessed to be able to talk about the redemptive power of song WITHOUT having to talk about myself personally. The Veterans’ stories and songs have carried me through 2018, taking their stories to audiences around the world and pointing to the power of song to build empathy and understanding. The Veterans’ songs brought me a deeper purpose when I needed it most.

I know for certain that successful song writing is not about technical skill, it’s not about the tricks of the trade, following trends, or whom you know in the music business. Songwriting is about something so ineffable almost no one names it: it’s about courage and emotional truth. Emotional Truth is what allows us to access that strange and beautiful holy grail of human connection: Vulnerability. From there, we access the bigger mystery and become alchemists. A great song is magic. And songwriters, at times, are magicians. What a job, what a ride, what a life!

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GIFTS FOR THE MERCY-MINDED

I have a few Holiday gift ideas for Mary Gauthier fans from my web store, including handwritten lyrics to any of my songs. I will return home to write them in time for you to give to a loved one for Christmas. I have Mercy Now T-Shirts, CD Bundles, and this year’s Rifles & Rosary Beads on CD and Vinyl. Plenty to choose from!

CLICK HERE TO VISIT STORE

I hope all of you have a wonderful Holiday season! Thank you for your support along the way. It keeps me going. Onward!

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Bluegrass Underground Episode Airing Now

Our episode of the Emmy-Award Winning Season VIII Bluegrass Underground is premiering now on PBS. Set your DVRs and check your local listings!

https://goo.gl/UntYva http://www.bluegrassunderground.com/pbs

You can also watch the episode, streaming on PBS.org at

http://www.pbs.org/bluegrass-underground/season-8/.

Thanks again to everyone at Bluegrass Underground for hosting us!

International Artist of the Year Nomination

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I am honored to be Nominated for International Artist of the Year by The Americana Music Association UK! Thank you to the UK voters for including me in this amazing group of artists. London, here we come!

The fourth annual UK Americana Awards Show will take place at The Hackney Empire in East London on January 31st. Visit https://theamauk.org/ for more information.

Hangin' & Sangin' Podcast

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"Music can provoke thoughts and heal wounds by building empathy and understanding through song. This is the highest calling of the art." 
- Mary Gauthier

Hangin' & Sangin' Podcast

I had the recent privilege of sitting down with music journalist Kelly McCartney in Nashville and talking about my songwriting work with the veterans.


Our "Hangin' & Sangin'" Podcast is available now!

LISTEN TO PODCAST

Practicing Empathy

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While I was at the British Airways counter in Nashville checking into my flight to Milan to begin my Europe tour, an elderly woman lost control of her suitcase on the escalator behind me. Her cane fell out of her hand, she fell forward, then tumbled three quarters of the way down the moving stairs. Someone below figured out how to hit the escalator’s stop button as she was falling, and when it stopped, a small group of people instinctively rushed up the stairs to help her as she laid in a bloody heap three quarters of the way down.

I saw the scene from two floors above. There was blood, a lot of blood.

A small group of people held the injured woman in their arms on the stopped escalator, applying pressure to the spots on her gashed head and body, trying to slow the bleeding. Someone else called an ambulance.
 
I did not watch for long, the group of strangers below were helping, and it felt wrong for me to stare at the awful scene. There was nothing I could do. As I turned away to make my way to my gate, tears came. I had a hard time controlling my emotions.

My girlfriend grabbed my hand, told me the woman would be taken to a hospital, and she'd be patched up. She was going to be all right. She would not be traveling for a while, but she would be all right. As my partner consoled me, I struggled to contain my tears. We walked slowly to our gate.

To watch a frail person fall down and get seriously hurt is heart breaking. This kind of raw human vulnerability and helplessness is devastating to witness. Then to see stranger’s immediately rushing in to help, and to have a partner whose hand immediately reached for mine, reminded me that while we live in a dark time of division and rage, we human beings are also programmed for empathy and loving kindness for each other. This brought me to the brink of weeping. Kindness and empathy are as vital to our survival as food and water.

The elderly woman who fell down the escalator was probably someone’s mother, someone’s grandmother. The kind strangers who rushed up the moving stairs to help her, acting on a primal impulse to love, were in some ways sitting in for the old woman’s children, grandchildren, husband. Her loved ones, who were not there to help her at her most fragile moment, needed surrogates. Strangers did the job of family, until family could be summoned. I am certain that her family is grateful for their help.

