If Miranda Lambert’s learned anything in the past 36 years of her life thus far, it’s this: Play the hand you’re dealt. In fact, it’s this very mantra that’s taken Lambert from a Nashville Star contestant to an award-winning recording artist, philanthropist and entrepreneur. She’s also kept this bit of advice tucked in her back pocket as her career propelled her into the limelight…and the tabloids. For the past 15 years, little about her life has been kept secret. If she wasn’t singing about her personal heartbreak and struggle, it was splashed across headlines for all to see. Now, seven albums in, Lambert has learned to shake off the drama and give herself permission to have fun.
“It’s taken me 36 years to realize I don’t have to take myself so seriously. It’s OK to make fun of yourself and to be free about everything,” Lambert says, calling in from a tour stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “I’m a very driven, goal-oriented person, but it’s alright to lay back and enjoy life, too.”
This year, Lambert forced herself to relax, spending the better part of 2019 celebrating some significant milestones. In January, she married Brendan McLoughlin, following a little matchmaking help from her Pistol Annies bandmates. She earned a Top 15 single at radio with “It All Comes Out In The Wash.” At the inaugural RIAA Honors, hosted by the Recording Industry Association of America, Lambert was named “Artist of the Year.” In addition, the Academy of Country Music crowned Lambert’s first No. 1 single, “The House That Built Me,” the “ACM Song of the Decade.” Last month, she garnered two nominations for the upcoming 62nd annual GRAMMY® Awards. Both personally and professionally, it’s been a record year for the “Bluebird” singer. Still, you just never know what Lambert has up her sleeve. Like the title of her new album, Wildcard (Vanner Records/RCA), suggests; she’ll always leave you guessing.
“I mean, I’ve navigated this career for 15 years,” she says, “and so sometimes you have to save little diamonds for yourself until it’s time to use them, you know?”
Wildcard’s 14 gems sparkle like well-played aces. Although she wrote with kindred collaborators like Natalie Hemby, Luke Dick, Ashley Monroe and The Love Junkies (Liz Rose, Lori McKenna and Hillary Lindsey), Lambert worked with producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Little Big Town) for the first time, injecting a fresh creative spirit into the album that’s equal parts traditional Country and shrewd rock ’n’ roll.
“I approached this record with the same kind of enthusiasm and open-mindedness and excitement as I did my very first record,” Lambert shares. “I was ready to make a change creatively but also return to what I know.”
She’s also learned to trust her instincts and fully embrace who she is as an artist. It turns out, sticking to her guns serves her well.
“Every time I’ve not listened to my gut feeling, it’s steered me wrong. So I think I’m just learning how to navigate things by knowing myself and trusting myself to make the right decisions,” the two-time GRAMMY® winner admits. “People can see through something that’s not authentic; I truly believe that… It’s fine to reinvent and to grow and to change, but the core of who you are and why you got into this should stay the same throughout. I think that’s so important.”
Even when the lyrics weren’t flattering, Lambert has always remained true to herself. And in baring the rawest parts of her life, she’s helped others realize self-love may be the anecdote to happiness.
“I definitely think I’ve made some mistakes, and I’ve had some not so pleasant experiences, but I learned so much from those, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter,” she offers. “There’s been bumps in the road, but I was still making music that I wanted to make and I believed in.”
In addition to standing behind music she believes in, Lambert’s used her platform to advocate for causes she believes in, raising more than $3.9 million over the past decade in support of animal rescue and pet adoption through her MuttNation Foundation.
Moreover, she’s the face of a curated western wear line, Idyllwind, sold exclusively at Boot Barn stores nationwide, further establishing herself as a multi-faceted businesswoman.
“It’s not just about the art. It’s very much about the business, and that’s what shocked me the most early on; and it’s still sometimes not my favorite part of it. The politics and all of that; sometimes I’m like, ‘I just want to write songs,’” Lambert admits. “You’ve got to have a pretty good business head on your shoulders to get anywhere, and you can’t just rely on the business people to do it. It really comes from you.”
While she’s mastered the business side of her artistry the hard way, Lambert hopes to pave a smoother ride for new artists. Forever a champion of fellow female Country singers, the Texas-native wants to inspire the next generation of women in Country music. That’s one reason why she built an all-female bill for this fall’s Roadside Bars & Pink Guitars Tour. What she didn’t count on was how much the rotating lineup of Pistol Annies, Maren Morris, Elle King, Ashley McBride, Tenille Townes and Caylee Hammack would inspire her.
“It’s not just about a package you’re putting together, but it’s about how it feels backstage. And for the fans, what do they want to hear every night?” she says of the dynamic lineup. “I feel like when I was coming up, I didn’t have a female mentor, per se. There weren’t a lot of girls on tour, and so I went on tour with all males my whole career. There’s certain things that only women go through. Whatever they’re going through, I’ve probably done it. I’m hoping I can be a sounding board for them.”
Throughout the 25-city outing, she especially took newcomers Townes and Hammack under her wing. Her attention and advice were like gold for the rising stars, and in turn, their enthusiasm was a healthy dose of realism for the veteran singer.
“I’m a little more jaded. I’ve been through a lot, but they still have heart eyes. They still have this wide-eyed, bushy-tailed, ready-to-take-on-the-world mentality, and it’s good for me to see,” Lambert offers. “It’s good for me to remember how lucky we are that we get to do this, even when it gets hard.”
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Final weekend of the #roadsidebarsandpinkguitars tour. This was one of my favorite tours I’ve ever done. Thank you to the band/crew for working so hard and most importantly to the girls for the friendship and inspiration. And Scotty Wray happy bday!!! 18 years playing music together! I love you dearly. 💙 Thanks to all the amazing country music fans who came out to hang with us. We love yun’s! #allgirltour #countrymusic @elleking @tenilletownes @ashleymcbryde @marenmorris @cayleehammack @pistolannies 📷: @catherinepowell
Having her fellow Pistol Annies (Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley) out on the road with her this fall also kept her grounded in gratitude. “We’ve come so far together as a band. Every night I get chills when they walk up there,” she shares. “I get to stand on the front lines with these girls, because I feel like we’re little soldiers. We’ve fought through a lot in our lives.”
She may have weathered many a battle over the past decade-and-a-half, but the Texas-native has come out stronger and more confident on the other side. Plus, this wildcard has never forgotten where she came from.
“I’ll never get over playing in a honky-tonk bar. That’s where I feel the most at home,” she says. “Of course I’m thankful for the place I am now, playing arenas. So in my mind, I tell myself, ‘It’s just a bigger version of Billy Bob’s.’ And then I feel like I can create that environment for the crowd.”
She’ll continue transforming arenas into crowded honky-tonks when her Wildcard Tour kicks off in mid-January, bringing her co-writes to life on stage. “Every night the crowd sings back to us, and it’s so rewarding to know that our little venting sessions and slumber parties really mean something to people,” she says. “That’s what I hoped for. It’s all I ever wanted.”
Until then, she’ll be singing her songs and playing the game… one card at a time.