Feeling compassion for the birth mother who left her at an orphanage as a baby, and then wanted nothing to do with her when contacted 45 year later has not been easy for Mary Gauthier.
But the singer/songwriter who performs at The Hideout south of Red Deer on Thursday, July 12, works on it every day.
At age 50, Gauthier has come to believe the woman who gave her up for adoption in 1962 “has got a lot of trauma. She’s had to survive in the best way she can, and the way she’s done it is by making me not real.”
The New Orleans native now based in Nashville can only imagine the “horror” her birth mother felt five years ago at hearing from her — a grown woman who sprang from her secret shame.
“If I can get past taking this personally, I have a lot of compassion for her and all the other women” who had to give up their babies during a more moralistic and judgmental time, she said.
Gauthier figured she’s heard from “thousands” of people from all over the world since putting out her true-to-life album The Foundling in 2010.
And this has reaffirmed for her the universal messages behind such songs as Mama Here, Mama Gone, Goodbye, and most movingly, March 11, 1962, which painfully recalls the phone call Gauthier made to her birth mother.
The hardest part about writing about rejection isn’t dealing with the emotions — those, to some extent, have already been processed, she said.
“It’s hard to sit down at a desk and get it right.”
Since Gauthier believes it’s her job as an artist “to bring people to the truth,” all of her songs are about the human condition in one form or other. “I offer myself as a guinea pig, or a character who can lead (listeners) into the story.”
Gauthier was adopted by an Italian Catholic family, but her childhood wasn’t happy.
She dropped out of her Louisiana high school and stole the family car at age 15. Turning to drugs and alcohol to help deal with her feels about being adopted and her sexuality, (Gauthier is a lesbian), she found herself in detox at 16 and jailed in Kansas City at 18.
Her path eventually led her to culinary school, and Gauthier opened a successful Cajun restaurant in Boston. She sold it 11 years later to finance a recording after she began songwriting about her experiences at age 35.
Much critical success followed, starting with Gauthier’s Drag Queens in Limousines winning a first annual Independent Music Award for Best Folk/Singer-Songwriter Song.
In 2002 her third album, Filth and Fire, was named Best Indy CD of the Year by The New York Times. Her first major label release, Mercy Now was on the top 10 list for 2005 in dozens of publications, including Billboard Magazine.
She was also awarded New Artist of the Year by the Americana Music Association the same year.
Mercy Now has been covered by numerous other singers over the years, the latest being Boy George. And Gauthier said it’s always flattering to have her songs performed by other artists.
The songwriter is working on more lyrics for a new album that will soon be in the works. While some of her latest tunes also spring from experience, unlike The Foundling, Gauthier said this album won’t have a theme.
But if there’s one thing listeners can take away from her last album is “don’t expect any Oprah moments” when reconnecting with birth parents, said Gauthier, who feels parent-child relationships “are always very complex and very primal.”
When asked whether she still has a relationship with her adopted parents, Gauthier said her father passed away and she hasn’t talked to her mom for a long, long time.
“I’ve built a family from friends I have from all over the world,” she added. “Your family is the people you choose to bring into your heart.”
For more information about her performance at The Hideout in Gasoline Alley, please call 403-348-5319.