In the October issue, executive editor Skip Hollandsworth profiles country music star Miranda Lambert, who is known for her spirited lyrics and songs about good-for-nothing men. Here he talks about the Lindale native’s rise to fame, her marriage, and what she’s really like. Here’s the story behind the story.
The magazine published a piece on Miranda Lambert a couple of years ago. Why do another story on her now?
When John Spong last wrote about her for TEXAS MONTHLY, she was making her move to the top. And she was still, frankly, a bit of a curiosity. There was still a question of just how high Miranda could go. We decided to do another story on her largely because that question has been answered: Miranda is now in the top echelon of country music singers, and she could very well go even higher. How high she goes, of course, depends on her new album, Four the Record, which hits stores the first of November. She’s got lots of major interviews and television show appearances lined up, so just about everyone is going to hear about Four the Record. Now the big question is just how many people will go out and buy it. Will there be a big enough hit on that album to set off a Miranda stampede?
Her marriage to Blake Shelton certainly set off a lot of buzz about her.
It sure did. There is talk they are heirs to Faith Hill and Tim McGraw as country’s royal couple. But again, their fame depends on a big hit. Maybe the duet they are singing on her new album, which I talk about in the magazine piece, will be their crossover tune that will rope in people who are not necessarily country music fans.
You probably had some preconceived ideas of what Lambert would be like in person. When you finally met her, were you right on, surprised, or a little shocked?
I loved her openness. Read the first scene in the article, about her letting me watch her wolf down a giant piece of chicken. And how she let me wander around and watch her throw down a drink before she hit the stage. You think Carrie Underwood or Taylor Swift’s handlers would let me watch that? Not for a minute. And let’s be honest: She’s a spark plug, just a heck of a lot of fun to be around, outspoken—sort of like that pretty but feisty girl in high school you always wanted to date but you found just a little intimidating. Blake told me that he thinks a lot of guys secretly have a crush on her, and I think he’s right.
What was the most interesting thing you learned while working on this piece?
It was the story of her youth: the way she got to know the abused women her parents took in back when she was fourteen, and how she sat in the den listening to their stories—and how, so many years later, and even today, that informs the kind of music she writes.
If you could include more in your story, what would it be?
Well, I think I should have written more about one of Miranda’s most unappreciated assets: her ability to write a heartbreaking ballad about loss. As good as she is at writing a revenge song about a cheating man, she’s even better at writing gentle, sorrowful pieces about women who have lost their way. I think her big crossover hit—the one that will really vault her to fame—will be one of those songs.
Anything else about Lambert that you wished you had put in?
Well, it’s a reporter’s dream to get quotes from Miranda, Blake, and her parents. Those people are funny, insightful, poignant, and just so damned interesting. In fact, here is a list of ten quotes from them I wish I had included in the story.
Blake Shelton on their major marital disagreement: “Here’s what always gets my little Miranda pissy—me setting the alarm for 5 a.m. so I can go sit in my deer stand and hunt. She’ll see me setting that alarm and say, ‘Honey, don’t do that. I want you to sleep late with me.’ I say, ‘Miranda, you won’t even know I’m gone, and anyway, I’ll be back before you wake up at noon.’ She says, ‘No, you always wake me up getting out of bed, and I don’t like it.’ And do you think I give in? You’re damn right I don’t. I’m up in the morning and out at that deer blind. And she’s pissed.”
Miranda on their one marital disagreement: “Every day, he likes to tweet something that embarrasses me. There have been a couple of Come to Jesus Meetings between me and him about Twitter, and a couple of times he’s taken it off his phone because he got a little drunk and carried away. He’d get drunk and pop off at someone, like someone who made him mad, and he would say ‘balls’ all the time when he tweets, and I’m just like, ‘Blake, really? You’re 36. Enough is enough.’”
Miranda on where they almost got married: “It is true that we almost got married in Las Vegas. I think I was closer to doing it than he was. We were sitting at dinner there with Reba and Ronnie Dunn, and Reba was like, ‘Hey, just run over to that wedding chapel and do it. You can have my ring, I need a new one anyway.’ And I was about to except I realized my mom would kill me. I’m so glad I didn’t do it. Our Hill Country wedding was perfect except when I learned Blake sneaked out of the chapel right before the ceremony started to take a pee and a paparazzi helicopter flying overhead almost got a picture of him. I was so pissed off.”
