Miranda Lambert Says the Last Few Years Taught Her She Can Write Sad Songs While She's Happy

Miranda Lambert took a month off this summer to take a road trip in her camper after a map and fictitious characters inspired Palomino

Miranda Lambert's new album Palomino was inspired by a fictitious road trip across the country that she couldn't take because she wrote the project during the pandemic. This summer, she's making it a reality.

For the first time in her career, the Academy of Country Music's reigning entertainer of the year blocked an entire month out of her schedule to enjoy the season. She plans to hop in her Airstream with her husband and head West alongside friend and backup singer Gwen Sebastian and her husband, who also own a camper, to see what they can see.

"It's so far from Nashville that I never had enough time to like, get there," Lambert says, explaining they've allowed two days in each place and that they'll wind through Colorado, Utah, Montana and Wyoming for 20 days, which is the longest run she's ever made in her camper. "I'm very, very excited about that. It's such a different way of seeing the world."

miranda lambert PALOMINO
Miranda Lambert's Palomino.

When Lambert, 38, released Palomino last month, her eighth studio album was the top-selling country album in the U.S. and the U.K. and earned the fourth spot on the all-genre Billboard 200 to make it the project the highest-debuting country album of 2022. The album is home to songs including her current single "If I Was a Cowboy," fan favorite "Actin' Up," and more. She co-wrote every song on the 15-song album, many with Natalie Hemby, who was there when a map inspired Palomino.

Lambert worked with frequent collaborators-turned-producers Jon Randall and Luke Dick on the album without a specific direction. She knew she wanted it to be different and says that Dick is a "Comic Okie" with an "amazing brain" and "cool tracks." She describes Randall as having bluegrass and Texas country roots. She wanted a combination of the two men as the sound for her new album.

miranda lambert PALOMINO
Miranda Lambert. Robert Ascroft

"Scenes" and "Tourist," which Lambert wrote with Dick and Natalie Hemby, were the first two songs completed for Palomino and set the tone for the project.

"We were like, 'Maybe it's like a theme?'" Lambert says. "So, we went with it, and we just started going through the map, honestly. We made this whole record of road trips, and it was during a time where we weren't able to go on any road trips because it was in 2020. It just sort of came together as this traveling vagabond vibe."

She says every song on the album is her favorite at different times but explains Palomino embodies the whole "gypsy part of me." "Carousel," which she also wrote with Hemby and Dick, is a "once in a lifetime" song, she says.

"It's like a 'House That Built Me' feeling moment musically," she says. "The beauty in the story being like how amazing this past life was for this woman, but then the beauty in finding a whole new life after the circus is left town. I feel like everything ends at some point. How do you do it gracefully, and how do you not make it feel just like an ending but a beginning of something new?"

The idea was inspired by the perspective gained in 2020. Lambert says she'd been on the country music carousel for so long that she had to find a new way to keep her career moving when the world shut down. Spending happy time at home with her husband Brendan McLoughlin taught her that she didn't have to be "tortured or sad" to write great songs. When she was young, Lambert thought she had to live every sad song she wrote, which she said is "a terrible way to go." Now, she can imagine herself in places or in character without living out the emotionally wrenching scenes.

"Any kind of artist will live in the darkness because they're using it for art," she says. "But at some point, I can actually be happy and be functioning and doing life and get in a writing room and go somewhere else in my mind or heart."

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Lambert doesn't want fans to feel like Palomino is a concept record, but it does have a theme. It's a road trip full of characters, and if people listen to the entire album, the songs will take them to 36 different places all over the United States. When she introduced the album with "Strange," "Actin' Up" and "If I Was a Cowboy," she chose those songs because she wanted to represent the entire album. And she thinks she chose correctly.

But "Pursuit of Happiness" and "Music City Queen" have a special place in her heart, too. Lambert met her husband in the northeast, the area that inspired "Pursuit of Happiness" and "Music City Queen," which features the B-52's, is about Nashville.

"We just wanted to hit these highlights," she says. "I pictured the most epic road trip in my camper, like where all the places that I would go."

And in July, as soon as her The Bandwagon Tour with Little Big Town is over, she will climb in her camper with her husband and take that trip.

"Everyone's like, 'So you're gonna get right off the bus and right into a camper," she says. "But, it's such a different way of seeing the world. It's through a windshield, but it's with freedom versus pulling into a parking lot where I wait all day, play a show, then roll the next town. This is like a way to actually see things. I always say I've been everywhere and seen nothing, which is kind of part of what I do. Gwen always says, 'What we do is a hard lifestyle. So while all our knees and elbows work, we're gonna go do some fun stuff.'"

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