We are all vulnerable, fragile, visitors to this planet, hanging out for a short while in flesh and blood human bodies. We are all aging daily - as are our parents and our grandparents. Time moves us all closer and closer to frailty every single day.

In Holland, I was able to return to the the KRÖLLER-MÜLLER MUSEUM for the second time. The Kröller-Müller Museum boasts the second-largest Vincent van Gogh collection in the world: almost 90 paintings and over 180 drawings. The van Gogh Gallery displays varying selections of about 40 works by Vincent van Gogh. As I walked through the gallery and took in the masters work again, what struck me most this time was his ability to convey deep empathy in his paintings. He makes us feel what he feels. He does it with brush strokes, use of colour, and deep feeling. Generating empathy, to me, is the higher purpose of art. Vincent wrote to his brother Theo, "Real painters do not paint things as they are ...They paint them as they themselves feel them to be.” This, I believe, is what artists do.

We do need each other. Even now, (especially now), as hatred and division on our screens and in our politics try and convince us that it is not true.

I am going to hang on, hang in. Try to stay with love. I hope you will too.

October Newsletter

Rifles & Rosary Beads Documentary Premiere

Hello y'all! We premiered Neilson Hubbard and Josh Britt's Rifles & Rosary Beads Short Documentary in the Westin ballroom during AmericanaFest, and the great LA Times Pop Music Writer Randy Lewis interviewed me in front of an audience after the movie ended.

The Rifles & Rosary Beads Short Documentary is now up on YouTube, so please have a look and share with your friends. I am so proud of how the documentary turned out. Please let me know what you think!

Rifles & Rosary Beads (a short documentary) is a twenty-minute film about the power and beauty of turning war trauma into art. The documentary tells the story of Mary Gauthier's experience of co-writing with Veterans and their families through the SongwritingWith:Soldiers program.

Each co-written song is a glimpse inside the heart and soul of a Veteran (or military spouse). The service member's words and stories bring listeners deep into the harrowing effects of war. Written honestly from a vulnerable place, the songs generate empathy and understanding, even if the viewer has no experience with combat and the effects of war on the human spirit.


The process of co-writing the songs is deeply therapeutic for both the Veteran and the songwriter, but it's not therapy. It's the making of art.

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Mary Gauthier, Courtney Marie Andrews and Jaimee Harris at 2018 Americana Awards

October News

Well, we didn't win Record of the Year at the Americana Music Awards (congrats to Jason Isbell!) but we DID look great when we lost, and looking good feels good...always!


I wore leather pants, my old cowboy boots from Amsterdam, and a black shirt covered with rhinestones that sparkled under the stage lights. I walked the red carpet, and sang The War After The War on stage at The Ryman with my co-writer Beth Nielsen Chapman as Buddy Miller's brilliant hand-picked band played along.

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Beth Nlelsen Chapman and Mary Gauthier performing at 2018 Americana Awards

I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to tell the story of SongwritingWith:Soldiers on a larger stage, and we connected the veterans' stories and songs with plenty of new people.

All of this is a blessing, and I am grateful!

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Mary Gauthier and Candi Staton at 2018 Americana Awards

In other Americana news, I finally got to meet the great Candi Staton, pictured above. Ms. Staton cut Mercy Now years ago, and nailed it! I played songs on the radio with old friends, including John Hiatt, Rodney Crowell and Will Hoge at The Outlaw Country Americana's Most Wanted Round.

Also, Jaimee Harris sang background vocals with me all week at AmericanaFest, and we played ten showcases all around Nashville. Thanks to everyone who came out to support, and everyone who made this AmericanaFest one to remember!

We are heading out soon for October shows in Italy and Holland, and will be joined by Jaimee Harris and Michele Gazich. As always, thank you for being a part of our journey!

LISTEN TO CANDI STATON SING MERCY NOW

Rifles & Rosary Beads Documentary Premiere

Rifles & Rosary Beads Documentary Premiere

Hello y'all! We premiered Neilson Hubbard and Josh Britt's Rifles & Rosary Beads Short Documentary in the Westin ballroom during AmericanaFest, and the great LA Times Pop Music Writer Randy Lewis interviewed me in front of an audience after the movie ended. 

