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Singing her stories: Mary Gauthier has put her hard-living days behind her, but you can hear them in the music.

If singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier ever tires of malting music, she can always sell her life story as a TV movie of the week. Growing up in Thibodaux, La., Gauthier (pronounced "go-shay") was troubled, with a capital T. At 15 she stole her parents' car and ran away from home; she celebrated her 18th birthday in jail. To avoid dealing with her gay sexuality, she sought solace in booze and pills. "In the South the rules for girls and boys are so stringent," observes Ganthier. "I never fit ill their little neat boxes, and I never will. But I fit in quite nicely with the drug addicts, so I became one."

Her only other comfort, was music: Springsteen, Dylan, Patti Smith. "I don't think there's a gay kid my age, male or female, who didn't fall in love with Patti Smith," she says with a chuckle. Gauthier enrolled at Louisiana State University, but her bad habits forced her to drop out, and she relocated to Boston. She worked her way up through various kitchens, attended culinary school, and eventually opened her own Cajun restaurant, Dixie Kitchen.

She finally got clean in her mid 20s, but Gauthier still had plenty of experiences to draw on while making Mercy Now (Lost Highway), her fourth album of edgy, half-sung, half-spoken vocals and desolate, folk-tinged songs, including her frank signature number, "I Drink." "I've been sober for a long time, but it's not like I've forgotten all the trials and tribulations," the singer, now 43, admits.

Gauthier, who moved to Nashville in 2001, applauds pioneers like Ferron and the Indigo Girls for paving the way for her to sign as an openly gay artist to a major label. But her own fan base rims heavy on the testosterone. "My audience is mostly straight guys who have had an inordinate amount of trouble with women. Just like me! They can relate."

In fact, one of Mercy Now's other highlights, "Your Sister Cried," was penned by a straight guy, Canadian alt-country vet Fred Eaglesmith, whose credits also include the Dar Williams fan fave "Wilder Than Her." "Fred has a huge lesbian following ... the same way fags are drawn to Dolly [Parton]," she claims. "You look around the audience at Iris shows, and it's a bunch of dykes going"--she sniffles--"'I love this guy!'"

After all her adventures, Gauthier is content with a troubadour's life, however unpredictable. Does she ever miss running a restaurant? "No," she replies. "I would say I miss the paycheck, but I make a pretty good living doing this." She laughs again. "Hell, this is a great gig. I feel like I'm getting away with something!"

Reighley is the author of Looking for the Perfect Beat (MTV/Pocket Books).
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Music
Author:Reighley, Kurt B.
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 29, 2005
Words:456
Previous Article:Perfect spelling: who wants to see a musical about a spelling bee? When it comes from out musical comedy maven William Finn, you do.
Next Article:Story of red: out author Bill Hayes reminds us that for one gay man or all mankind, everything ends in blood.
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