Miranda Lambert has rarely talked about The Weight of These Wings, mostly letting the critically acclaimed – and intensely autobiographical – double album speak for itself since its release last November. But on Tuesday night, in an intimate all-acoustic concert featuring 15 of her 24 co-writers, Lambert opened up and allowed some of the stories behind the songs to be revealed.
“Music is medicine – it truly is,” the artist, 33, said from the stage of Marathon Music Works in Nashville.
And if that’s the case, her songwriting friends clearly were crucial in helping Lambert heal her heartbreak after her 2015 divorce from Blake Shelton. They also were the ones who helped her navigate those first formative days with her boyfriend of two years, singer-songwriter Anderson East.
“The people in this room tonight who came here to support me, they had my back the whole time,” Lambert said, “and I’m just so thankful and humbled by it.”
In all, Lambert and the songwriters performed 13 of the 24 songs that appear on the platinum-selling album. The 75-minute show, before an audience of a few hundred invited guests, will be whittled down to an hour for broadcast on PBS in February as part of the network’s Front and Center CMA Songwriter Series.
No doubt Lambert and her co-writers were most revealing in back-to-back performances of two of the album’s rawest songs, “Vice” and “Ugly Lights.”
“Do you remember the way this song started?” co-writer Shane McAnally asked Lambert about the day he and Josh Osborne (who wasn’t present) co-wrote “Vice” with her. It happened to be the day that news of the divorce broke.
“Sorta,” Lambert replied. “I remember that feeling.”
“You took your heart out of your chest and put it on the table,” McAnally recalled.
“I also brought a rolling cooler,” she quipped.
Even more, McAnally said, Lambert came with “this vulnerability of ‘let’s do this.’” As lyrics began pouring out of her, McAnally recalled, “I kept looking at you and kept saying, ‘You’re not gonna say that.’ And you’d go, ‘Yep.’”
For Lambert, the “Vice” session held meaning for “the privilege and blessing of being able to write songs and use that to, like, get you through it. And people, like Shane and Josh that day – and everybody that’s here tonight that’s a songwriter on this record – just completely embraced where I was, whatever day that was. … I was kind of all over the map, and these people were in the trenches with me.”
For “Ugly Lights,” Lambert divulged that she co-wrote the lyrics, describing an off-the-rails night at a bar, based on her previous evening’s experience.
“I did get divorced in 2015,” Lambert pointedly acknowledged before singing the song with co-writers Liz Rose and Natalie Hemby. “Just pretty much this whole record … I did start drinking a lot. And I did go to bars in midtown [Nashville] … And I had to pick up my car. It’d been there three days. Yeah … and I still had mascara on from the first day. So these gals came over and we were gonna write a song, and I had written it on my way home from picking up my car.”
Among the songwriters who appeared on stage was East, who joined Lambert and Hemby for “Getaway Driver.” It was, Hemby noted, the first song the couple co-wrote. After the three performed it – with East taking lead vocals – Lambert recalled how the writing session ended “all lovey-dovey” with her boyfriend, but then the two soon “got in a fight.”
“Because that’s how it goes,” she added. “And I was pissed, because that’s also how it goes.”
Lambert recalled asking East in the heat of the moment, “Are you gonna break up with me?”
East kept his calm. “I think I’ll wait 60 years,” he replied.
Lambert smiled at the memory. “So sweet.”
East’s response ended up being repurposed in the love song, “Pushin’ Time,” a co-write that Lambert, Hemby and Foy Vance then performed.
Lambert diverged only once from the album with a surprise appearance by her first co-writer, her father, Jack Lambert, who’d flown in with her mom that day.
“I threw this in at the last minute last night,” Lambert said. “I texted my mom and said, ‘Get on Southwest and come to Nashville.’”
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Father and daughter performed “Greyhound Bound for Nowhere,” which appeared on 2005’s Kerosene.
“Dad and I haven’t sang this song together besides at a campfire in a long time,” Lambert said in her introduction, “but it’s really special to do it … It’s one of the first songs I ever wrote as a songwriter.”
The concert was capped with “I’ve Got Wheels,” perhaps the most hopeful song on “Weight of These Wings.”
“Basically, it says in a nutshell everything that this record said, and everything that this journey kind of amounted to because you’ve gotta roll on,” Lambert said. “You just gotta keep going.”