The Rifles & Rosary Beads Short Documentary is now up on YouTube, so please have a look and share with your friends. I am so proud of how the documentary turned out. Please let me know what you think!

Rifles & Rosary Beads (a short documentary) is a twenty-minute film about the power and beauty of turning war trauma into art. The documentary tells the story of Mary Gauthier's experience of co-writing with Veterans and their families through the SongwritingWith:Soldiers program.

Each co-written song is a glimpse inside the heart and soul of a Veteran (or military spouse). The service member's words and stories bring listeners deep into the harrowing effects of war. Written honestly from a vulnerable place, the songs generate empathy and understanding, even if the viewer has no experience with combat and the effects of war on the human spirit.


The process of co-writing the songs is deeply therapeutic for both the Veteran and the songwriter, but it's not therapy. It's the making of art.

Mary Gauthier's AmericanaFest Schedule

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Join Mary in Nashville, Tennessee this week for AmericanaFest!

MARY’S AMERICANAFEST SCHEDULE

9.11.18 The Basement Nashville: "Better Together” @8PM
9.12.18 Ryman Auditorium: Americana Honors and Awards Show @6:30PM
9.12.18 City Winery Nashville @11PM
9.13.18 The Bluebird Cafe, with Eliza Gilkyson, Beth Nielsen Chapman & Jaimee Harris @6PM
9.14.18 Panel at The Westin – Vanderbilt III, with Randy Lewis @2PM
9.14.18 Diskin Cider: "Songsmith Social," with Amanda Shires + More @3-8PM
9.14.18 4th Story Theater: “Congo Women Arise Benefit,” with Eliza Gilkyson & Jaimee Harris @7PM
9.15.18 Michael Weintrob Photography Studio and Gallery: Campfire Propaganda AMA Day Party @6PM

"Rifles & Rosary Beads" Nominated for Album of the Year
www.marygauthier.com.

Full AmericanaFest Schedule:
www.americanamusic.org

Album of the Year Nomination: September Newsletter

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Welcome to my September Newsletter!

Hello from New Mexico, where I'm teaching songwriting and playing shows with Eliza Gilkyson this week! 


I've been on the road all month with Michele Gazich, who plays violin and viola, and Jaimee Harris, who has been singing background vocals for us. We covered a lot of ground in August, and it has been a great joy to share the stage with them all month!

From playing
Rifles & Rosary Beads songs in front of music supervisors in the HBO Offices in Santa Monica, to teaching songwriting at the Targhee Bluegrass Festival in Wyoming, to teaching and performing at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons, Colorado, to the big stages at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and the Fayetteville Roots Festival in Arkansas, we've been burning up the highways all month.

One of my favorite memories of this tour is meeting Nolan, the young man in the picture below. At just 8 years old, he was a student at The Grand Targhee Music Camp.

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After Jaimee, Michele and I finished playing our set, Nolan came up to me and asked me if he could sing me a couple of songs. We went out to the patio and he proceeded to sing me EVERY verse of Folsom Prison Blues, and then sang Somewhere Over The Rainbow. His beautiful voice soared, and he stole my heart.

The next day at lunch he sat with us, and I asked him why he decided to learn Folsom Prison. 
He said he learned it because he liked that Johnny Cash went to the prison to sing for the guys inside. He said "I think it was kinda like what you are all doing with the Veterans." I said, "Nolan, I would have never thought of it that way, but yes, you're right."

He smiled and my heart exploded into rainbows.

What a beautiful moment, with a wonderful young man.

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Rifles & Rosary Beads Nominated for Album of the Year by Americana Music Association

We are so honored that Rifles & Rosary Beads has been nominated for
Americana Album of the Year!


I will be performing The War After The War, from Rifles & Rosary Beads, at The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville during The Americana Honors & Awards Showon Wednesday, September 12th. I will also be playing quite a few showcases during the AmericanaFest Conference. 

Please make plans to join us during the week of September 11-16th in Nashville for AmericanaFest.

CLICK HERE FOR AMERICANAFEST SCHEDULE

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Special thanks to Kathy Mattea for recording "Mercy Now" on her new album Pretty Bird, out September 7th. What a beautiful rendition. Thank you, Kathy!

