Miranda Lambert: Sustainable Energy (2011)
Originally published in the November 14, 2011 issue of Country Weekly.
Miranda Lambert has her share of milestones and memories from her still-blossoming career. In the past year alone, the (as of Nov. 10) 28-year-old has received Country Music Association, Academy of Country Music and Grammy awards, watched her sharpshooting trio, Pistol Annies, top the Billboard country album chart with a risky, twang-heavy release, and become half of country’s newest power couple by saying “I do” to her honey bee, Blake Shelton.
She’s poised to add to her 2011 scrapbook with the release of her phenomenal fourth studio album, Four the Record, out Nov. 1 on RCA Nashville. The record is a dazzling mix of Annies-like shuffles, outside-the-box rockers and haunting country weepers. It may be number four for the feisty singer, but its cover might as well come emblazoned with an enormous No. 1.
Still, the memory Miranda is cherishing this October afternoon, prior to a show in Idaho, is decidedly less glamorous—one regarding her family’s 24-acre farm in Lindale, Texas. As it turns out, the seeds of the artist, woman and even wife that Miranda has grown into today were planted and nurtured on that very farm, a working operation that kept the Lambert family fed during some dark financial times.
“We started what my dad called a ‘subsistence farm,’” explains Miranda. “For a while there, we did nothing but live off the land. We slaughtered our own meat. We had a garden. Mom made homemade bread. It’s one of the best memories I have of being a child,” she says wistfully.
While those days now seem idyllic, the events that led to them were anything but. During a particularly fallow period, the private-investigation agency owned and operated by Miranda’s parents, Rick and Beverly, went bust, leaving Miranda and her younger brother, Luke, to watch their folks struggle. “We scraped by for a while,” says Miranda. “Life crap happens, the phone stopped ringing and the business went under. It just snowballed.”
Prior to that, though, the Lambert kids would accompany their folks on stakeouts for a bit of unconventional family bonding. “I always thought it was fun and exciting. Luke and I would lay down in the back of the Suburban and color,” Miranda recalls. “It’s not normal, looking back, but it was part of our life.”
Eventually, a sensational investigation case, one that would rock the nation’s highest office and sometimes literally kick up dust on the Lindale farm, turned the Lamberts’ business around.
In 1996, Rick and Beverly received a startling but fortune-changing phone call in regard to the President Bill Clinton/Paula Jones sexual harassment case that was in progress at the time. It’s a call Miranda remembers vividly.
“I was about 13 and my parents were working out of our house. I remember the phone rang and Mom and Dad kind of turned white. I said, ‘What’s going on?’ They said, ‘We just got hired to investigate the president.’ It was like, holy crap! That was a big, big deal,” she recalls.
While the hiring of the Lamberts’ Accuracy, Inc., firm may not have been good news for President Clinton, it was a boon to Rick, Beverly and their children. The case and its subsequent payday helped the family out of its financial hole. “That’s actually what got us back on our feet,” Miranda says. “We had lost everything when the business went down. But that case brought [the agency] back to life and got everything back in order.”
But getting to that point required weathering some often-surreal moments for the young Miranda. After all, her mother and father were investigating the most powerful man in the world. “It was a little bit weird. I was old enough to babysit [Luke] when my mom would go to the grocery store, and she’d say, ‘If men come to the door in suits asking for documents, just let them in,’” she explains, going on to recall how the farm was occasionally monitored by eyes in the sky.
“There would sometimes be black helicopters circling the house. They could fly over and see our hogs, our rabbits, our garden. My parents’ business was a mom-and-pop operation and it operated out of a farm,” says Miranda, chuckling at the imagined bird’s-eye view of livestock and greens. “I guess that case taught us that you can always provide for yourself.”
That idea of self-sustainability is still very much a part of Miranda’s worldview. Even today, when success and the money that often comes along with it don’t require her to, the singer/songwriter prides herself on being able to take care of her own.
When not on the road, she’s at the Oklahoma home she shares with Blake, tending to the property. (Each has their own house just a few miles apart, but both reside on Blake’s ranch.) “The first thing I did when I bought my place was get my farm up and going,” she says, running through her daily routine. She rises early, goes to the store, thaws out something for dinner and cares for her horses before heading off with Blake to refill deer feeders or burn brush.
“Then we make dinner and usually have my mother-in-law over. That’s my day,” she says. “Honestly, it’s nothing too exciting.”
But it is similar to what so many of her likeminded fans do each day: work hard to put food on the table before celebrating the day’s efforts with a shared meal. It was mom Beverly, Miranda says, who taught her the importance of eating as a family.
“My mom made us have dinner together every night. It was annoying sometimes, but I think that’s a great thing she instilled in us,” she says. “To have that time to visit is very important. Our dinner conversations may not have been the norm—maybe it was about President Clinton and Paula Jones!—but it was us eating together as a family.”
Miranda now maintains the practice at her own table, where Blake’s family often joins the newlyweds for his young wife’s home cooking, as well as dessert . . . every now and then. “I love to bake, but I try not to too much, because me and Blake both have a weakness for cookie dough,” Miranda admits. “But I do like to cook. Hamburger steak with mushroom gravy and onions is his favorite that I make. We also have a smoker, and a lot of the times we’ll put ribs and chicken in and leave it all day, then eat that for the week.”
The singer’s home-cooked meals often help lure Miranda’s folks to make the three-hour drive up from Lindale—whenever their busy schedule permits, that is. Beverly is the president of both Miranda’s fan club and her dog-rescue MuttNation Foundation in addition to running the tour-merchandise arm of Brand Miranda with husband Rick.
“They can leave Lindale at 8 a.m. and be there by lunchtime,” says Miranda, who is happy to entertain her parents, even if her mother initially cringed at the idea of her daughter fleeing the Lone Star State. “Mom is one of those proud Texans who thinks that I could do nothing worse than move to Oklahoma. But she loves it now. We have more of a sisterhood than a mother-daughter relationship sometimes. We’re really close.”
As are Blake and Rick. The pair have a lot in common, Miranda says, and she admits that the old adage may be true: Girls marry men who are like their fathers. “I dated all kinds of guys. And some of those were strictly to piss my dad off. That’s what teenage girls do,” Miranda says. “But everybody said I’d end up with someone like my dad, and I think that’s what appealed to me about Blake. He and my dad are two peas in a pod. That’s what I was drawn to and what I’m comfortable with. It’s who I grew up with, you know?”
And perhaps the figure who most inspired the superstar. When asked to name the most defining moment of her childhood, Miranda thinks for a moment, but returns yet again to those lean years on the farm and how Rick strived to support his brood.
“I watched my dad go through that as a man and then get back on his feet. He showed us how to come back from a really bad spot and taught us how to fend for ourselves,” Miranda says. “That taught me a life lesson that I didn’t know would carry on through the [music] business, but it does.”
That life lesson has paid huge dividends. But while her musical success has clearly blessed her with a life more comfortable than one cultivating crops and raising hogs, Miranda is adamant that she’ll never lose touch with her upbringing. Or even slow down, for that matter.
“I think that my dad saying, ‘My family will never go hungry,’ is how I am. I am going to work until the wheels fall off,” she says. “I’m still the same person that I was in Lindale. I haven’t changed my values or what’s important to me at all. And what’s important to me is my family and having a normal life. Though I live this crazy life on the road, when I’m home I’m a regular small-town girl.”
In this case, a small-town girl with a profound respect for the farm and family that built her.