Macklemore & Ryan Lewis collaborator discusses her upcoming VMAs performance and why she turned "Same Love" into a solo single.
"Oh my God, it's really happening," Mary Lambert blurts out when asked about her upcoming performance at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night (Aug. 25). Lambert will perform "Same Love," Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' Top 20 rallying cry for the advancement of gay rights, alongside the rapper and producer at the MTV VMAs, two days after unveiling the music video for "She Keeps Me Warm," which translates her "Same Love" hook into the basis for a new solo song.
Watch the "She Keeps Me Warm" music video, premiering exclusively on Billboard.com:
Lambert never expected to be performing on the Video Music Awards -- "I still feel like I'm going to be at mom's to turn on the VMAs and watch whatever Kanye does," the singer-songwriter tells Billboard with a laugh. But "Same Love" has followed in the footsteps of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' breakout smashes "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us" by crossing into the upper reaches of the Hot 100, and Lambert, a Seattle native with a single EP to her name, has joined Wanz and Ray Dalton as a breakout featured artist on one of the duo's radio takeovers. The VMAs performance will follow Lambert's appearances on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "The Colbert Report" alongside Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
Of course, "Same Love" carries a weightier lyrical message than "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us," and the gay marriage anthem has inspired hundreds to reach out to the openly gay singer-songwriter since its original release last August.
"For me, writing the song was a very personal endeavor," says Lambert, who co-wrote "Same Love" with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. "It's talking about my sexuality and my religion. To have that resonate with people -- and not just on a wide scale, with the pushing of gay marriage -- but on a very personal, real level, with people talking to me about their experience in church and their sexuality, that's where it really hits home to me. You're hearing these stories, and you know exactly what that person's gone through."
Lambert says that she knew the song was going to be a hit in Washington last year, since the state was voting on the passage of gay marriage in last November's election. Then the "Same Love" music video was released last October, "Thrift Shop" crept to No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart in January, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis became national stars and "that's when all the shit went bananas," Lambert recalls.
When "Same Love" was selected as the duo's third radio single from their "The Heist" album following "Can't Hold Us," Lambert admits that she was unsure if the pro-gay rights track would grip a national audience. "I was really apprehensive to hear it on the radio and see how people would respond," she says. "This wasn't Washington state radio -- this was national radio. It's such a wide audience that you don't know who's going to be listening to it. You don't know what people's belief systems are… I'm just kind of shocked that it's taken this entirely new life of its own." Thus far, the song has peaked at No. 11 on the Hot 100, and has sold 1.7 million downloads to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Throughout the "Same Love" mania, Lambert has continued to advance her solo career, quitting her three day jobs and "writing so much more music" as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have relentlessly toured the world. Lambert wrote the "Same Love" chorus solely for the duo, but as the crowds at her solo shows kept growing, the audience members soon found out that her set is wildly different than a Macklemore show ("It's very somber, with basically just 200 people crying and listening to poetry," she says). Lambert decided to write her own extension of the "Same Love" hook, and with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' blessing, "She Keeps Me Warm" was released as a solo single last month.
"I felt like there was another story to 'Same Love,'" she says. "I was worried about feeling tacky, like I'm some one-trick pony, but at the same time, there's a reason that the chorus resonated with people. I think that the chorus itself is non-political -- it's about this universal idea of what love is. So I made a song surrounding that idea."
While Lambert will deliver "Same Love" to millions of viewers at the VMAs on Sunday night, the singer is thrilled that "She Keeps Me Warm" now has an official music video that captures that idea of universal love, specifically as it relates to gay females.
"Two years ago, I did an extensive YouTube search for a mainstream music video that depicted a lesbian relationship," she says. "I was disappointed, shocked and a little hurt that I couldn't find a single one. Sure, there were hot girls rolling around in lingerie, girls briefly holding hands, or something involving a man. Lesbians were used as shock value. This video came to fruition with an all-queer female crew who shared my vision. It was an incredible experience."