Mary Gauthier Says Veterans She Co-Wrote ‘Rifles & Rosary Beads’ With ‘Didn’t Even Believe’ It Got a Grammys Nom
Mary Gauthier is nominated for her first Grammy Awards trophy in 2019. The veteran singer-songwriter, who has been putting out records since the late 1990s, landed a Best Folk Album nomination with 2018's highly acclaimed Rifles & Rosary Beads -- and it's the story behind the project that makes the nomination especially meaningful.
Gauthier is part of an organization called Songwriting With Soldiers, a non-profit organization that pairs professional songwriters with veterans, many of whom are wounded. They go to retreat centers, many bringing their families along with them, and gather into small groups to tell their stories. Gauthier wrote Rifles & Rosary Beads fully from the stories and experiences of the former soldiers she worked with through the organization.
"We just create a safe environment and we bear witness and non-judgment to their stories. We sit and listen, and then we turn it into a song with their approval. So they get the final say whether it’s right or whether we need to work some more," Gauthier told The Boot on the red carpet of the Nashville Grammy Awards nominees party in January. "The process is very cathartic. There’s almost always emotion involved -- especially because they’re wounded and they’re carrying a lot of trauma."
Rifles & Rosary Beads touches on common, often-hidden, veteran issues, such as PTSD and opiate addiction. Its Grammy Awards nomination has brought Songwriting With Soldiers and these topics into the mainstream, which is exactly what Gauthier intended to do by sharing these stories.
"It draws attention to the organization that, I think, is a life-saving organization, and it validates these women and men who serve," Gauthier reflects. "Less than one percent of our country is in the service. There’s a huge gap between the civilian and military; most civilians don’t know anyone in service. So we don’t know their stories; we don’t know what they’re going through, so they’re isolated from civilians.
"I feel like this program is building a bridge between the civilian / military divide. These songs help civilians understand what these vets and their families are going through," she adds. "That is tremendous, to have the light put on their stories so that we can understand what we’re asking of them when we send them to war ..."
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Gauthier says her goal with the record was "to get the story to civilians who don’t understand." She wanted to erase the stigma that some Americans have against veterans of the Iraq War and bring empathy to what is happening to them through the music.
"People think that our military is composed of people who are gun nuts who want to fight, [but] nobody hates war more than a soldier. Every veteran I work with has told me that ... They don’t go to war because they like war. They go to war because we ask them to serve the people," she says. "I think blaming a war on soldiers is where we went terribly wrong after Vietnam, and hopefully, we won’t do that again. I think these stories help civilians understand that."
With Gauthier learned of her 2019 Grammy Awards nod, she called all of the veterans whose stories she told through the record personally. "They just didn’t even believe it. I got silence," Gauthier recalls.
"One of them was like, ‘Are you going to meet Lady Gaga?’" she adds. "I hope!"
Rifles & Rosary Beads earned the top spot on the LA Times' list of 2018's best album; Malcolm Gladwell chose a track from it as his song of the year; and the project was nominated for an award from the Americana Music Association. While she hasn't had time to soak it all in, Gauthier says she's enjoying the glow of success while still keeping her nose to the grindstone.
"When I slow down, I’m gonna have to reflect," she says. "Right now I'm just trying not to screw that up."
The 2019 Grammy Awards will take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif., on Feb. 10. The televised ceremony will begin at 8PM ET on CBS; the pre-telecast Premiere Ceremony will be available to stream online earlier in the evening.
The Boot will be staying up late covering the most buzzed-about country winners, fashion and moments at the 2019 Grammy Awards. Readers can watch along with us by checking back to TheBoot.com for the latest Grammys headlines, liking The Boot on Facebook and following The Boot on Twitter.
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