In March, posting on social media that it was time to find new ways to “stretch my creativity,” Miranda Lambert announced she’d left Sony Music Nashville, the label she’d released music on for the entirety of her two-decade recording career. A few weeks later, she paid for studio time out of pocket for the first time since she was nineteen years old. She invited another Texan—Fort Worth’s Leon Bridges—to Nashville to record a new song written specifically with him in mind. Their duet, “If You Were Mine,” a soulful meditation on unrequited love, was released as a single across major streaming platforms on Tuesday.

“It’s the first song of a new era for me, a time to figure out what directions I want to go as an artist,” says Lambert, who in April added “New York Times best-selling author” to her resume with the release of a new cookbook, Y’all Eat Yet? “I’ve been doing this twenty years, but in a lot of ways I feel like I’m just getting started.”

Before the session, Bridges and Lambert had never met. Both maintain they’ve become fast friends, initially bonding, as Texans do, over their favorite tequilas and barbecue spots. The pair spent time together again in late April when they were both playing Willie Nelson’s two-night ninetieth-birthday celebration, at the Hollywood Bowl. This week they’re together again to shoot a video for the new song, and they plan to perform it onstage for the first time Friday night at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium for CMA Fest.

Texas Monthly spoke to them together by phone from the set in Nashville.

Texas Monthly: Miranda, I know you wrote this song specifically with Leon in mind. I’m told that at one point you told your manager, “Get Leon for this, and don’t come back until you have him.”

Miranda Lambert: Pretty much. I told my manager, “Help me get to Leon. I need to find him.” My friends Ashley Monroe and Jesse Frasure, who cowrote the song with me, have been talking for a while now about how much we were Leon Bridges fans. We kind of manifested it. We just kept talking about it, and then got in the room and wrote this song that we felt could mesh my world and Leon’s, stylistically. And so when I told my manager I wanted to get in touch, I said, “It’s pretty much Leon or bust.”

Leon Bridges: I’m humbled by all this. For real. It’s so crazy to me that she wrote this with me in mind. The song really resonated with me, and when the queen of Texas country calls, you say yes. I had zero reluctance. And I loved how straightforward the song and its production is. It feels timeless. It’s not too left field for either of us. It’s soulful but also has some traditional country nuances. It definitely could be a song I could put on an album of my own.

ML: Timelessness is the goal, because of the artist that Leon is and the artist that I want to be. I think we both are very much in a lane that is our own. And so I wanted to make sure that coming together, it felt that way. I wanted it to feel like it could have come out in 1975 or 2025.

TM: As solo artists, what’s it generally take to enter into a collaborative mindset?

LB: It’s always been a little rough for me because I’m a shy kid, you know? Sometimes it’s challenging to be in a room with people that I don’t really know closely. But Miranda made it super easy. If the chemistry’s right, you know it right away.

ML: I just had a gut feeling about this and felt like we were instant friends. And it’s not always that way. I’ve done collaborations before where there isn’t any chemistry. You just have to make it up and kind of fake it till you make it. On this one, I genuinely feel like it’s the beginning of a friendship versus just a one-off work thing.

TM: Leon, I remember a couple years ago you telling me after you played a series of shows for Obama at the White House that you spent some time wondering if you deserved it. Has some of that faded away?

LB: It kind of comes in waves. I’m more comfortable now in most situations, but impostor syndrome still sneaks in. But at the end of the day, I must believe I’m here for a reason.

ML: I had some of that, but this whole journey is exactly that—a journey. I started at seventeen years old, playing in bars across Texas and writing songs, and I’ll be forty in November. I’ve been through a lot of different phases of becoming who I am today. As an artist, as life circumstances change, so does your art. And so sometimes you have to figure out how to stay rooted. Trying new things that feel out of your wheelhouse or out of the box is essential. As life changes, the art has to change with it or it won’t feel authentic.

TM: Is it safe to assume that for each of you there were still pinch-yourself moments at last month’s Willie Nelson ninetieth-birthday shows?

LB: It was my first time meeting Chris Stapleton, and while Miranda and I are back there with him, Snoop Dogg walked in. That was super surreal.

ML: I actually shared a tiny trailer with Snoop, George Strait, and Stapleton. And that’s going to be crazy for anyone. But to also have Charley Crockett and Leon around felt like home. Only Willie could bring all of these people together for a big ol’ pickin’ party. It was awesome.

TM: Miranda, it’s Pride Month, and more than a decade ago you released what’s become something of a Pride Month rallying cry, “All Kinds of Kinds.” Then a few years ago, “Y’all Means Y’all.” In the decade between songs, some things have changed and others haven’t, but I’m guessing there’s no regret using your platform to present yourself as an ally to the gay community?

ML: I did it through the music. And that’s important to me. My job isn’t to preach. My job is to make music with messages I believe in. I choose to do that through music rather than make big posts and tell people all my opinions about everything. But I think we’re in a whole different time, especially in country music, and I’m very thankful to have been part of the change. And I think there’s still change happening, but to be honest, I suppose I didn’t realize soon enough I could have spoken up more. And so I’m trying to do that at every turn because we’re lucky. We have a really great job and we have a really cool platform for all things that we are passionate about. It feels like a wasted opportunity not to lift people up and show them love.

TM: Even so, does some of the pushback still get under your skin a little bit? Or do you just have to remind yourself those are people out of step with the times?

ML: People are going to have opinions on everything forever. And I just think you can’t let all the noise change your path. And people can go somewhere else if they don’t like that. That’s fine with me.

TM: Without a record label, is there reason to stay in Nashville? Have you considered moving home?

ML: I have a place in Austin and I’m there quite a bit. I also spend a lot of time in Marfa. And I’m back in Dallas–Fort Worth a lot, so I feel like I’m already a half-and-halfer. At the same time, everybody here in Nashville is a dreamer and comes from a small place, so I genuinely feel at home both places.

TM: And Leon, you’ve had a bunch of chances to leave Fort Worth, and it seems like you’re not going anywhere.

LB: It’s a gift to be able to disconnect from the craziness of the industry and get back to where I have community and family. I foresee sticking with Fort Worth forever.

ML: I like that. I’ll meet you there, friend.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.