Miranda Lambert: Makin’ It All Work (2009)

Originally published in the June 15, 2009 issue of Country Weekly.

In 2003, Miranda Lambert finished third in the first-ever Nashville Star talent competition. Not long after that, the small-town East Texas beauty with a backbone of steel did the unthinkable. Still not yet 21, Miranda sat in a conference room at Sony Records and politely—but firmly—told the label head who’d just offered her a major label recording contract that she’d sign with them on one condition.

“Basically,” recalled Miranda in a CW interview not long afterwards, “I told Sony ‘This is who I am. This is what I have to say. And if you’re gonna try to change that, or push things on me that I don’t enjoy, then I’m just gonna go back home.’” We told you she had a backbone of steel. 

To his everlasting credit, then-label head John Grady recognized that Miranda not only had huge musical gifts, but qualities even more important—like character and personal and artistic integrity. He told Miranda, “Go make your record.” 

Since then, she’s released two albums, Kerosene—which debuted at No. 1—and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which won ACM Album of the Year in 2008. Along the way, she’s had a string of hits, including “Me and Charlie Talking,” “Kerosene,” “Bring Me Down,” “Gunpowder & Lead,” “Famous in a Small Town,” “More Like Her” and her current release, “Dead Flowers,” the powerful debut single from her upcoming third album, due in September. 

She’s also won the 2007 ACM Top New Female Vocalist award and been nominated for others, including multiple Grammy, CMA and ACM nods. In 2008, Miranda added a memorable harmony part to boyfriend Blake Shelton’s No. 1 version of “Home.” 

As if that weren’t enough, she is without question one of country music’s best live entertainers. Through her lyrics, her melodic grooves and her onstage demeanor, Miranda has the uncanny ability to convey an irresistible don’t-mess-with-me tough chick mentality in one instant and an appealing vulnerability in the next, while never approaching weakness. Must be a Texas thing. 

Touring with Kenny Chesney this summer, it’s not likely she’ll find too many crowds that aren’t into her attitude-filled rockers. “I’m really just happy about bein’ out onstage in front of this many people,” she confesses. “I think by the time this summer is over, we will have played for almost a million people. So that’s huge.”

But, in spite of a career that is soaring skyward, Miranda admits to occasional frustrations when other young artists, at least for the moment, outshine her in some way. 

“I wouldn’t trade my career for the world,” she proclaims. “But you do get frustrated when people pass you up. I watch people just flyin’ right past me [on the charts]. And it’s like, you’re proud for their success, but you’re also like, ‘Dang it. I’ve been puttin’ my nose to the grindstone here and nothin’s been goin’ on.’ But it was goin’ on. It just wasn’t somethin’ you could see right away. Every year it gets better and we’re more well-known. Every record gets better.”

And, with awards like the ACM Album of the Year, some of Miranda’s frustrations and that slightly under-the-radar component of her career may be gone forever. People are finally catching up to her stunning songwriting gifts—listen to “Bring Me Down” from Kerosene and see if it sounds like someone under 21 wrote it—and appreciating her great vocals and left of center approach to her music. 

And Blake may just be her biggest fan. 

“Miranda’s a rock star,” he said in a tone bordering on awe during a CW interview a couple of years ago. 

“Those are the things that I hear that he wouldn’t say to me,” she admits with a chuckle. “I’ll hear something that he said in an interview that he would never say to me directly, like he’s really proud of me. And one time he said that I was one of the greatest writers that he knows and that I was inspiring to him. We don’t really have that many of those serious conversations. But when I read that or overhear him saying that, it’s definitely one of those ‘wow’ moments.”

Of course, Blake can also make her laugh out loud pretty much anytime he wants to.  “He’s one of those guys . . . he won’t let me fight with him,” she chuckles. “You can’t. Because even if I’m really mad and I want to be in a fight, he’ll do somethin’ funny and then I’ll forget that I’m mad!” 

