Miranda Lambert has followed her path with the surefootedness of a high-wire aerialist who prefers working without a net. Betting on herself, sticking to her convictions, doubling down when caution might have seemed the wiser choice – every risk she took and every due she paid led directly to her perch at the top.
“I didn’t go to college because I knew I’d just be wasting my parents’ money. I told them, ‘If you’ll let me pursue music, I’ll make it work.’ At 19, going into Nashville record labels and saying, ‘Hey, I’m gonna do this my way or I’m not gonna do it’ … What was I thinking?” said CMA’s reigning Female Vocalist of the Year, laughing at her own early self-assurance. “I could have lost everything right then! But I knew I had to make the music I wanted to make and sing about what I wanted to sing about. I never was tempted to go in a direction I wasn’t comfortable with. Playing it safe has never been an option.”
This is evident on Platinum, the fifth in Lambert’s line of successful album releases.
During the Platinum sessions, Lambert invited some of her heroes and peers to join in as guest artists. Little Big Town appears as a result of a conversation with Karen Fairchild about “Smokin’ and Drinkin’” (written by Hemby, Luke Laird and Shane McAnally), a song that Lambert had on hold. “Karen said, ‘We’ve heard the song and if you don’t want it, we’ll take it,’” she recalled. “I told her, ‘Well, hey, I want to have harmonies and sound like a bunch of people singing around a campfire, so why don’t you guys just sing on it with me?’”
For “Somethin’ Bad” (Chris DeStefano, Brett James and Priscilla Renea), Lambert chose Carrie Underwood for the vocal thrash-out.
“I respect Carrie so much as an artist, as a singer and as a female,” Lambert said. “She’s strong and smart, and we’re two of a kind the way we’ve had to work to get where we are. I was nervous to ask her because I didn’t know how she’d feel about it, but she was right on board.”
But no moment in the recording process gave Lambert a case of rookie nerves as much as working with Vince Gill and the legendary Time Jumpers on “All That’s Left,” a Tom T. and Dixie Hall song she had heard on a bluegrass station while driving home from a Beyoncé concert in Dallas.
“I was so nervous and excited to have The Time Jumpers singing on my record that I couldn’t get my act together,” Lambert insisted. “It was crazy. I had to go back into the studio later and sing my part after everybody was gone.”
Now 30 years old, Lambert senses a subtle, shifting wisdom and maturity in herself. She knows that her choices matter. And so far, she says, so good.
“I’ve had the exact career I would want,” she said. “I didn’t shoot to the top immediately. It’s been a slow, steady burn. And I got to do it the right way — my way. I think Platinum is exactly the album I need right now. It’s who I am and where I am at this moment in my life.”
She hesitated, then continued. “You know, at 30, it’s a whole different set of problems to write about but also a whole different set of good things. I really feel like I’m just getting started. I’ve got 10 years behind me but hopefully 30 more ahead.”
On the web: mirandalambert.com
On Twitter: @MirandaLambert