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The award-winning artist offers a window into her music and her colorful life at the national convention of country radio broadcasters in Nashville

By Nancy Kruh
February 24, 2020 04:45 PM
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Miranda Lambert says she received surefire proof early in her career that her music was making an impact on country fans. Too bad it wasn’t in a way she ever intended.

“This lady actually came up to me,” Lambert said, describing the long-ago meet-and-greet encounter to radio broadcasters in Nashville last week, “and she said, ‘I got off because he was beating me, but ‘Gunpowder and Lead’ saved my life.’”

“I was like, what?” Lambert recalled.

The fan went on to explain she’d taken Lambert’s abuse-revenge song to heart, and “she goes, ‘I shot him. I shot his ass.’” The singer was aghast: “I was, like, ‘That’s a lot! It’s just a meet-and-greet! It wasn’t meant to be taken literally!’”

Miranda Lambert
Miranda Lambert
| Credit: KAYLA SCHOEN/Courtesy AristoMedia

Lambert told the hair-raising story during an hour-long Q&A at Country Radio Seminar, the annual convention for the industry.

Blessedly, she added, she soon tempered her hellion image with “The House That Built Me,” a career-defining song that invited far more uplifting fan stories. “I had people come and tell me ‘The House That Built Me’ changed their actual life,” she said. “And so then I was, like, okay. I was crawling out of my corner that I’d been backed into a little bit at that point.”

Of course, Lambert can be tempered only so much. She noted the lyrics for “Way Too Pretty for Prison,” a co-write on her new album, Wildcard, have her contemplating a hitman. “Yeah, just mellowed out a little,” she allowed. “I’m too tired to go killin’ people anymore. I’m 36. We can hire somebody to do that.” (Not literally. Does it even need to be said?)

Miranda Lambert
Miranda Lambert and Cindy Watts
| Credit: KAYLA SCHOEN/Courtesy AristoMedia

The CRS appearance was an opportunity for Lambert to give broadcast insiders a window into her music and her world, and she obviously gave them an eyeful. Among the highlights:

She recently had an epic encounter with Dolly Parton.

Over the years, Lambert said, she has gotten to meet most of her country heroes. In 2010, she recorded “Coal Miner’s Daughter” with Loretta Lynn and Sheryl Crow (“I cried all day,” Lambert recalled). That same year, she joined Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson to sing for Merle Haggard at his Kennedy Center Honors (on a scale of 1 to 10, “I remember being on 11 that day,” she said).

But a meeting with Dolly Parton didn’t occur until this past year when Lambert was brought in to cover “Dumb Blonde” for Parton’s Netflix film Dumplin’.

“We were filming something for Dumplin’,” Lambert said, and before she’d even had a chance to say hello at the shoot, Parton twirled Lambert around and instructed: “Find your good light!”

“It was the first thing she ever said to me,” Lambert told her interviewer, veteran music journalist Cindy Watts, “and I thought, that’s already great advice in every way! Find your good light … Okay! I’ve got you, Dolly!”

Miranda Lambert
Miranda Lambert
| Credit: KAYLA SCHOEN/Courtesy AristoMedia

Country’s most famous dog rescuer has her own special canine-discipline technique.

Along with her mom, Lambert created MuttNation, a dog-welfare foundation, and she’s the alpha of her own pack of (at last count) nine adopted dogs: Jessi and Waylon, two golden retrievers; Thelma, Louise and J.D., three Great Pyrenees; Delta Dawn, Cher and Bellamy Brother (of indeterminate heritage), and finally “one extra named ROE that I found last year,” she said. “It stands for ‘running on empty,’ because he’s running on it. He has no teeth, and he’s 10 years old. But, you know, he’s ours.”

Visitors who’ve been around the dogs, she said, remark on their excellent behavior, and Lambert reveals her trick. “It’s the ‘mom’ look,” she says. “It’s the ‘talkin’-in-church’ look I give them.”

All those awards (e.g., two Grammys, 13 CMAs, and 34 ACMs) have their own room in her house.

“It’s just a small little room,” she said, and it has doors so she can close it off and “not live in that.”

But before she made Wildcard, Lambert took a further step away from her accolades: She covered up all the plaques and trophies with tapestries. “I was, like, that’s great and all, but I’ve already done that,” she explained. “Like, what’s next? I mean, I can’t dwell on what’s already happened. I have to figure out how to do something new, and you know, Wildcard came from that.”

Miranda Lambert
Miranda Lambert
| Credit: MBP Photograhy/AristoMedia

Her husband has a favorite Miranda Lambert song request.

The singer spoke of several songs she co-wrote for the new album that have special significance.

“Dark Bars,” for instance, pays homage to where she started her performance career, and where she figures she will end it. “I feel like the last gig I ever play will be just like the first gig I ever played,” she said. “There’ll be a neon [sign] and there’ll be smoke and there’ll be beer and there’ll be some cowboys two-steppin’, and if I go out like that, I go out happy.”

She also relishes that her latest single, “Bluebird,” is a departure from her recurrent themes. “I haven’t had a lot of songs in my catalog about hope,” she said. “I guess I’m mostly sad, sometimes mad, and here and there maybe a love song … I love singing [‘Bluebird’] every night.”

For her CRS audience, she performed one of those rare love songs, “How Dare You Love,” an album cut that has a special fan: husband Brendan McLoughlin.

“He requests it all the time, and I never do it,” she said in her introduction, adding, “He’s actually a really good person to bounce things off because he loves mainstream music of all kinds. He really cares about music, but doesn’t have the business part of it, which is nice sometimes. But he loves this song, so I figure, hopefully, other people do.”

Lambert has her own measure of success — and it’s not charts, awards or sales stats.

“I started in this business when I was 17 and I’m 36,” she said, “and I feel some days like I’ve been doing it for 350 years and some days like I’ve been doing it for three days, and I now know that the most important thing isn’t chasing something all the time. It’s living in it … and that goes for my personal life and professional life.”

Lambert said she wants her legacy to be much more than “what my music did. It’s what I did. It’s how many people I was good to and how many dogs I saved and how many people needed to hear ‘Virginia Bluebell’ … And that’s how I’m going to chase this next decade — with more, I guess, quality, not quantity.”