“There’s freedom in knowing that you don’t have to know it all,” she says, “which is why to me, a song should end with a question, not an answer.” It might seem that after six groundbreaking albums of original songs, more than a dozen years of recording and touring around the world, a harvest of music industry awards, and covers of her songs by a roster of great artists – that Mary Gauthier (say it: go-shay) should have a handle on some of the big answers. Yet with each new album, with each new cycle of songs that illuminate her soul, with each old and new set of characters and life changes she introduces, Mary is always ending up with more questions. Where do her people come from and where do they go? How can they find shelter from the storm? What is the truth?
It is said that the master songwriters – the “truth tellers,” as Mary refers to the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith – those writers always put a piece of themselves into every song. They first shined bright light on the truth and lies of her world before she began to put pen to paper herself, and it’s up to the listener to imagine what is real and what is a dream. This sense of autobiography has always loomed large in the work of Mary Gauthier. On her most recent album, The Foundling (released May 2010), her first concept album, Mary opened the door on the defining circumstance of her life, the emotional journey and aftermath of finding the mother who abandoned her in New Orleans after her birth.
Those familiar with the bones of Mary Gauthier’s life found it difficult to choke back the emotion of the album, from the Gypsy-flavored opening of “The Foundling” to the upbeat bluegrass groove on the bittersweet “Good Bye”; from the crushing phone conversation with the mother who refused to meet her, “March 11, 1962” (co-written with Liz Rose), to the final epilogue of “Another Day Borrowed” (co-written with Darrell Scott).
Mary Gauthier lives each day at a time, keeping the demons at bay, always looking for answers, always asking questions. “I’ve discovered we are all wanderers of sorts, we are all looking for meaning in lives that contain no guarantees. My birth mother and my adopted family loved me the very best they could and I am grateful for their sacrifices. I do have a good life. It has been a long road and it’s taken me longer than I am proud of, but these days I find myself at peace, grateful for each borrowed day.”