Miranda confesses she knew there was something special about Blake the first time they talked. “I realized we had so much in common and he was raised the same way I was and had the same beliefs I do. That’s a draw right there to me, because it’s not about who he was or who I was or anything like that. It’s a lasting type relationship. Just talkin’ to him I thought, ‘Wow, this guy’s really into everything I’m into. The outdoors and singin’ and music. He’s really just a good person to know.’ And we were really good friends for a long time.”

Miranda and Blake have farms near each other outside Tishomingo, Okla., and when they happen to have days off the road, that’s where you’ll likely find them.

“I’m still learnin’ to barrel race,” proclaims Miranda. “So I go and do that, and he’ll go and plant corn and ride on his tractor or do whatever he does. Then in the evenin’s usually we come together and go fishin’. We love to fish. 

“He’s got a pontoon boat and we live right across from Lake Texoma. We just love to be low-key and hang out with our friends at home and our families. That’s the perfect day off to me. Gettin’ to hang around my house all day, and then goin’ fishin’ or something in the evening. Maybe ridin’ around in the truck and sittin’ on the porch havin’ a cocktail at sunset in the woods. That’s awesome.”

Miranda says it’s been fun, both of them having career success at the same time in the past year or two. But that’s not what their relationship is about.

“If he never sang another note in his life, I would love him just the same,” she declares. “But it definitely is inspiring to each of us when both of us are doing well, ’cause the other one wants to kick butt, too, and make it all work.

“I just think he’s an amazing person. Everything he does, he does well . . . everything. When he puts his heart in something, he goes after it. And that’s something that is so attractive to me. He’s very excited about life. And that makes you feel excited.”

While Miranda admits that her life with Blake is great, she won’t deny occasionally thinking about having more—like marriage and kids.

“I’m very wishy-washy about that stuff because I have two different lives,” she explains. “At home, I am very domestic. I have a farm, I cook, I clean, I do laundry, I ride my horse around the yard. I’m very like country girl Miranda. Then, when I’m back on the road, I’m in this fast-paced rock ’n’ roll-style world.

“But I’m at the age now where all my friends are married and having babies,” she reveals. “So, on some days I go, ‘Wow, I sometimes wish I had that normalcy.’ Then other days it’s like, ‘What the heck would I do with a baby?’

“I feel like I’m still at a great place ’cause I’m 25, and I have all the time in the world. Or, if I decided to tomorrow that I wanted to have a baby, I’m at the place in my life where I could. So I don’t see it happenin’ anytime soon. But it definitely crosses my mind sometimes—the all-American dream. Getting’ married with the white dress, havin’ the kids. 

“I think we’ll just see how it goes . . . I feel like, honestly, God’s got a plan and I think it’ll happen the way it’s supposed to happen. We’re both very comfortable with how things are now. But it’s always gonna be the girl’s responsibility to say, ‘Okay, you’ve been comfortable long enough, we need to take this a step further!’” she laughs.

“You know Blake’s 32 and he’s been married before. So he comes from a whole different mindset than I do. The girl in me is like, ‘Well, dang, when are you gonna get off your butt and get me a ring?’ she chuckles. “And then the next day I’m like, ‘I don’t want to be married! My life is perfect.’ 

“So it’s just one of those however-we-feel situations. But I definitely don’t see me without him. I think we’ll be together forever . . . ’cause it’s too late to get out now!”

I WANT AN ALPACA!

She’s already got a farm full of critters, but Miranda says she might want just one more.

“I don’t know why, but I’m fascinated with ilovealpacas.com,” Miranda exclaims with a laugh. “I’m the one that watches TV at 2 in the morning and buys into all these infomercials. Ilovealpacas.com always captures my attention! I want an alpaca really bad, and everybody thinks I’m crazy. But that’d by my last animal. 

“They’re very rare and they’re really expensive [an average pregnant female sells for about $22,000; an average male sells for $10,000-25,000, not to mention vet fees, ropes, harnesses, nail clippers, etc.], so I’m just hoping some nice alpaca farm will want to give me one!” 

So, any generous alpaca wranglers out there?

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