Mary Gauthier: Interview and CD Giveaway

Back in April, I reviewed Mary Gauthier’s new CD, The Foundling, in anticipation of her appearance on Tennessee Shines. The songs in this set are deeply personal accounts of Gauthier’s life growing up as an orphan. It’s the type of album that reveals a great deal of a very personal story and leaves the listener full of questions for the singer… questions that are more personal than musical.

You don’t come away from the album wondering how a certain guitar tone was achieved or how a particular song was created (although the album sounds great). You come away wondering how the artist’s experiences shaped the songs and how she found the strength to write them down and commit them to tape.

I recently had a chance to ask some of those questions to Mary Gauther. What follows is an interview with Gauthier conducted over email… my unedited questions and her unedited answers.

Read through to the end to find out how you can win a free copy of The Foundling!!

FiftyCentLighter: As a songwriter, you’ve always been able to write in a very confessional style where it feels as though you put a piece of yourself into each song. With this album, though, you’ve amplified that even more and basically laid out your life story in song. How does writing songs like the ones on this record differ from writing songs where you are more detached from the story? Do you ever find yourself pulling back from something you’ve written because it maybe reveals too much?

Mary Gauthier: Well, I always try to write from a naked place where I strip away the layers that cover the truth, so I can find the essence of what the song is trying to teach me. Often, songs are trying to teach me a truth about myself, but not always, sometimes a song teaches the truth about a situation or someone else. I am a student of truth, and my classroom is songwriting. I don’t see my writing as confessional, I see it as bare boned, undisguised. My songs can startle because in everyday life we try to avoid looking at certain aspects of ourselves. I am not confessing, I am revealing.

FCL: Even with the extremely personal nature of this album, it isn’t hard to imagine someone else who has gone through similar situations in their life being touched by your words and validated to hear that someone has shared their feelings and experiences. As I write this question, The Foundling has not yet been released, but you have been playing the songs live. Have you been approached by any fans who have been helped by listening to your songs?

MG: The Orphan is an archetype in literature and song because it is a reflection of the human condition. It is not unique in any way to tell an orphan story like mine. It’s just unique to tell it in contemporary songs. So people do get drawn into the story and often see themselves there because the orphan is a reflection of the human condition, in so many ways we are all orphaned here not sure where our home really is. The Carter Family sang “This World Is Not My Home” and I think that orphans can relate to that idea.

FCL: The emotional centerpiece of the album is “March 11, 1962.” This is the song that recounts the phone conversation you had with your birth mother upon finding her after years of searching. It’s a very moving piece, and one that still puts a lump in my throat when I hear it. The song does an excellent job of conveying the pain and anger you must have felt during that conversation… but it also attempts to portray the pain and regret her decision caused her over the years. How difficult was it to try to see things from her perspective for this song?

MG: I wrote March 11, 1962 many years after talking to my birth mother. The time and distance helped me to work thru all the emotions that I had to work thru to be able to understand her side of the story. I am glad I waited a while to write it, it would have been wrong to write it too soon.

FCL: One theme that keeps coming up on this record is a sense of disconnection with your past. A couple of tracks make reference to not knowing who you are or where you come from. Did writing this album help you find the answers to those questions… or did finding those answers help you to write this album?

MG: I do not know where I came from, adoptee’s rarely do. All I know is that my mothers side of the family came from somewhere in eastern Canada. I do not know who my father is, my mother will not tell me, and adoptee’s birth records are sealed in all but 6 states in the US. So that’s not something I will experience in this life, I will not know where I came from. It’s good to know some of the story though, and perhaps I will dig deeper one day.

FCL: What was it like working with Michael Timmins on this record? He seemed to bring some of that beautifully mellow Cowboy Junkies vibe with him to the project that worked very well. It just feels like a perfect marriage of producer and source material.

MG: Mike is wonderful to work with, a really intuitive guy. I love what he brought to the project.

FCL: Finally, to end the interview on a lighter note… Before you got into the music business, you ran your own restaurant in Boston. Do you have a favorite recipe you can share with my readers?

MG: I don’t have any recipes in my head anymore. I’ve been on the road now for over a decade, and the planes trains and automobiles have wiped out my chef’s memory, sorry!

Thanks to Mary Gauthier and the good people at Sneak Attack Media, I have a copy of The Foundling to giveaway to one lucky reader. All you have to do to register for the contest is leave a comment on this post, leave a comment on the Fifty Cent Lighter & A Whiskey Buzz facebook page, or send an email with the subject “Gauthier Contest” to On Saturday, I’ll pick one winner at random from all the entrants.

Good luck… US residents only, please.

5 Responses to “Mary Gauthier: Interview and CD Giveaway”

  1. Nelson… great interview! – I am a long-time fan of Mary Gauthier's music and spirit… and read an article recently (No Depression?) which covered the topic of her new CD…

    I remain in awe of her ability to turn her deep, darks into change and enlightenment – my favorite lyric of hers:

    sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do
    and hope that the people you love
    will catch up with you


  2. Anonymous Says:

    Hey Nelson! Great interview- hope I win this CD so I can check it out! 🙂
    Cindy M.

  3. Awesome interview. Lucky YOU for getting access to Mary!

    She's inspiring, no?

  4. love mg and love this site!

  5. The winner has been selected and contacted. I'll have an official announcement once I hear back from that person.

    Thanks to everyone who entered.

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