Miranda Lambert, the Academy of Country Music’s most-awarded artist, sat down with The Tennessean reporter-turned-The AMG’s Manager of Corporate Communications Cindy Watts to discuss her journey to her latest album, Wildcard, and the last two decades that shaped it yesterday (Feb. 19) at CRS.
Watts guided Lambert through a series of questions leading up to the making of her seventh album Wildcard, which released in November. Lambert performed an acoustic version of “Dark Bars” and “How Dare You Love” to end the interview.
Lambert reflected on her high school days, when she was very shy but went before her school board to start the school choir at Lindale High School. That very same choir performed with her recently at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
“I was in drama club so I sang in the musicals and stuff. I tried out for cheerleading my sophomore year and didn’t make it… I didn’t nail my back handsprings, it was very devastating,” Lamber joked. “My mom said, ‘You know, you can sing, so maybe it’s not good to be yelling in 30-degree weather every Friday,’ which was kind of smart on her part. So I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ I wasn’t very good at anything else. So my mom and I started a petition to get a choir. Again, I was so shy, I didn’t want to talk to people or anything, but I went in front of the school board and explained why I thought it was important to include singers in all of these high school activities that were so praised. They agreed and the first day we had a choir, 65 kids signed up. So that was pretty telling.”
Lambert also talked about finding her personality and leaving the shyness behind on stage at a bar, during a talent contest.
“I was like, ‘Oh, this is what it is.’ There’s like smoke and neon. That was the point where I got addicted right away,” she said. “I ended up getting the house gig at that bar when I turned 17. I had the gig for four months, three nights a week, for four hours sets and made $200. It’s where I started to get my chops. It’s where I started to realize what all this was about.”
After getting third place on Nashville Star, Lambert was guided by Tracy Gershon to her first label deal. It was then that she handpicked Frank Liddell to produce her records. Together the two made six essential Lambert albums. For Wildcard, Lambert needed something new creatively.
“I had meetings with Frank Liddell and we decided that we weren’t in the same spot, creatively, and he gave me permission to go find what I needed. I knew that was Jay Joyce. And so I think there’s magic in new energy when you need to find a creative way to re-make yourself. And when you have somebody new, you have a different kind of energy and nervousness and I think that worked in our advantage,” she said.
With a house of radio executives in the house, Lambert talked about what radio means in her career.
“I mean it feels good to have your song go to the top of the chart. That’s not the case in my career very often,” she said. “It’s interesting because I’ve had a career based on songs, not hits. As much as we pay attention because we’re in our bubble, the crowd doesn’t know that that ‘Gunpowder’ went to No. 9 or that ‘Little Red Wagon’ went to No. 11, nor do they care. Nor do I care as long as they hear it. I can’t play shows if I’m not heard. Still to this day, I need for people hear my new music. They’ve seen me several times in every city and when they’re weighing out, ‘Do I want to go see Luke Combs or Miranda? I’ve seen her several times, and he’s new and great,’ and they have money to get one ticket, it’s nice to have a new song or seven that you can promote.”