It’s been a little under a year since I last spoke with Miranda Lambert. The rest of the world hadn’t yet heard ‘The Marfa Tapes’ and she spoke of her pride, her excitement and her nerves as, along with Jon Randall and Jack Ingram, she was about to release her most intimate record to date, accompanied by a documentary. It’s been a busy year for the proud Texas native though, that record would touch the hearts of fans all over the world and receive a very well deserved GRAMMY nomination and ACM nomination (results pending at the time of print).
The magic of Marfa
“It’s huge. I’m floored, and so thankful,” she begins as she reflects upon the accolades as she joins me from her mum’s house in her hometown in Texas. “The Marfa tapes are so close to my heart and such a fun project with two of my dearest friends. So the fact that it’s being celebrated on that level is beyond words.” It was a project unlike no other as you heard the trio’s vocals in their rawest form. The emotion wasn’t held back, the crackle of the campfire adding an extra layer of warmth – the Texas desert was the key instrument. As Miranda said at the beginning of the documentary, it was about ‘letting art lead for a minute instead of business.’ It was a vulnerable decision but one that ultimately paid off, both on a personal level for the trio and professionally, and led them on a new artistic journey.
The trio ultimately celebrated ‘The Marfa Tapes’ success the only way they knew how… by going back to Marfa. “I would love to do another one,” Miranda smiles fondly. “We, already, have gone back and started writing. So that was our celebratory trip, to go back and start writing again.” However, it’s not the only work Miranda has been praised for in the past year. The vastly different ‘Drunk (And I don’t Wanna Go Home)’ single which she teamed up with Elle King to deliver is also nominated for Video of the Year at the ACM awards. “I feel, first of all, lucky and blessed that I can do a song like ‘Drunk’ with a rock star like Elle King, and do campfire sessions with two of my best friends in the middle of nowhere, and they are vastly different,” says Miranda, gratefully. “I think, I just meander through wherever people want to call me, but I’m a country music fan through and through, I’m as country as it gets on the inside. So I think no matter what, my route is always country music, but it’s fun to really branch out and try other things.”
“Then I have my own lane, with my own solo projects,” Miranda continues, “I feel like I’m an artist. All of that encompasses being an artist, there’s just a lot of canvases I’m able to work with and I’m so thankful for that.” Recently, it’s been her solo projects that she’s been focusing on. Towards the end of last year, she released two new singles, ‘Y’all Means All’ and ‘If I Was A Cowboy’. ‘Y’all Means All’ featured in the sixth season of the Netflix show ‘Queer Eye’. “Netflix approached us because they were filming in Austin and I’m from Texas and so that just seemed fitting.” Miranda called up a couple of friends who just so happen to be two of the best songwriters in Nashville – Luke Dick and Shane McAnally. “I said to them I have to write this song for this awesome show. I binged the show the whole night before and cried all night, because it’s so good. And we got in there, we had some notes and some direction from the Queer Eye folks. It was a really fun experience and it’s such a light hearted show that makes you feel good. So it was cool to just spend a day writing a song that went along with that feeling.”
The resulting song was a big success amongst fans of both Miranda and the show but it wasn’t an easy one to write for Miranda. “I haven’t written a lot to a brief. This was one of my first times to do that. We had to rewrite it a few times actually, to get it perfect. So it was a good exercise, it’s challenging. It is a little bit nerve wracking because you’re like, Y’all like it? Is it gonna work?” I was keen to hear if, after pouring her heart and soul into a song, was it hard to throw away and rewrite lines? “Sometimes it is,” she answers honestly, “In this process, what we ended up with was better anyway, but at the time, you ask any songwriter what their favourite song is, and it’s the last one they wrote, because they’re all our babies. But, it’s fun to like to work around that and to really collaborate. With those two other guys in the room, there’s so much brilliance going on. We had lines for days, which was nice, because sometimes there’s nothing. So we ended up with the perfect song for the perfect thing, which was the goal.”
A map and a puzzle
‘If I Was A Cowboy’ was announced as the lead single off Miranda’s eighth studio album. The lyrics and melody are the kind that reel you in and along with the music video, they transported you to the wild west. Miranda picks up the story, “I wrote it with my friend Jesse [Frasure], it was our first time to ever write together. I had met him because we did a remix of ‘Tequila Does’ – Telemitry is his DJ name, but to me, he’s Jesse,” she says fondly. “We got in the room together and started writing and he loves Westerns as much as I do. He had this beautiful little track built that just felt very Western to us both. We sort of chased that and I got to use all my little cowboy slang that I love, in the song, and it’s fun that I got to write it with a friend.”
Miranda’s upcoming studio album ‘Palomino’ which is due out on April 29th was a project born out of the pandemic when touring wasn’t an option and neither was recording, writing was all musicians had. “Luke Dick, Natalie Hemby and I, have been a trio that really worked. We wrote ‘Bluebird’ together and ‘Settling Down’ from my last record ‘Wildcard,’” Miranda begins, her face lighting up with enthusiasm. “So we got together at the farm – my farm in Tennessee, during the pandemic. We were like let’s use this time to really write, nobody ever has time anymore. So it was really cool to just, sit there for three days and eat snacks and just talk about music, listen to music and write.”
