Thank You, David Bowie!

Thank You, David Bowie!

From ABC News, "Bowie Lauded as an Artist Who Made It Ok to Be Different," 1/12/2016: "David Bowie showed this queer kid from Baton Rouge that gender outlaws are cool," wrote singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier on Twitter. "Androgyny=rock&roll, not a reason to kill myself."

Working For The Greater Good = Joy

Working For The Greater Good = Joy

I  was honored to perform on the Grand Ole Opry at The Ryman Saturday, November 28th - the night of the Opry's 90th Birthday.

I brought some friends with me, including Combat Veteran Josh Geartz, who fought in The Iraq War and co-wrote "Still On The Ride" with me, and Singer-Songwriter James House, both of whom I met through Songwriting With Soldiers (SW:S).

On The Air This Week: eTown Podcast, 12/2-12/8

On The Air This Week: eTown Podcast, 12/2-12/8

Be sure to visit beginning December 2nd to watch Mary Gauthier's "On The Air This Week" podcast, taped September 27th in front of a live audience in Boulder, Colorado. The podcast will stream on the eTown website until December 8th, will be available on iTunes and will air on over 300 stations.

Behind The Song: Drag Queens In Limousines

Mary Gauthier

(by Mary Gauthier and Crit Harmon) I hated high school and prayed it would end. The jocks and their girls, it was their world, I didn't fit in Mama said, "Baby, it's the best school that money can buy, Hold your head up, be strong, c'mon Mary, try."

I stole mama's car on a Sunday and left home for good, Moved in with my friends in the city, in a bad neighborhood. Charles was a dancer he loved the ballet, And Kimmy sold pot and read Kerouac and Hemingway.

Drag Queens in Limousines Nuns in blue jeans Dreamers with big dreams All took me in

Charlie and I flipped burgers to cover the rent And Bourbons at Happy hour for 35 cents One day before work we got drunk and danced in the rain They fired us both, They said, "Don't ya'll come back here again."

Drag Queens in Limousines Nuns in blue jeans Dreamers with big dreams All took me in

My dad went to college, and he worked for the state He never quit nothing and he wanted me to graduate. My brother and sister both play in the marching band They tell me they miss me, but I know they don't understand.

Sometimes you got do, what you gotta do And pray that the people you love will catch up with you

Drag Queens in Limousines Nuns in blue jeans Dreamers with big dreams Poets and AWOL marines Actors and Bar Flies Writers with Dark Eyes Drunks that Philosophize. These are my friends.

This song came out of half-baked gig in NYC, a gig that ended before it began because nobody came except the two friends whose apartment I was staying at in Manhattan. Yes, it was a bummer, but my two friends offered to take me out to a New York diner to cheer me up, the night was ours to do with as we wished. They decided to take me to their favorite late night eatery The Midtown Diner, right outside Times Square.

As we approached the diner, I noticed the parking lot that horseshoed around the front of the restaurant was filled with limo’s and black cars. It looked impressive—all those fancy cars lined up and parked there. The chauffeurs were inside, engines running, drinking coffee, some of them eating out of takeout boxes, waiting for their next job. My friends told me they park there because there are not may places to park in NYC, and the restaurant lets them hang out between their fares if they buy something to eat.

We made our way past all the limousines, walked in, sat down, got our menus and ordered coffees. I sank into a bit of a funk, feeling sorry for myself, wondering if or when the tide would turn for me in NYC, if I would ever find an audience in the big city. As I sat there brooding, a door swung open in the back and two drag queens in full makeup, high heels, sparkly dresses and big, big hair strutted in, ordered coffee to go, and stood at the counter, talking loudly and laughing in that loud drag queen “look-at-me” tone. They got their coffee, loaded them with sugar and milk, and walked back through the swinging door, styrofoam cup in hand. All that was left of them when the doors swung shut was their perfume.

It was kooky, but no one except me even turned their head to look at them. Turns out the staff and customers were used to drag queens runway-walking through the restaurant, but I wasn’t, and I looked at my friends in amazement. They were New Yorkers, they did not react, and I was beginning to feel pretty small town, sitting there in that booth with my mouth open. I laughed and said, “C’mon guys, isn’t this a little surreal? Don’t you think this is just a little amazing?”

My friends smiled, nodded and said, “This place is great. We love it here—its always Drag Queens and Limousines.”