"Like a hand extended to help you on your path, Kathy Mattea's new song, 'Mercy Now,' reaches out to touch the listener with a message of empathy."  - Parade.com

CLICK HERE TO READ FULL ARTICLE

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What an honor for "Mercy Now" to be chosen as the closing song on the "Yellowstone" Season Finale!

"The scene at the end of the Yellowstone finale, as Kevin Costner walked toward the beautiful mountains and the music played in the background, really touched many fans' hearts." - Heavy.com

CLICK HERE TO READ FULL ARTICLE

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CLICK HERE TO SEE FULL LIST OF TOUR DATES

As always, thank you for your support! ~ Mary

"Mercy Now" Closing Song on Yellowstone Season Finale

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Does anyone out there watch "Yellowstone," the TV Show? Starring Kevin Costner, Yellowstone is set on the largest contiguous ranch in the US, on the border of Yellowstone National Park. The show has been very popular. This year it was the "second-most watched TV series on ad-supported cable, only behind The Walking Dead," with close to 5 million viewers per episode. I am honored to have "Mercy Now" placed as the final song of the of the 2018 season finale!

"If you’re like me, then that song at the end of the Yellowstone really moved you. The singer talked about mercy, a man’s work almost being over, and how people in power will do anything to keep their crown. The scene at the end of the Yellowstone finale, as Kevin Costner walked toward the beautiful mountains and the music played in the background, really touched many fans’ hearts." - Heavy.com

CLICK HERE TO READ FULL ARTICLE

Kathy Mattea Records "Mercy Now"

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"Like a hand extended to help you on your path, Kathy Mattea’s new song, 'Mercy Now' reaches out to touch the listener with a message of empathy. The song is from Mattea’s new album, Pretty Bird, releasing on September 7. Gorgeously performed, this tender prayer for understanding benefits from Mattea’s simple yet masterful delivery.

She shares, 'This song is written by Mary Gauthier, a songwriter’s songwriter here in Nashville. I found myself listening to it for my own solace, and decided that if I could learn to sing it, I’d get to live with it every night. I tried for months to sing it, had to shelve it, brought it back out, and was finally able to find a point of view that felt like my own. Bill Cooley, my longtime guitarist, came up with a wonderful hymn-like arrangement, and when I sing it, I think of it as a prayer.'"
- Parade.com

Thank you, Kathy Mattea, for recording Mercy Now! What a beautiful rendition.

 

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"Military Veterans Find a Voice" on Rifles & Rosary Beads

Welcome to my August Newsletter!

Recently nominated for The Americana Music Association's Album of the Year Award, Rifles & Rosary Beads features 11 songs that I co-wrote with combat veterans and their spouses.

As I head back out on the road for tour dates in Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado this month, we are excited to debut the video and share the story behind the title track of Rifles & Rosary Beads, co-written by Iraq War Veteran Joe Costello.


I was in a SongwritingWith:Soldiers writing session when Joe, a young Veteran from the war in Iraq, looked me in the eye and said "I don't know how to explain how I feel except to say my soul hurts."

Then he looked down, and there was a long silence. I waited, I hesitated, I let the silence linger. I tried to take in the bigness of what he had just told me. After a few moments, I asked him how he deals with that feeling, how other soldiers deal with that. He said everyone has their own way of dealing, but in Iraq there were a lot of white knuckles holding rifles tightly, and plenty of other fingers rolling rosary beads in circles, over and over again.

As he spoke, I heard the title "Rifles and Rosary Beads." So I suggested we write a song with that title. We worked on it for about two hours, and I sang the title line and the chorus over and over, adding new words and adjusting words each time. I asked him to tell me when I got the words right, and when I got them wrong. As we worked, his detached posture changed and his demeanor shifted. He became engaged.

His head would nod when I got it right, I'd ask him more questions, he'd supply the answers and I'd work on making them rhyme, and sing them back to him. His head nodded faster as the song developed, his eyes lit up, and his lips (that had been firmly set in a straight line the entire weekend) began to ease into a small, shy smile around the corners of his mouth. When I missed what he was trying to say he'd correct me, and this would open him up to new stories, new feelings. We found a flow and rode it. We reached a point where what he was saying was overwhelming to both of us, and I put down my guitar and broke down. I looked up and he was crying too. As the emotion moved through us and we regained composure, I wrote down a summary of his words and sang them back to him, and we kept going.

