To say that Mary Gauthier has had an interesting life is a bit of an understatement.
Gauthier spent the first part of her life battling drug dependency and coming to terms with her own sexuality.
She also went to Louisiana State University to study philosophy (she dropped out her senior year), went to culinary school and opened a creole restaurant in Boston. It wasn’t until she was in her 30s that she decided her life was meant for music.
Six albums later and on the heels of her first live album, “Live from Blue Rock,” Gauthier (pronounced Go-SHAY) is set to come Feb. 27 to the Arts Barn in Gaithersburg.
Making the live album, though, was just another day at the office for Gauthier.
“You know, it wasn’t really that big of a deal,” Gauthier said. “For me, I was just playing for an audience. If we captured a great night, we’d have a live record, and if we captured an average night, we’d keep trying. I didn’t think it’d be one of those big, pressure-y things. We gave it our bes. It was a sold-out house, and it turned out to be a really good night to have tape rolling.”
Gauthier, who wrote her first song when she was 35, said it’s important to know what you’re doing before putting out a live album.
“I’ve been on the road a long time now … I’ve been 12 years on the road,” Gauthier said. “To me, I’m a journeyman now. I’ve done my 10,000 hours, and I’ve gotten to the point where I know what I’m doing. And that’s the time when, I think, you should put out a live record when you know your live show is worthy of making a record out of.”
Gauthier has ridden the musical roller coaster when it comes to record labels. After working her way up to a major label, she’s now on her own again, and she couldn’t be happier.
“It has been a very slow process,” Gauthier said. “I started on my own. I own my first three records. Then I went to an indie label. Then I went to a major label. Then I went back to an indie label. Now I’m back on my own. So it’s kind of like this sort of strange curve, but in retrospect it makes perfect sense. Given the business conditions and the state of the industry and my age and my ability to run a business, it just makes good sense how it unfolded.”
Although she has enjoyed the freedom that comes with being on your own, having a major label to help guide you and provide valuable marketing dollars is important.
“I’m glad I owned my first three (albums) so I never have to worry about getting lawyers to get them back and those have always been what paid the bills,” Gauthier said. “I own them. I own the copyrights. I own the publishing. I own the recording. I own all of it. ... The next two were on a major, and I don’t own them. I’ll probably never get them back. And yet the money that was invested in my career by Universal moved me forward in a way I never could have done, a way an indie could have never done.
“They put in half a million dollars in marketing on one record. That’s why you sign with a major because they are able and they have the money to push you way into the spotlight. I couldn’t be more grateful for what Lost Highway did for me. It was a blessing they came along, and I wouldn’t have the same career without them.”
Even though the songs she wrote for Universal are no longer hers, she believes working with the label and giving them the songs is a fair trade.
“You know, if somebody’s going to put half a million into your career, you gotta give them something, don’t ya?” Gauthier said. “So they get those 20 songs. Fortunately, I’ve got a bunch more songs in me and, I’ll keep moving forward with that.
“I feel as though it’s just unfolded perfectly. It’s been an amazing process to come back into my own and doing my own thing on my own terms after having had a major push. First of all, it makes it easier, so much easier. You know, I want those records back, but I’m not going to get them, so I’m not going to sit around thinking about it.
Right now, Gauthier knows she made the right decision hanging up her chef’s apron and moving into the music business. Her songs have been used by a number of big-name stars — from Tim McGraw and Blake Shelton to Jimmy Buffett and Boy George.
“I’m way beyond my wildest dreams,” Gauthier said. ”I mean, Kris Kristofferson handed me his new record last week and asked me to listen to it. So yeah, way, way, way beyond my wildest dreams. (Kristofferson’s new album) is called ‘Feeling Mortal,’ how beautiful is that? His new record is beautiful.”
Gauthier said she’s always looking for that thing that connects all of us. That if she could, through her music, get people to see we’re all intertwined, she would have done her job.
“What I see is I’m looking for the universal human experience in myself and in my songs,” Gauthier said. “When I click into that, what happens is connection — I connect with myself. I connect with other people. I would rather put it in that way where the songs are connectors.
“And connecting people with characters they didn’t even know they were connected to is part of my job. That’s the eye opener part of my job. If I can connect a gun-toting, NRA, Right Wing Republican to a 22-year-old gay kid dying of AIDS in the streets of the Bronx and find that hard connection between those two, I would have done my job.”
Throughout all she’s been through, Gauthier is in a good place in her life. She’s been clean since 1990 and, at age 50, she has no intentions of slowing down any time soon.
“I’m in the gravy boat with biscuit wheels, man,” Gauthier said. “I’m doing great. … My life has been incredibly beautiful and incredibly difficult at points and turns with some very well-documented drama.
“What’s not been well documented is how blessed I’ve been and how much the universe has taken care of me.”