BINGO! The whole trip to NYC was worth it, just for that moment, hearing those words rang out loud and true to me as a song title. Getting humiliated for a single night in Manhattan was turning into a blessing. The next day I drove back home to Boston where I was living at the time, and started the song.

As I worked on it, “Drag Queens in Limousines” became an autobiographical story song about coming of age as a gay kid in the South. It’s more or less my story, but over the years it’s become an outsider’s anthem. The song speaks to the outsider in all of us, though when I wrote it I had no idea that people of all persuasions from all over the world would relate to feeling like an outsider. Often times when I am singing it I look out into the audience and I see folks who look a whole lot like insiders wholeheartedly relating to the outsider in this song, singing every word. I’ve learned that insiders feel like outsiders sometimes, and high school was hard for an awful lot of people, not just the gay kids.

Songs are amazing, and so often the songs I write become my teachers. When I am in Texas, I look out in the audience and I see heterosexual he-man cowboys singing along to this tune. In Scotland I’ve seen middle-aged lorry drivers pump their fists to this tune. In Norway, the Vikings love it. All over the world, over and over again, this song has shown me that I have no idea what’s going on inside a person’s heart, that judging people by how they look is a really bad idea. We all feel outside of something sometimes, and sooner or later we all have to make decisions that are scary, knowing someone we love is not going to see it our way. We all need a group to fit into, a tribe, and no one wants to be alone.

For me, I found acceptance as a young person among those who, like me, did not fit into socially acceptable roles. The artists, gays, rebels, geeks—these were the people with whom I found refuge. They took me in when my family tossed me out, and became my patchwork family early on.

I haven’t changed all that much. Today I am still drawn to the people who break rules, who dare to stand out in a crowd. The people who create something out of nothing, take risks and stand bravely outside the group because they have to, who do it their own way because they have integrity.

This song won me my very first music award—Best Country Song/Best Country Artist GLAMA Award, 1999. I think the Gay and Lesbian American Music Awards created the category in honor of my little homemade self-released Drag Queens In Limousines record, it was the first year for a Country Category at that particular award show. Today, 16 years later, the idea of a gay country artist is still out there. I mean, C’mon, in Nashville, it just ain’t done. But guess what? I came here in 2001, got a publishing deal in 2002, and a major label record deal in 2003. I also got to play the Grand Ole Opry on live television, then again 4 times at the Gaylord Opry House, the first openly gay artist to do so. No closet, no hiding, no apologizing, no kidding, no problem. Nashville, The Opry, Cowboys, Vikings, these are my friends. Isn’t life interesting?

Order a copy of Live at Blue Rock HERE.

P.S.: I made a Video for the It Gets Better Project, using Drag Queens In Limousines as a theme. Find out more about the It Gets Better Project.

Drag Queens & Limousines: July 2015

Drag Queens & Limousines: July 2015

This past week was a big week for outsiders like me in America, a big week for those of us who never really expected to live to see the day when our lives would be honored and respected by the law of the land. I celebrate for the kids especially - the next generation of gay kids.

Magic at The Cloister of St. Giovanni: June 2015

Magic at The Cloister of St. Giovanni: June 2015

Michele Gazich recently accompanied me on my two-week tour in Italy and Ireland, playing violin and viola on the songs I have written for soldiers as well as some of my recent songs from Trouble & Love

Behind the Song: Your Sister Cried

Mary Gauthier Fred Eaglesmith

(by Fred Eaglesmith) I stared out of the windshield into the rain so light I turned on my dims and somebody flashed me their brights And I reached over and turned the radio way down low Your sister cried all the way home

Lightening crashed and the road shone like a mirror A dog came out of the ditch then he disappeared I remembered a conversation we once had on the phone Your sister cried all the way home

I’ll never know how you got into such a mess

Why do the bridesmaids all have to wear the same dress? Everybody said you looked real good But I think you looked stoned Your sister cried all the way home

This song floored me this first time I heard it, with its brilliant combination of humor and sadness. The dialogue is fantastic; we don’t know who is speaking, or to whom they are talking, but it works perfectly- against all odds. This song is a true rule breaker. It has so much mystery in it!

