Rarely is a more interesting story more frankly told than that of Mary Gauthier. (That's "go-shay," by the way.) Given up at birth by a mother she never knew, Mary bounced around right from the top and was adopted by parents of the Italian Catholic persuasion in Thibodoux, LA. She was a classic wild child--gay bars, detox, even prison, before she straightened out. Studied Philosophy at L.S.U., then attended Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, and founded Boston's first Cajun restaurant--drinking all the way, right up to opening night. But she'll share that story in the interview.
Three big turnarounds encapsulate the story of Mary: rising above a dangerously errant youth, getting sober, and becoming a professional and heralded singer songwriter by not writing her first songs until her mid-thirties. That, and then writing so well from such a visceral and gut wrenching place that it resonates with the press, her heroes, and the audience alike that it rockets her to the #1 spot in The New York Times and No Depression, to name but a significant pair.
Starting so late and rising so quickly, I don't know any other stories in music like that. And it's still hard, and she's still rising. After two self-released efforts (Dixie Kitchen and the much lauded Drag Queens in Limousines) and one on Signature Sounds (Filth and Fire, see our review), she's on the verge of a big label deal, and a much bigger push.
Mary is genuine and forthcoming, which makes for a charming interview. I also found it very interesting talking with a songwriter who'd come to it late, so that some of the myopia was missing, to my perception. I don't know why so many artists and would-be artists are so tediously self-absorbed, it's truly unbecoming. That self-delusional aspect one too often finds among this group was also refreshingly absent. Grinding out long hours in one's own restaurant day after day puts you and keeps you on your feet, one is led to assume.
Gauthier's stock in trade is deep portraiture of the disenfranchised and edgier characters among us, and the darker corners of the heart and soul. She shows the hard-earned knowledge of herself in her understanding and compassion for the stories of others, which she tells so well.
For a person known for material on the grave side, Mary is really upbeat and a pleasure to know. Get to know her yourself, in this revealing conversation. Don't forget the clips on the Listen page when you're done, and pick up Filth and Fire (if you haven't already) while we await her imminent big label debut. continue to interview