The True Foundling: Mary Gauthier

9 Jun

When you’re applying to college (undergraduate or graduate) a common question on each application is some variation of “describe yourself.” A very broad and surprisingly tough question. I remember sitting for a long period of time thinking how can I possibly make a quasi life story interesting. My childhood was rather sheltered and I was horribly spoiled (blame my parents). You here that. I want it and I want it now. But, seriously, when I was 17 I could not think of much to write about. Now, times have certainly changed and I like to think of myself as a more mature, well-rounded individual. Let’s put things in perspective though.

At 15 years old, Mary Gauthier stole her adopted parents’ car and left home. The next 20 years of her life – before she released her first song and found herself as a gifted songwriter – brought about drug abuse and rehabilitation, a struggle with her sexuality, and an overall theme of running away.  She consistently found herself travelling a personal road to quoz on tortuous roads without direction. As Mary states in her artist notes from her recent release The Foundling (released May 18), “I wandered for years looking for, but never quite finding a place that felt like home.” The Foundling documents Mary’s attempt to find home. It is an autobiographical triumph, exploring the deep emotions that are innate in an itinerant, Homer-esque journey.

Mary was born to an unwed mother in 1962 and orphaned at St. Vincent’s Infants Home on Magazine Street in New Orleans. She was adopted by an Irish/Catholic family. Her adopted father was an alcoholic and both of her parents were, “suicidal.” After stealing a car and skipping town at 15 she found herself in a vertiginous quagmire, where drug and substance abuse controlled her life. After getting herself enrolled at LSU as a philosophy major, Mary dropped out in her senior year and moved from Baton Rouge to Boston. She sobered up, enrolled at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, and opened a successful Cajun restaurant in Back Bay called Dixie Kitchen. But, her perambulating shoes caught up with her again, and she left the restaurant to pursue a music career, one that has spawned into the creation of a lyrical master.

In a way, Mary never stopped running. While she settled in as an exciting new musician, her insatiable need to find her birth mother overwhelmed her, and, she finally hired someone to find her mother. Mary writes, “She was located in three days, but it took me 6 months to muster up the courage to call her.”

This abetted the creation of a new, autobiographical release. As I stated above, any type of autobiography is not easy. It is especially hard to document your life when you are molding pure emotion into song like Mary does in The Foundling. One of the most famous autobiographical concept album comes from Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Their Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy (released in 1975) explores both of their early musical careers. Albums like Elton and Mary’s do not come along often, and there is an even finer line between trite and original when entering the autobiographical realm. But, Mary’s album rides the line with skill. Her songs are original folk masterpieces and her voice is true and endearing.

When Mary finally mustered up the courage to call her, her worst fears were realized. Mary writes, “Almost fifty years later, I was still her shameful secret. She had no desire to meet me. It was too much for her.” It was an obviously painful experience. Yet, now looking back on the search and recently released album, Mary finds comfort. The album has the feel of a strong emotional release that gave Mary the opportunity to truly exhale.

She writes, “As I look, listen and reflect on what I’ve learned by writing this record and completing the search for my birth mother, I’ve discovered we are all wanderers of sorts, 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.

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One Response to “The True Foundling: Mary Gauthier”

  1. rdkg49 February 19, 2011 at 12:40 am #

    just happened to bump into mary’s music on itunes. glad i did. some compare her to townes van zandt. same clarity; would have been nice to see them together.

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