Beverly Lambert, Miranda’s mother, on her daughter living in Oklahoma: “It hit me in the stomach as hard as it can, Miranda getting a ranch in Oklahoma up by Blake’s, because I don’t like Oklahoma. I’m thinking, ‘This is terrible! We’re die-hard Longhorns fans.’ I always make a point of wearing orange when I go to Oklahoma to see her. And it’s true that whenever she gets pregnant, I’m going to be there and help her drive for the border as fast as she can the moment she goes into labor. No one with Lambert blood is going to be born an Okie.”
Miranda on her new all-female group, the Pistol Annies: “I know people are saying, ‘What? A new band? Girl, don’t you already have a career?’ But I wanted to do something with my girlfriends. I was sick and tired of being on the road with just a bunch of guys. And besides, I wanted to showcase these girls (Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe). There need to be more females promoted in country music who are the real deal and my girls definitely are. We were originally going to call ourselves the Calamity Janes because my house is decorated sort of cowgirl-like, but the name had already been copyrighted by a stripper.”
Beverly Lambert on Miranda’s love of adopting dogs: “Every year, she comes to Tyler to do a benefit concert to raise money for the Humane Society of East Texas, and this last year we raised $300,000. She has what she calls ‘housers,’ people around the country who will house abandoned dogs for a while until they find a real home. At any given time, we probably have one hundred people who are committed enough to take in dogs whenever we ask. Sometimes, if Miranda’s bus, or Blake’s bus, or one of the band buses, are going near one of our housers, then we’ll put the dogs we’ve found on those buses and have the housers come pick them up.”
Miranda on her love of hunting: “I hunt every autumn for deer, and it is true that Blake and I did do all the hunting for the venison served at our reception. And I’m now into bow hunting. I like to bring my bow out on the road with me, set up my target in parking lots behind the arenas, and practice. I set up my target in Chicago in an alley behind Joe’s Bar. If you don’t practice with bow, you’re going to wound some animals and not make a clean kill.”
Miranda on the empire she wants to create: “I eventually want to do a makeup deal, have a boot line of my own, and even maybe have a luggage line. Don’t laugh. Reba has a luggage line, and I love it. I don’t want something like DollyWood. No theme park. Okay, well maybe a dog theme park. And I’d like to open some businesses. My new home town of Tishomingo needs a better restaurant and a little beer joint where we can hang out. So maybe there’s where I’ll start.”
Miranda on the song on her new album that she’s most proud of: “I wrote a song with Blake called ‘Over You’ which is about his brother, who died in a car accident. It happened when Blake was 14 and his brother was 24. In the car with him was his fiancée and her little two-year-old boy. And they were going to school at seven in the morning and she came over hill and didn’t see a school bus and ran into the school bus and killed them all instantly. Blake has only talked about it a few times, saying it was so long ago, but it was still something haunting him. We wrote this song, sitting on his bus, and it was the only song I ever wrote that I cried while writing it. Blake was crying too. I think it took us two hours to write the song. I said, ‘Here you go Blake, it’s yours, now sing it.’ And he said he didn’t think he could ever get through it without breaking down. And he said it felt like it suited my voice better. So, here it is, on my album.”
Blake on Miranda’s impact on country music: “A long time ago, when she was getting started, her label would say, ‘Miranda, you’re not going to get radio play with those kinds of songs you sang,’ and the label was right. She didn’t get much radio play. But she didn’t care. She was developing this fan base, and she knew it was only a matter of time before that fan base got so big that no one could ignore her. And here’s the thing. Almost all of us in country music think we’re supposed to be politically correct, connect the dots from here to there, and sing only certain kinds of songs. Most of us, if we were given a song like ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ would be nervous about doing it, because it’s about a girl wanting to beat the shit out of another girl in a bar. But Miranda has changed the whole direction of our genre. I truly think she’s done that. I can’t point to anyone else in country music in the last twenty years who’s made the musical impact that Miranda has.”