It’s a subfreezing February afternoon in Nashville, and Miranda Lambert has just slipped into a $9,000 strapless silk chiffon gown. In a minute she’ll brave the cold to step outside in front of a waiting camera, but at the moment, she’s poking fun at the decadence of couture. “This is what famous people do – lounge around in gowns all day!” she jokes. After donning a few finishing touches – a pair of silver boots from her new retail line and a vintage pistol holster—the singer emerges with an Annie-Oakley-meets-supermodel strut.
There’s little danger of Lambert abandoning her guns-ablazing image, but at the age of 30 she’s now comfortable mixing in a bit of glam with her gunpowder. (Her latest obsession? A hot pink Gucci tote, a $1,800 gift from her manager.) She’s also learning to be okay with softening what she calls her “I’ll burn your house down if you don’t listen to me” attitude. “That attitude brought me here and got me where I am,” she says. “But that was me in my 20s. The chip on my shoulder is gone.” With more than 5 million in album sales and an awards shelf crowded with 7 CMAs, 15 ACMs and a Grammy, “I feel like people have accepted me for who I am, with all the craziness, loudness and fire.” These days she’s a little less Miranda-rita party girl and a little more fine wine aficionado (“I think I’m turning into a wine snob!”); less Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, more supportive spouse: “At some point you calm down. I’m happy. I’m more settled. I’ve put down roots.”
That new contentment filters through the songs from her upcoming fifth album, Platinum, due out June 3, like her first single, the sweetly nostalgic “Automatic.” But it says something about the nature of Lambert’s fame – and the harsh media glare on her nearly three-year marriage to Blake Shelton – that even before the song was released, some wondered whether it was meant as a jab at the couple’s relationship. “There were rumors that it was about our marriage, that it had become boring and predictable. How do people even think that up?” Lambert says. “It’s not easy when everyone is trying to tear you down, but you make a commitment and you stick to it. In other parts of the entertainment world, it sometimes seems like marriage is so disposable. But country has some enduring marriages – Johnny and June, George and Nancy, Faith and Tim. I’m thankful we have those role models. I feel like our peers are rooting for us. They’re holding us up.”
On one occasion, at least, the tabloid attacks have provided inspiration for a song. One day last year Lambert and songwriter Natalie Hemby were together at the Nashville condo the singer owns with Shelton when Hemby noticed a tabloid lying on a counter. “It had a story that I was pregnant or getting an abortion or leaving Blake – or all three,” Lambert says. “Natalie asked, ‘How do you deal with all this BS?’ I told her I had no choice. It’s part of the deal now, and I’m still adjusting. It’s like one day you’re comfortable in the Nashville country music world, which is pretty protected, this safe little bubble of people who know the true you and love you, and then you move to this level of craziness. There’s no guide, no manual.” Two weeks later Hemby sent the singer a song called “Priscilla,” which she had cowritten with Lambert in mind, after watching a docudrama about Elvis and Priscilla Presley. The singer loved it and cut it for Platinum. The lyrics have her reaching out to Elvis’s famous spouse:
He’s always in high demand
How do or don’t you get the love you want
When everybody wants your man?
“Blake and I are nothing like Elvis and Priscilla, obviously, but with anyone who reaches that level of celebrity, it creates a pull on the couple,” Lambert says. “You are being pulled apart. Literally. Blake’s person is pulling him that way and my person is pulling me this way. You get to that point where you’re both saying, ‘Where is our time? We need us time.'”
With both artists touring, and with Shelton’s TV commitments to The Voice, that “us time” can be in short supply. But their partnership works because while they are both happy to play the role of spouse – “I love just being his wife and watching him do his job, and he does the same for me” – and cherish their together time, “we both have our own things,” she says. “We’re proud of each other but we are very much Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. Thank goodness our names don’t make a celebrity name – I mean ‘Bliranda’? That’s not pretty!”
Their haven as Mr. and Mrs is the sprawling Tishomingo, Okla., ranch they share with an ever-expanding menagerie of dogs, cats, horses, goats and chickens, where unplugging from the world means a walk in the woods on their property. “We live in the middle of nowhere and have a totally different life away from work,” she says. “We do the things we sing about in our songs – we go four-wheeling, we back-road, we fish, we eat at my mother-in-law’s at least twice a week.” Shelton cooks (grilling mostly), doesn’t clean and is “really great about keeping me happy,” Lambert says. “He’s laid-back and I’m high-strung, so it’s a good balance.” And despite his tweets to the contrary, “he takes such good care of the animals,” she says. “Blake just likes to act like he’s tough and hates my animals and he’s all grumpy – but he also knows I would cut his man parts off if he didn’t feed my dogs while I was gone!”
Lambert, meanwhile, has introduced healthier eating – with mixed results. When the couple caught catfish recently, she decided to forgo the fryer and bake them. “They sucked. Real bad,” Shelton says bluntly. Says Miranda: “We ended up ordering pizza.” Her own attempts to embrace a healthier lifestyle have been more successful: Lambert showed off a noticeably slimmer shape at the CMA Awards last November, the result of a beefed-up exercise routine and eating smaller portions. “My weight does not define me, up or down, but getting a handle on it is one more thing to feel confident about,” she says. Even so, the focus on it leaves her irritated. “It’s annoying people pay that much attention to it,” she says. “I don’t like how women are judged for it. I’m not worried about what other people think, but if I’m onstage and something’s too tight and I’m thinking about my body instead of my performance, that’s when it’s time to say, ‘Okay, it’s been fun, but we’re breaking up, food!'”
No matter what her size, she still has days where she looks into a mirror and doesn’t love what she sees. She wrote “Bathroom Sink,” another new song, after one of those moments. “It was all kinds of blue,” she says. “Last year the tabloid stuff went to a new place. Some people make a living out of making you miserable. People were talking about my weight gain or my weight loss, and I didn’t feel good about myself. I looked in the mirror over the bathroom sink and thought, ‘I even feel rejected from myself right now.’ I’m vulnerable in that song.”
With “all my mood swings and my girlness” laid bare, Platinum is, Lambert says, “a woman’s album.” And one she hopes will help put some female voices back at the top of country’s bro-heavy charts: “I feel a responsibility to support other women in the business. If there’s anything I can do to kick open a door and hold it open, I’m going to do it.” Her own heroes like Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Dolly and Reba paved the way. “They were like, ‘I’m here to stay. I am going to build me a career and an empire and you can like it or leave it, but don’t stand in my way.'” For her part, Lambert fully intends to follow in their footsteps. “So much is ahead of me,” she says. “And I want to drive this ship, not just ride on it.”