Miranda Lambert: Country's spitfire

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 20, 2012 - 10:24 PM

Hotter than ever, the outspoken country star brings her first arena tour here.

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Miranda Lambert: “I’m a strong woman and I believe in speaking your mind. If I don’t, I’m not upholding what I’ve preached."

Photo: CHAD BATKA, New York Times

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Married her longtime beau: Check. Had a big hit ballad: Check. Scored a No. 1 country song: Check. Got a Grammy: Check. Collected CMA Award for female vocalist of the year: Check. Check. Won ACM Award for album of the year: Check. Check. Check. Headlining her own arena tour: Check -- finally. Miranda Lambert has been on a roll the past couple of years. So why is she still singing about anxiety and agony?

"I've always leaned more toward the sad songs and the angst," said Lambert, who will make her Twin Cities debut as arena headliner Friday at Target Center. "I feel like that's what people want to hear. That's what I want to hear. I don't want to hear a bunch of happy songs all the time. People may have expected me to be a little more happy and upbeat on this album [her Academy of Country Music-winning 'Four the Record'] and it just wasn't like that at all."

That's the essence of Miranda Lambert -- telling it like it is, whether evening the score with an ex-boyfriend in the 2008 hit "Gunpowder and Lead" or dissing R&B star Chris Brown on Twitter after the Grammy Awards show in February.

Lambert felt obligated to vent because she thought Brown was greedy doing two performances on the Grammys and she was upset that he didn't apologize for beating up his ex-girlfriend Rihanna.

"I feel like it's my duty," said Lambert, 28. "Everything I've always stood for in my career and in my personal life, I'm a strong woman and I believe in speaking your mind. Sometimes I feel like if I don't, I'm not upholding what I've preached."

Outspoken, to be sure. But also sensitive. Check out her current hit ballad "Over You," which she wrote with her husband, country star Blake Shelton, who's on a roll himself as a coach on NBC's "The Voice." One day he opened up about the death of his older brother in a car accident when they were teenagers.

"We wrote it about his brother," Lambert said. "Ironically, it was my single in January, and we lost his dad [then] and I lost a really good childhood friend. So it was kind of weird that we wrote about something that happened 16 years ago but it was very fitting to our lives today."

Shelton tour has to wait

Not only did they compose "Over You" together, but they duet on "Better in the Long Run" on "Four the Record" (it's her fourth album) and they sang "America the Beautiful" together at the Super Bowl in February. How about touring together?

"We've decided it's not the right time," said Lambert. The couple will celebrate their first wedding anniversary May 9 by hanging out at their farm in Oklahoma -- which is what they did for half their honeymoon. "I'm trying to build on this momentum I'm having, and he doesn't have time to do it with back-to-back seasons of 'The Voice.'" (The show already has begun filming its third season, expected to air this fall.)

Not only has Lambert been a guest mentor on "The Voice," but she's an avid fan who texts her husband unsolicited advice during the show.

"He probably gets annoyed. He has his phone with him in the chair," she explained. "He'll text me: 'How was it?' because he can only hear what he hears in the building. I'm the back-seat driver, bad."

Lambert knows quite a bit about TV talent shows. She got her career break after finishing third on "Nashville Star" in 2003. And the show's 2006 winner, Chris Young, is opening for her current On Fire Tour.

Despite the moniker, the tour does not feature pyrotechnics -- nothing like the giant ring of fire in which she performed "Kerosene," her first hit, at the 2005 Country Music Association Awards.

"I figure I'm fiery enough on my own," she said.

'Law and Order' and Pistols

Lambert made her mark with feisty he-done-me-wrong songs like "Kerosene" ("He's out there holding on to someone/ I'm holding up my smoking gun") and "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." She grew up in Lindale, Texas, where her parents were private investigators, often working with women who were abused or cheated on.

But her career didn't really explode until the 2010 ballad "The House That Built Me." Shelton was going to record it, but she talked him out of it. The song became her first No. 1 hit and led to a Grammy for best female country vocal performance and a CMA prize for song of the year.

With her elevated profile, Lambert landed a spot in February on NBC's "Law & Order: SVU," her favorite TV show. Actually, when she met the program's show runner, she said: "I know you want me on your show." He warmed to the idea but she said had a little advice for her: "'You need to be a little less confident.' OK, no one's ever told me that."

Lambert is confident that she doesn't want to be an actress. She's too busy with music, including her side project the Pistol Annies, a country girl group with songwriting partners Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley. They released a loose, spirited collection of harmony-heavy country ditties called "Hell on Heels" ast August.

The two singers will join her tour in May and do five Pistol Annies songs as part of her set. In September, there will be a separate Pistol Annies tour, followed by the recording of the trio's second album.

"I love doing Pistol Annies stuff," Lambert said, clearly lighting up over the phone. "For one thing, I only have a third of the pressure. It's like a grown-up slumber party. We get ready together, we write songs on the bus and we get out there and sing and have a blast. I would be really jealous if I wasn't in the band."

One more thing added to her checklist.

  • related content

  • Country Couples

    Thursday April 19, 2012

    Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton join a select group of country couples who have enjoyed musical success while married. We asked her to comment on some of her famous predecessors.

  • MIRANDA LAMBERT

    Opening: Chris Young and Jerrod Niemann.

    When: 7:30 p.m. Fri. 4/20

    Where: Target Center, 600 1st Av. N., Mpls.

    Tickets: $38.75-$51.75. 1-800-982-2787 or ticketmaster.com.

    Web: mirandalambert.com.

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