Who is saying your sister cried all the way home?  Who is the  “your” in your sister? We can’t know, and it doesn’t matter because we are right there with him/her anyway. It could be anyone, a family member a, friend, insert any two people in that car talking to each other and the dialogue words works beautifully. Amazing. Insert yourself into that story, and watch the genius of the writing become become clear. This seemingly simple song is the work of  a master.

Who just got married? Is the bride in trouble, or is it the groom? For that matter, are there two brides? Two grooms? No way to know from the lyrics, but the songs work brilliantly for every scenario you insert. Doesn’t seem possible to wrote a song like this, but Fred Eaglesmith has a way of pulling rabbits out of his hat. Most of us have been to a wedding where we wondered if it was a such a great idea for the couple to be tying the knot, and this song captures that queasy feeling of "I hope I'm wrong about this, but....."

This is brilliant songwriting- a fantastic song. Fred Eaglesmith is a master songwriter and story teller, and if you've not heard his songs before, I encourage you to check him out. His mastery of the craft in undeniable. He has been a mentor to me for over a decade, and I have recorded more of his songs than anyone else's other than my own.

I love this one!


Order a copy of Live at Blue Rock HERE.

Behind the Song: Blood Is Blood

This is a picture of orphaned babies in St. Vincent's from the New Orleans paper, 1962. Such a bizarre thing to call us orphans—our parents were alive and well, just not married to each other, thats all. The truth is that we were not orphans, but we were orphaned. Back then, unmarried women were shamed and often forced by their families into giving their babies away. I am the baby way in the back, the circled baby is my adoptive cousin, adopted at around the same time as me.

Blood Is Blood

(by Mary Gauthier and Crit Harmon)

Clouds are spreading like bruises on the evening sky I walk the streets alone again tonight It starts to rain still I search each passing face Blood is blood and blood don’t wash away Blood is blood and blood don’t wash away

When I was a child they told me she loved me too much She didn’t keep me ‘cause my mama loved me too much She left without a trail she left without a trace But blood is blood and blood don’t wash away Blood is blood and blood don’t wash away

I got a heart that’s ripped I got a soul that’s torn I got a hole in me like I was never born

Blood is thicker than water Blood is bound by God I don’t know who I am I don’t know who I’m not I don’t know my name I can’t find my place

Blood is blood and blood don’t wash away Blood is blood and blood don’t wash away Blood is blood and blood don’t wash away Blood is blood and blood don’t wash away I walk the streets alone again tonight

When I began writing songs I heard a whisper, way in the back of my mind, that someday I’d be called to write a record called The Foundling, and explore in a series of songs what my deepest inner world felt like. Creativity is prescient in that way, it seems to be one step ahead of me at all times, and I’m always just trying to catch up.

My life story was aching to come out of the shadows, and my subconscious was guiding me to it, to begin healing and reconciliation with truth, through my work as a songwriter.

See, I was adopted.

I feared losing my family if I asked my origins. I did not dare ask to ask where I came from. This is not an uncommon fear among adoptees. Many of us decide wait till our adoptive parents are dead to search for our original families, our original identities. The fear of losing our adoptive family, and of appearing ungrateful or disloyal keeps us from searching earlier, from asking hard questions.

But my subconscious was busy trying to help me put the pieces of my fractured past together as best it could. I needed to claim my truth to fully grow up, to be a whole, integrated person, to become truly real—and let go of the weight of not knowing, walk lighter, and be useful to others.

As hard as it is to explain, I deeply believe in this mysterious impulse for the mind to heal itself. Following it has led me down beautifully twisted roads, led me to the songs I sing, and given me this creative life I love so much.

As hard as it is to believe, the truth of own story was not available to me until I wrote the songs on The Foundling. Writing helped me make sense of things that had haunted me from the day I was born.

It took me a decade as a songwriter before I was able to tackle this project. It took me another two years of focused writing to complete the songs. It was by far the hardest work I’ve ever done as an artist—hard emotionally, physically and spiritually. I had to come face to face with some damn scary monsters. I had to make myself sit at my desk for 10 to 12 hours at a time, week after week. I had to research trauma, childhood trauma, and adoption trauma, and come face to face with my own denial of the effects of what had happened. But the inner work I was doing in therapy coincided with the work I was doing as an artist, and The Foundling songs crept up and out, cracking the floorboards of my fear, one at a time. I kept walking, and writing.

The truth of my life and the truth in my work collided.

