The Girl Who Played With Firearms

Miranda Lambert’s songs about good-for-nothing men and gun-toting women out for revenge have shot her to the top of the country music charts. Now she has a new album, a new husband, and even a new state to call home. But the girl from Lindale who likes to hunt and fish still believes one thing: She’ll do it her way or she won’t do it at all.
The Girl Who Played With Firearms
Lambert, photographed on August 22, 2011, at the Saddle Ranch Chop House in West Hollywood, California. 
Photograph by LeAnn Mueller

Four hours before Miranda Lambert is scheduled to perform in front of five thousand fans in Corbin, Kentucky, she’s making a beeline for the commissary that has just been set up by her road crew. “I’m sorry, but if I don’t start eating right now, I’m literally going to die of starvation,” she says to no one in particular as she fills up a plate of food. She sits down at a table, spears an entire chicken breast with her fork, lifts it toward her mouth, and then notices me sitting across the table, notebook in hand, ready to write down what will happen next. For several seconds the chicken breast hangs in the air, quivering on her fork. Miranda tosses back her magnificent mane of blond hair and stares at me with one eyebrow raised. She shifts in her seat, sliding one leg underneath the other.

More seconds pass.

“Well, crap, there goes my ladylike image,” she finally says as she leans forward and rips into the chicken. After a few seconds of high-speed chewing, she takes another equally giant bite.

“Pretty impressive,” I murmur.

“Thank you,” she replies. “People think you can only enjoy food if you eat it slowly. Well, I’m here to tell you that it tastes just as good when you eat fast. And I like eating fast. I’ve got things to do.”

Since arriving in Corbin earlier this July day, Miranda has run laps in the parking lot of the local arena, with her ragtag parade of small dogs—Cher, Delta, and Delilah—trotting diligently behind her. She has performed a series of lunges next to her tour bus, and inside, she has whipped through a few dozen push-ups and sit-ups. She’s met with her manager to talk about her new album, Four the Record , which will be released in November, and she’s talked to her publicist about her newest venture, an all-female band called the Pistol Annies, which she formed last year with two of her friends and whose self-titled debut album is coming out in less than a month. And as soon as she finishes eating, she’s scheduled to meet with some New York advertising executives who have come to Kentucky to try to persuade her to become the national spokesperson for one of their products.

The dinner is over in less than five minutes. Miranda stands up and brushes a few crumbs off her tank top and low-slung blue jeans. “Holy crap!” she says, giving me a dazzling smile, the dimples in her cheeks so deep they could hold water. “I’ve got to get moving.”

For nearly a decade, she has been a blur of activity. It wasn’t long ago that she was just another small-town Texas teenager who dreamed of becoming a country music star. She lived in Lindale, outside Tyler, and she was so determined to get her career started that she entered a program in high school called Operation Graduation—“made up of a bunch of pregnant girls and druggies and me,” she recalls—so she could finish early.

There was no question she could belt out a song: in 2003, at the age of nineteen, she placed third on Nashville Star, a country music talent show that aired on the USA cable network. But it was hard to imagine her becoming one of country music’s next big things. In no time, the leggy, high-heeled Carrie Underwood would win American Idol , singing glossy pop-country songs that had been crafted to appeal to a mainstream audience. Her first hit, “Inside Your Heaven,” was about a woman hopelessly in love with a man. “You’re all I’ve got,” Carrie sang. “You lift me up. . . . All my dreams are in your eyes.”

Miranda insisted on doing songs she had written or co-written, and her lyrics were about as mushy as a Cormac McCarthy novel. One of her songs celebrated a vindictive woman who had decided to burn down the house of her cheating lover. Another told the story of a lady sitting by the door with a gun, waiting for her abusive man to come home from jail. Miranda wrote about girls who cussed, drank too much, packed pistols, and raised hell. Her gals didn’t have time to pine over their two-timing men. They were too busy plotting to get even.

Nashville insiders were mystified by this pillow-lipped little teenager, just five feet four inches tall. “Light ’em up and watch them burn,” Miranda would sing about 
no-good dudes in her country twang. “Teach them what they need to learn . . . I’m givin’ up on love, ’cause love’s given up on me.” Only one word could describe her consonant-dropping, take-no-prisoners style: “twangry.”

Today those Nashville insiders are falling all over themselves to have their photos taken with her. In the words of Rolling Stone magazine critic Will Hermes, Miranda, who’s now 27, is “the most gifted woman to hit country’s mainstream in a decade.” The three albums she has released since 2005 (Kerosene, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend , and Revolution) have all gone platinum, selling at least a million copies each. Three of her singles from Revolution alone went to number one on the Billboard country music charts. And in the past year, she has won a Grammy, three Country Music Association Awards (in addition to being named female vocalist of the year), and four Academy of Country Music Awards.

What’s most remarkable is that Miranda has achieved such commercial success without sacrificing what Jon Caramanica, the country music writer for the New York Times , describes as her “sharp tongue, a penchant for flamboyant lyrical gesture, and a cooing voice that only barely sugarcoats deeply acidic thoughts.” Indeed, Miranda is still relentlessly knocking out one song after another about rowdy women who, when wronged, don’t think for a second about standing by their men. The first single released from Four the Record, “Baggage Claim,” is about a girl who trashes her wayward beau’s worldly goods.

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