The trio began with two songs, ‘Tourist’ and ‘Scenes’. The former is a carefree track, based around a light arpeggiated acoustic guitar, that celebrates a world of adventure whilst the latter follows a similar theme of travelling, moving on but set to a fuller, slightly more sinister production. “So this whole album, ‘Palomino’ ended up being a journey. It’s taken us some places and it was a time where we couldn’t go anywhere. It’s a map and a puzzle.” Miranda and her co-writers took their time to delicately craft each song on the record and like all good country songs they tell a story. “It was really written very thoughtfully, we really spent time on the places and the characters that we were going to present. I love this album. It’s not a concept album, but it’s definitely a journey. It’s got some really fun stuff and some fun characters that we made up and it’s like these friends I didn’t know I had in the songs.”
There are also a few familiar songs on the record that featured on ‘The Marfa Tapes’, now with a full band backing Miranda’s distinct vocals. ‘Geraldine’, ‘Waxahatchie’ and the lead single from that record ‘In His Arms’ are amongst those that made it onto both albums.
‘What do you want to say?’
If Miranda Lambert didn’t seem busy enough last year, she also released another record in 2021 as part of the supergroup the Pistol Annie’s, with Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley. The trio put out a very original festive album called ‘Hell Of A Holiday’. “It just felt right, the Annie’s have been together for 10 years,” Miranda says of the decision to release a Christmas album. “I’m the least Christmassy one of the group but it just felt like we had written a few songs that kind of had this Christmas feel. Our manager said you guys should think about a Christmas album, we didn’t think about it for a while. But, with how the world was, we actually had time. So last December, we got together and started really writing for the record. It’s fun to be able to write Christmas music for a Christmas record at Christmas time versus the middle of summer when it feels weird. So it was fun and it was sweet. But it’s a very Annie’s record, it’s not your mama’s Christmas Album of the Year. It’s very us and very real and we tell the whole truth like we always do.”
During lockdown, songwriting has been a saving grace for Miranda and the ACM Entertainer of the Year nominee has excelled in recent years having become an in demand writer on other artist’s projects. “I started really getting into my writing space,” Miranda enthuses as she talks of her work schedule. “I do love all the aspects of the industry, you know, some are more exhausting than others, at least writing you get to hang out in Nashville with a friend all day and then go get a beer. That’s a work day, so that’s a pretty good work day,” she laughs. “I’ve been pulled in on a few artist writes lately, and it’s been so much fun, I love writing anyway but stepping outside the box and going, what do you want to say today, is a really cool place to be. I love that process. I like to take other people’s journey’s and hear their stories and then try to put them in a song for them to sing. It’s always an honour when somebody records a song you wrote, that’s what we do this for.”
Doing for good
In amongst the music is Miranda’s Mutt Nation, the charity her and her mum set up in 2009 which supports animal shelters across the US. “It was just an official way to do what we were already doing and get more eyeballs on that cause, because when you get up to a certain point in your career, you have a platform and it’s time to pick where you’re going to do for good. My passion has always been animals and rescue animals, so it was a no brainer. We’ve had so much success and so many feel good stories and helped so many animals. I’m thankful that my fans jump on board and are part of this motivation with us because they’re so supportive. People really rally around these sweet little creatures that can’t help themselves.”
Miranda has always been an animal lover, her dogs even making an appearance on her interviews from time to time! “I’m surprised they’re not running around. They’re usually at my feet. I have five dogs and two cats and five horses – too many horses at the moment.” As Miranda continues her charity work, her husband Brendan has given her strict instructions, “I have been visiting shelters in December for Christmas and my husband’s always like, you’re not coming home with anything. We’re at five right now and that feels good. So we’re kind of like at a halt,” she laughs. His unwavering support of both her music career and her love of animals is not lost on Miranda and is certainly appreciated. “When he met me, we had nine dogs and some were seniors. So we’ve since lost some, but I realise now, that was kind of like how I knew he really loved me. He opened the door to my house and here’s nine dogs!”
With Country 2 Country fast approaching, and her new album just around the corner, Miranda has begun to plan her set. “I’m actually going to put in two new songs off ‘Palomino’, it will be the first time I ever play them live,” she teases, a smile lighting up her face. It’s not her first time in the UK and she knows exactly what to expect from the fans. “I’m very glad that we’re going to do these two new songs in the UK first, because the fans are so accepting. They know every song, even brand new songs they engage with, even though they’ve never heard it before – it’s so refreshing. There’s certain songs I have to have in my set but when I’m in the UK, I could throw in an old song off an old record, and it feels like everybody knows it and no one’s mad about it.”
As much as Miranda’s songwriting has thrived over the past couple of years, she is excited to get back out on the road and tour with this new album. After all, it’s a record that encourages the journey, the adventure and that’s what she plans on doing in the UK. “I’ve built in some fun time on the front end and the back end. So I’m going to make the most of it. So it’ll be like what they call a work/play situation.” And the adventure doesn’t stop there for Miranda who will then hit the road for a joint headlining tour with Little Big Town. “I love touring with Little Big Town. I was texting Karen last night, we were going back and forth, figuring out the most fun parts, figuring out which songs to do together. Because we all get on stage at the end of the show together for like 40 minutes – both bands. It’s just this wall of sound and it’s so much fun.”
It’s no wonder Miranda Lambert is consistently nominated, and often winning, female artist of the year at the ACM’s or the CMA’s. Her work ethic is relentless whilst her songwriting talents know no bounds. She is a true artist, and a true entertainer!
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW IN THE LATEST ISSUE OF MAVERICK MAGAZINE AVAILABLE HERE!