PREMIERE: Stephanie Lambring Examines Dynamics of Abuse with “Mr. Wonderful”

Photo Credit: Brandi Potter

Stephanie Lambring spent the bulk of her music career as a songwriter at BMG and Carnival Records, writing four songs that appeared on Nashville and others for artists like Andrew Combs, Hailey Whitters, and Mary Bragg. But she soon got tired of the “machine-like approach to writing” and of muting her dreams of singing her own songs.

Hoping to write and perform her own music without worrying about whether her songs were “too jarring or too sad,” she left Carnival a year early. One song that came out of Lambring’s newfound solo career is “Mr. Wonderful,” an exploration of controlling and possessive relationship dynamics. 

Lambring’s songwriting background is evident in her poetic and evocative lyrics. “So you met Mr. Wonderful / Isn’t he wonderful? / You thought you had it all / ‘Til it all had you,” opens the haunting track off her second album, Autonomy, to be released on October 23. “Every day gets harder to crawl out of the confusion / Red flag anger, good behavior / Which is the illusion?” You can hear country influences in the vocals, and the music’s pop structure makes the story Lambring tells seem almost eerie.

A lot of this song comes from my personal experience in a controlling relationship several years ago. Other pieces were gleaned from friends’ experiences in their verbally and/or physically abusive relationships,” she says. “Before my experience, I had no idea about the complexity of the dynamic of an abusive relationship. I simply thought I would never be ‘that girl.’ Well, I was. We need to raise awareness about the red flags and have more candid conversations. It’s more common than we think.”

Lambring released her first album, Lonely to Alone, her senior year of college. BBC2 radio presenter Bob Harris played the album’s eponymous track on his Saturday night program, leading to several UK tours. “I had a bit of momentum going, but I put my artist path on the backburner. I wasn’t ready for it yet,” says Lambring. 

She describes her new album as “a deep dive into the human experience,” tackling body image, sexuality, religion, and family relationships. She wrote the first track, “Daddy’s Disappointment,” while she was waiting tables, and songwriter Tom Douglas challenged her to start writing music again. In it, she explores the impact of growing up with overcritical parents, as well as the pressure to make music based on profit rather than passion. 

Each song, in its own way, is about questioning and breaking free from tradition to carve out one’s own path. “Joy of Jesus” deals with slut-shaming and homophobia in Christian communities, “Fine” validates the choices of single, childfree women, and “Little White Lie” portrays the dissolution of a marriage driven more by external pressures than fading love.

I enjoy exploring the uncomfortable places — the uncensored, raw truths inside us,” she says. “The thoughts and feelings we’ve learned we ‘shouldn’t’ express, not to mention even have. It’s healing for me to sit with the discomfort, lean into it, shed some light on it, and in the end feel a little less alone in it.”

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