His song had taken shape, and when we were done, I asked him to close his eyes, and I played the whole song to him, softly. Though the song was intense, and the story a difficult one, we both stood up and instinctively high fived after the last note rang out.

We knew we'd nailed it, and though the song is sad, we did the touchdown dance together. It was a beautiful, joyful moment. The relief on his face at the end of the writing session was as if time had reversed itself inside his brain. His demeanor had softened. He looked younger and more alive. I asked him how his soul was feeling now.

He had tears in his eyes, and said he wanted to hug me. I closed my computer, put down my guitar, opened my arms and we embraced. He gave me an enormous hug, the kind a child would give. The song had broken through walls of separation, and gave him a small ray of hope. The song provided something he could hold onto, a small rung on the ladder to help him pull himself up with.

LISTEN TO SONG - CLICK HERE

Why must anyone "soldier on" when we now know that is a destructive and dangerous route, especially for soldiers themselves? We all need each other, and songs are a wonderful way of creating human connection. Songs can bring us out of isolation and into the beauty and mystery of being alive on a planet full of other living souls.

What I have learned is that the dominant narrative of a wounded person's life can be rewritten into a narrative of healing by a song. This happens not by trying to write a healing song, but by simply writing the truth, by singing the emotional truth. Giving voice to the silence, being seen and heard and known, is transformative. It helps undo the shame that always comes with trauma.

While the experience is cathartic, it's also transcendent in that the song is a move beyond the self toward others. The song serves as a catalyst for transformation, healing by engaging a re-description of self. It moves the frozen story along, thaws it, and releases some of the infection. It opens up channels of resonance with others who have felt the same way, or who have the ability to relate with empathy and compassion.

Songs have the power to change lives. As it turns out, every soldier's song is a prayer for peace.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO

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"With Singer Mary Gauthier, Military Veterans Find A Voice"

"My passion has collided with purpose."

CLICK HERE TO READ NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE

World Debut: Got Your Six

Video Debut: Click Here to Watch Got Your Six

This month we are excited to debut the video for "Got Your Six," from my new album Rifles & Rosary Beads.

I wrote "Got Your Six" with two female veterans, Meghan Counihan and Britney Pfad, who served in the army in Iraq. It was my first veteran co-write, at a retreat center outside of Austin, Texas. I watched as the two women sat next to each other, whispered in each other's ear, and occasionally held each other's arm. They were very close, and I could see that they were family to each other.

I asked them to tell me about their friendship. Did they serve together? Were they battle buddies? They looked at me and said, "We have each other's six."

"What? What's that?" I asked. They were suprised I'd never heard the term. "You know," one soldier said, without emotion. "I've got her back. She's got mine."

"On the battlefield," she explained. "12 o'clock is in front of you, 6 o'clock behind you. To have someone's 6 is to have their back."

To have someone's 6 means you'd die for them. When the full weight of that hit me, I knew I was entering another world, one I knew nothing about.  In their world, people die for one another. I understood quickly that a part of their deep bond is survivor's guilt, the aching memory of those they've lost. They carry the weight of that, daily.

They talked, and I listened, watching their body language, and noting the rise and fall of their voices. I took in the stories they told, as well as the ones they could not fully articulate. We sat together for a couple of hours. I took notes. When it got late we called it a night, and I went to my room and tried to mold what they said into a song. I did my best to make sure it conveyed what they felt and believed.

I played the song for them the next morning. They liked it, but pointed out a couple spots where my words were not exactly right. We kept working. They added new ideas. After a few changes, we had it.

When I played their song for them from start to finish, both of their faces opened. Their jaws dropped. Watching them become wide-eyed and filled with wonder hearing their song for the first time, I shared in their delight. We laughed and we high fived. We resonated. We were in sync. We'd written a song that reflected some of a soldier's deepest feelings.

I love this song! Special thanks to Meghan and Britney for being brave enough to share their story!

 

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Rolling Stone Names Rifles & Rosary Beads as One of Best Albums of 2018 So Far

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Rolling Stone Names Rifles & Rosary Beads
One of Best Country and Americana Albums of 2018 So Far


"By sharing her platform with the voices of veterans, Gauthier's album serves as a necessary lesson in the power of country-folk storytelling and its ability to provide a voice for the voiceless." 

- ROLLING STONE

CLICK HERE TO READ ROLLING STONE