Mary, Quite Contrary

Article excerpt

Musician Mary Gauthier talks about her independent life and the colorful cast of character who form the basis of her new CD, Drag Queens in Limousines

Fresh off a standing ovation at the legendary Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, Mary Gauthier is relating the tale of the first time she ever performed onstage, at Club Passim on Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass. "When you get to that level of fear," recalls the 38-year-old songwriter, "every single cell of water in your mouth evaporates. It felt like I could spit dust." It was three years ago, and Gauthier had just come off a scalding breakup with a lover of four years. ("It was just one of those divorces I'll go to my grave remembering how bad it was," she says.) She'd decided to pick up the guitar as a way of filling her then-empty days. "I was terrified of the audience, but somehow--I don't know what it is inside me--I said, 'I'm going back there next week.'"

Gauthier did go back--again and again. She became so enamored of playing music that she asked her business partners, who'd owned a Cajun restaurant with her for 10 years, to buy her out two years ago. Since then she's released a CD independently and has been writing and performing full-time.

Most recently, the Thibodaux, La., native recorded Drag Queens in Limousines, a 10-song paean to the luckless, lovelorn, and shadowy fringe figures with whom she's connected in life--starting when she quit high school and ran away from home at age 15. Why did she leave so young? "Being gay at 12 in Louisiana in a family of right-wing Republicans may have something to do with it," she says with a grainy laugh. "All the way back in my family is sororities and fraternities. I could not possibly wear a polka-dotted dress with a bow in my hair and join a sorority. …


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