Mary Gauthier has a story to tell.
Quite a few stories, actually. They are woven throughout her songs, and over a career spanning two decades, telling of broken homes, pitfalls the damage held inside a bottle, and more.
Her stories have taken her through six albums, numerous awards and nods from music industry heavyweights.
“I draw stories from my experience and from my life, and from other people’s lives that have touched mine,” Gauthier said. “Story songs are the songs that interest me the most because I think people need stories. I need stories. They tell us who we are, give us something to compare ourselves to, and pull us into the human race.”
Those stories will take her all the way to The Treehouse Cafe on Bainbridge Island this week. Gauthier will grace the Treehouse stage at 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 21. With a pub-style setting, it will be a more intimate experience with the Nashville-based artist before her last Northwest performance at the Triple Door in Seattle on Nov. 24.
It’s her first visit to a Kitsap venue.
“I’m looking forward to playing for some folks I haven’t played for yet,” she said.
Gauthier’s own tale could be a long one, but the one that fans have come to know, the one that produced the artist, began in July of 1990.
With a career as a cook, Gauthier opened her own Cajun restaurant in Boston in 1990. But when her restaurant’s doors opened, Gauthier took another route.
“I was arrested opening night of my restaurant for drunk driving,” Gauthier said. “The way I look at it now, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“It was an opportunity to get sober and I took it,” she added. “After I got sober, the whole deal of recovery for me was about becoming an artist. Eventually, after four or five years sober, I started writing songs.”
Gauthier wrote her first song at age 35 and never looked back. She released her first album, “Dixie’s Kitchen,” in 1997. Her 1999 release of “Drag Queens in Limousines” put her on the indie radar.
She sold her share of her restaurant to finance her third album, “Filth and Fire,” and was picked up by Lost Highway Records for her fourth album, “Mercy Now.”
Her approach to music easily won over indie fans. In a time when music was overdosing on young faces without much to say, Gauthier kicked in the industry’s back door with authenticity.
Call her Americana, folk, or a singer and songwriter; her music spans the range. Just don’t call her country.
“I wouldn’t want ‘country’ anywhere near my name,” Gauthier said. “They screwed (country) up a long time ago. It’s not country, I don’t even know what it is.”
After pausing for a thought, she said, “You know what it is? It’s disingenuous, and I can’t stand that.”
Gauthier makes her argument on stage with nothing but a stool to sit on and a guitar in her hand.
“It’s ministry of the broken hearted,” she said. “I don’t know what style that is. It’s troubadour, maybe.”
It’s a way of telling tales in the vein of Johnny Cash or Townes Van Zandt.
“Generally, when you look at what I’ve done, it’s about the underdog, and the outsiders,” Gauthier said. “Probably because I am one. I was never a cheerleader in high school I can’t relate to that one percent. I don’t understand anything about privilege. I came out scrappy and I relate to people like that. And you write what you know.”