Posted February 11, 2018 by Jeff in Tunes

Miranda Lambert: Inspired by Living

Miranda Lambert photo by Daniella Federici
Miranda Lambert photo by Daniella Federici

Country singer-songwriter Miranda Lambert’s Livin’ Like Hippies Tour kicked off earlier this year. Singer-songwriter Jon Pardi provides support for all the tour and Brent Cobb, Turnpike Troubadours, Lucie Silvas, the Steel Woods, Sunny Sweeney, Ashley McBryde and Charlie Worsham perform at select dates.  Lambert phoned us to talk about her most recent album, 2016’s The Weight of These Wings. At least one critic has called the 24-song double album a “divorce” album but Lambert says it touches on a range of topics and that is simply not the case. Lambert spoke to us from a Fresno tour stop.

What was it like to grow up in Texas?
I grew up in East Texas, 80 miles east of Dallas. I grew up in a musical household. There was always music playing in our house. My dad is a singer-songwriter so he was always playing country music. My parents are both huge country music lovers, so I found a love for it early in my life. We lived in the country and in a rural area. I got a love for the rural life from Day One. I had a great childhood. It was a small town — a Friday Night Lights type of thing.

Does Texas country have its own sound?
Absolutely. The whole scene was different from anything else. It’s been going on since Willie Nelson and Waylon and that whole sound. Texas always had its own thing. It’s a great place to start because you have a different platform.

You asked your dad to teach you how to play guitar so you could write your own songs. What was the key thing you learned from him?
He taught me three chords. He’s a pretty simple country songwriter. He’s really intelligent. The way he writes is from a story perspective but also from the truth. I learned that from him definitely.

I read one review that said your debut album Kerosene proved “a woman could be as much of a badass as her male peers.” Did you go into the studio with that intention?
No. I wasn’t trying to prove anything other than introduce people to who I am. I’m still doing that.

My whole shtick is to write about wherever I am in life.

I love the title track. What was it like to write that tune with Steve Earle?
It was great. I had been listening to nothing but Steve Earle for the whole time when I was writing that record. One of my melodies got on top of his song, and I knew that, so we co-wrote it. I was actually never in the same room with him. Years later, in fact this past year, I wrote and recorded a song with him finally. It was a great experience. He’s really intelligent.

What was it like to have so much success right off the bat?
You know, I just kept my head down and haven’t stopped since. That was 13 years ago. I made several records and started a band and made two records with them. I keep evolving and I don’t want to get too wrapped up in one project. I want to keep growing and learning.

As you started to write the songs that would become The Weight of These Wings, did you find them going in any one particular direction?
I didn’t have a plan. It took a year. I just wanted to tell a story. I was kind of wrapped up in a tabloid frenzy and that’s completely the opposite of who I am. I’m a pretty private person. I wanted to tell my side of the story and use the emotions of going through something hard in your life. I think I achieved that.

How’d you wind up with a double album with two sides—“The Nerve” and “The Heart”?
I started to not being able to weed through the songs and I was attached to more than just one record full.

Where’d you go to record and what was that experience like?
We recorded at a little garage studio in East Nashville. I met Eric Masse through my producer Frank Liddell. We holed up in this place, and nobody knew where we were. We just worked on the album together. I like that. I like to break things up and not record at the same place twice. It’s interesting to me to get a new vibe.

What’s the story behind “Highway Vagabond”? It’s such a unique sounding track.
That song is one that I didn’t write. I wrote like 80 songs for the album between 2015 and 2017. My friends Natalie [Hemby] and Shane [McAnally] sent me the song even though I told them I wasn’t listening to outside songs. They told me they really wanted me to hear it and that they wrote it for me. I loved it so much. I love the sentiment of describing the road life in a glamorous way.

Did a particular incident inspire “We Should be Friends”?
I wrote that one by myself. It was the last song I wrote for the record. I was thinking about all my friends and what great friends we are and what great disasters we can be. I put that into words and gave it a melody, kind of owning it.

What was it like to write “Getaway Driver” with Anderson East?
It was great. I think it’s one of the first songs we ever wrote together. We wrote it with Natalie [Hemby]. He had that title. We don’t do a lot of work together, but it was a cool song to write together. I’m really proud of it.

“Covered Wagon” has a Sheryl Crow feel to it. Is that what you were going for?
I wasn’t, but I like that analogy. I love Sheryl. That was an old song I just loved and heard. When we’re on tour, we have an Airstream and we sit around and listen to music. My steel player always pulls out these random, amazing songs. He pulled that one out and I fell in love with it. We travel for a living and we travel when we’re not working. It’s part of our blood and I love the sentiment of the song.

“Six Degrees of Separation” could be a Joan Jett tune. Must be fun to play that one live.
I wrote that one with Natalie [Hemby] and Nicolle [Galyon]. I just thought it’s an interesting take on not escaping an ex, you know. It was fun to write. I haven’t done it live yet but I would like to.

Did anyone in particular inspire “Tomboy”?
Again, just me and my friends. We all have this “rough-and-tumble-but-still-girlie” side to us. This is about making that more glamorous and endearing.

Talk about the meaning of “Keeper of the Flame.”
Well, that song is special to me. It’s really about how I am thankful to have the torch and all these amazing women have blazed the trail for me.

I want to keep that going and kick the door open for other women.

The Weight of These Wings has been called your “divorce album.” Does that accurately describe it?
I don’t think that’s accurate at all. I didn’t make a divorce record. It’s not a divorce album. Divorce isn’t a big enough deal to deserve an entire record. It’s part of the story, but I found happiness and playfulness on this record. It’s a little dramatic to call it a divorce album.

What will you do next?
I don’t know, but I’m excited about it. I’ve been writing with the Pistol Annies. I think that will come first. Right now, I’m just living life. I have to live to find inspiration. Art imitates life and vice versa. I want to exist and have fun. I want to manage through every day and gather inspiration.

The Livin’ Like Hippies Tour started earlier this year. What have the shows been like?
This has been one of the greatest tours we’ve ever done. I’m been touring since I was 17, but I feel 2018 has a spark for us. This one feels special. The crowds have been amazing. We just played Sacramento and it was one of those shows where the hair on your arm stands up. It was electric. I go through my entire catalog and play a song from every album. It’s been interesting and fun. The opening act is different every weekend. I love that because it’s people who I’m friends with and huge fans of. I get to work with incredible artists and I get inspired to go out on stage.

At a time when things are so divisive, music feels particularly unifying. Do you think that’s part of it?Absolutely. Country music especially has always been a family, and I think we have that vibe more than ever now.


Miranda Lambert photo by Daniella Federici


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.