What I learned was that my relinquishment by my birth mother on the day I was born, my year-long stay at the orphanage on Magazine Street in New Orleans, and my subsequent adoption into a family I never fully attached to were all traumatic events. And trauma needs to be dealt with.

The time was right for me to put the pieces together, as I wrote The Foundling song cycle I began to heal from the inside out—a classic case of art healing the artist. I look back on it now and wonder how I did it, or rather, how it did me. The mystery remains intact, even as I try now to explain.

The song “Blood Is Blood” is the centerpiece of The Founding cycle. It vibrates with the intensity and angst of an adoptee in full-blown identity crisis. Using John Lennon’s Mother as a guide, I let the muse walk me to the edge of my knowing till I faced the abyss, the dropping off place—the place I’d tried to avoid for 46 years.

With the muse guiding me, John Lennon’s courage encouraging me, my work in many years of therapy steering me, and my adoptee friends holding me, I found the strength to face what happened when my mother left me behind forever, on that frightful day, the day I was born.

Seeing it, knowing it, becoming aware of it, owning it—this is where all healing truly starts. And after a while, telling it moves the healing outward.

This song started with a couple of lines and a melody sent to me by my co-writer. Both the title and the repeated riff were in the clip he sent me, and I knew something great was there when I heard it. I just needed to carry it home.

I’d been reading a lot of books on adoption and trauma, and had become saturated in the work of Betty Jean Lifton, who to this day is my favorite writer on the psychology of adoption. BJ was an adoptee herself, a brilliant thinker and writer, and married to Robert J Lifton, Professor of Psychiatry at both Harvard and Yale, and the foremost expert on the psychological effects of war. He is the author of several groundbreaking books on the subject, including The Nazi Doctors.

Robert championed BJ as she did her own groundbreaking work on adoption trauma, and to this day her work on the psychology of adoption remains unsurpassed. She is an adoption reform hero, and I never could have written The Foundling without her. I got to meet her once when she came to a show I played at Joe’s Pub in NYC with the songwriter and fellow adoptee Diana Jones, who was her close friend. It was an honor to hug BJ Lifton—she was a kind, beautiful, brave and brilliant woman.

In addition to her work on adoption, she wrote many other wonderful books, including The King of Children, a biography of Janusz Korzack, the Heroic Polish Jewish Doctor who ran an orphanage during the war, and died with his orphans at the hands of the Nazis at the Treblinka extermination camp.

The song “Blood Is Blood” tells the story of the existential hole left inside of an adoptee after the loss of original family and heritage to the crucible of closed adoption. This loss is traumatic, but it is not yet generally understood. Often times, we adoptees don’t even know the loss/trauma is there because of a split in our psyche’s that shuts us out of entire rooms in our brains. Trauma is fundamental in adoption (especially closed adoptions where adoptees are given no knowledge of their heritage), but we’re just beginning to understand the ramifications of it. Certainly there is a direct link between childhood trauma and addiction as well as a variety of attachment disorders and other struggles, but we are in the infancy of understanding how this all plays out.

“Blood Is Blood” is both my story, and the story of closed adoption, an in-your-face song railing against the pain, secrets and lies of closed adoption. I’d say it’s probably the angriest and most angst-ridden song I’ve ever written.

It amazes me that in America, to this day, adoptees by the millions are denied access to our own original birth certificates. In fact, whenI was writing this song in 2014, only 6 states had opened or partially opened birth records. Think about that! Millions of adopted adults in America are denied access to our own birth certificates. They are sealed documents, locked away from us forever in the name of protecting us from…our identity?

I was told as a child that my mother loved me so much that she gave me away. I was told she “loved me too much to keep me.” A child cannot make sense of this, but even as an adult it makes my head swim. Loved me too much to keep me? I know my parents were trying to tell me that my mother could not care for me for reasons we never got in to, that she was so unselfish and generous that she gave me away so that I might be better cared for. The problem with this (aside from the fact that it’s probably not true) is that it forever equates love with abandonment, and the fear of abandonment has haunted me my entire life.

The antiquated laws that permanently seal birth certificates desperately need to be overturned, but the going is slow and the opposition is well funded. The fight for truth and justice in this arena continues. I hope this song helps, somehow. It sure helped me.

Order a copy of Live at Blue Rock HERE.