Gauthier brings her long journey to Birchmere


The first two dozen or so years of the Louisiana life of exceptional singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier were clearly not the stuff dreams are made of.
Great songs maybe, but not dreams.

Hers was an odyssey of being given up at birth, adoption, abuse, addiction, you name it; even throw a night in jail on her 18th birthday and a stolen car in for good measure.

But in her late thirties, after finally wriggling free of her darkest demons, Gauthier (pronounced Go-Shay) embarked on a midlife musical journey that today places her along with her sweet Louisiana drawl as one of the Americana-folk-rock genres most respected and gifted artists.

Does Gauthier, who just turned 46 and wrote her first song at 35, feed off those rough beginnings for the bulk of her deep and emotional songwriting?

You start in the dark, and you try to find something to pull from, Gauthier told me between shows on her current tour, which hits the Birchmere on June 4. I never know where its gonna come from, or if its gonna come. Early on, I wrote a lot about my past, and things that I went through. Now it seems like Im writing more about real time things. And I know the spark comes from the creator, and Im not the creator. Im not the inspirationIm the perspiration.

After leaving a rough life in the Bayou behind and escaping to Boston, Gauthier finally sobered up and became a restaurant manager then owner, while letting her musical talents take flight on open-mike nights in Bostons legendary Back Bay clubs. Her closest friends finally encouraged her to set aside her culinary career and give music a real shot.

But it wasnt an overnight thing. The defining moment for me to do it full time, and let go of the restaurant, came from mentors, people whose opinion really mattered to me who said, You can do this, its gonna be hard, and its gonna take a long time, but you can do this. I didnt know if I could. But as a young songwriter…well I wasnt young, but I was new at it…you take the advice of people who mean something to you.

Gauthiers fifth and most recent release, the gorgeous Between Daylight and Dark, is replete with the songwriters haunting, sparse yet rich and powerful themes and melodies. Shades of her heroes like John Prine, Steve Earle, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen waft through her sound; its music that you swear youve heard before, but then realize youve never heard anything like it before.
Gauthier leaves the door open on how her music affects people. I never really know how my work is gonna land on people. Ive thought a song meant one thing, and then someone comes up to me with tears in their eyes, and tells me what the song meant to them, and its completely different.

And Mary is no frills onstage, as she weaves her stirring tales. Its just a bottle of water, a barstool, a guitar, and a spotlight. Its pretty simple and old fashioned in that way, but Im just a storyteller. So if theres people who want come listen to stories, thats what I do.