If songwriters are born not made, then Miranda Lambert was born with just a little extra. Her voice can be as soft as the sunsets in her native Texas … and it can also be just as big.
“Ever since I started out, I just was a little left-of-center, always, like, of whatever was kind of popular at the time,” Lambert told correspondent Lee Cowan. “I had my own style, and sometimes it didn’t fit in that lane that was the fast track. It made my road longer at certain times in my career.”
I’ve seen El Paso when the sky was on fire
Lost a night in Juarez a couple of times
Danced with a cowboy on a straight tequila high
I wish I was in his arms tonight.
It’s hard to argue with the trail she’s ridden. Lambert has won more Country Music Awards than other woman, topping it all off in March with the biggest prize: the Academy of Country Music’s 2022 Entertainer of the Year Award – only the ninth woman to ever receive that honor. In accepting the award she said, “This one goes out to all the singer-songwriter girls out there that are putting their blood, sweat and tears into their guitar strings. We did it! This is for us!”
She told Cowan, “Every time I go to make a new record or write a new song, I want to try to write a better song than I wrote last time, but also stay really true to the truth. Because that’s how I got here.”
“Does it change the way you approach music?” asked Cowan.
“I think it has. I also think just, in general like, I came out with, like, guns blazing, ‘Kerosene,’ all this energy and this, like, feistiness.”
Well, I’m givin’ up on love ’cause loves given up on me
Now I don’t hate the one who left
You can’t hate someone who’s dead
He’s out there holdin’ on to someone
I’m holding up my smokin’ gun
“I still have all of that, but I just don’t have to be as loud about it and do it as often, you know?” she laughed.
Her music isn’t the only place where Lambert is putting her uniquely country stamp on things. She’s opened her own restaurant in downtown Nashville, Casa Rosa, with a decidedly feminine flair.
Before, she said, “It was very dude-ish.” Now, there is a lot of pink. But if you think that’s too girly to attract real cowboys, consider this: “If the guys are smart, they’ll realize this is where the girls are,” Lambert said. “The first week it was like 90% women. I’m like, they’ll figure it out soon enough!”
She’s got a unique enough look that she’s also launched her own brand of western wear. Her brand is called Idyllwind, named after her very first horse, Ellie Idyllwind. “I started riding at 30, and I’d never really ridden before,” she said. “So, I named it after her, because it was, like, about taking chances and being who you are.”
“Sunday Morning” first met Miranda Lambert (and that first horse, Ellie) back in 2014. She said of riding, “I have eaten dirt a couple of times. So, that was fun. That’s how you learn right? Get back on, try again.”
It wasn’t the best of times for Lambert; the tabloids were full of rumors about what would be the eventual end to her high-wattage marriage to fellow country superstar Blake Shelton.
“I wasn’t prepared for that,” she said.
“I don’t think anybody is,” said Cowan.
“Well, I don’t think anyone is. And it’s not nice sometimes,” she said. “But I think you got to take it with a grain of salt and know that, like, I’m a singer-songwriter, so luckily I can tell my whole truth. I will not lie in my music.”
“It seems like you’re so much happier than you were the last time we met?”
“I’ve also grown up, and I’ve learned a lot about myself,” said Lambert. “And I think at some point, you just start to settle into who you are. And I think that’s why you feel that, like, peace coming from me, ’cause I feel at peace with myself.”
In 2019, though, she beat the tabloids to the punch, when she surprised everyone with news that she had secretly gotten married again, to Brendan McLoughlin, a former N.Y.C. police officer who inspired the hit single, “Settling Down.” “It’s like some kinda Hallmark movie or something!” Lambert laughed. “This redneck from Texas meets this beautiful NYPD officer on the street in New York. But it actually happened that way.”
That’s McLoughlin in the video, shot on Lambert’s farm about an hour south of Nashville.
“It was a beautiful moment to share with my husband. Sometimes artists live in darkness, and use it for their art or whatever. But you know, you don’t have to be tortured to be good,” she laughed. “Like, you can write a sad song and not have to live every sad song you ever write, you know? It’s an impossible way to live and to be.”
“What did he think about it, being in it?”
“He loves it. He’s such a ham! I mean, he’s, like, white teeth, blue eyes, ding! I mean, if there’s a camera, he’ll jump in front of it. He’s just a very extroverted, outgoing person.”
When the pandemic hit, Miranda and her husband rode it out in an Airstream, travelling where they could, camping where they could together. “I’ve been touring now since I was 17. And I have been everywhere and seen nothing. I was, like, ‘This is my one chance to, like, breathe and not feel like I need to be doing something with music all the time.
“But then of course, I wrote three records!” she laughed.
One of them is “Palomino,” Lambert’s highly-anticipated eighth solo album – her dreams during the pandemic put to music, with songs like “If I Was a Cowboy.”
“They felt like freedom. They felt like travel. It was something we could do in our minds that we couldn’t physically do.”
If I was a cowboy, I’d be wild and free
Rollin’ around these towns like tumbleweeds
I’d be a legend at loving and leaving
Nipping on a whiskey and numbing up my feelings
You thought the West was wild, but you ain’t saddled up with me
If I was a cowboy, I’d be the queen
Some of the songs featured she originally wrote out in the breathtaking and socially-distant wilderness of far West Texas. But maybe the best new song to sum up her life (and ours) during the pandemic is this one, fittingly called “Strange”:
Coyotes on my left and wolves on my right
Sun keeps shining in the middle of the night
Urban feels suburban
Main street ain’t main
And times like these make me feel strange.
Miranda Lambert does have a knack for wrapping chords around the truth in a way that also can feel like an escape.
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Story produced by Reid Orvedahl. Editor: Ed Givnish.