Music

Miranda Lambert on Homemade Pickles, Dark Bars, and Good Dogs

Catching up with the country superstar on her just-released seventh album and the things that keep her grounded

photo: Reid Long

Miranda Lambert on stage at Country Lake Shake in Chicago. Her new album is titled Wildcard.

Each of Miranda Lambert’s six previous solo albums has debuted at number one on the country charts. She’s collected sixteen Grammy nominations, taken home more Academy of Country Music trophies than any other artist in history, and raised hell as one-third of supergroup the Pistol Annies (with Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe). Yet for all that Lambert has accomplished, her just-released seventh solo album, Wildcard, proves the Texas native still has a few tricks up her sleeve. From the full-throttle Southern rock on “Locomotive” to the retro country waltz of “Tequila Does,” the album shows an unflappable artist capable of bouncing between a variety of sounds and influences while delivering an overall message of optimism.

That confidence—in herself and in the future—is perhaps most evident in the buoyant track “Bluebird,” which spawned Wildcard’s title: “If the house just keeps on winning, I got a wild card up my sleeve,” she sings. “And if the whole wide world stops singing, and all the stars go dark / I’ll keep a light on in my soul, keep a bluebird in my heart.”  Lambert co-wrote the song with friends and songwriting heavyweights Luke Dick and Natalie Hemby after being inspired by a poem. “Luke had texted me a little piece of a poem he had seen about a bluebird,” says Lambert, who connected with the passage immediately. “You can’t really explain it—a bluebird gives you a warm, hopeful feeling. I hope when people listen to that song, they feel a little hopeful, too.” 

G&G caught up with Lambert about the things that keep her feeling hopeful, from quiet days on the farm to her work with rescue dogs in need. Read the interview below, and look out for Lambert on tour, with a number of Southern dates this fall and a larger slate of shows in 2020.


Wildcard
’s first single, “All Comes Out in the Wash,” is about getting clean emotionally. What are some of the ways you wash away negativity in your life? 

I can heal a lot from just having a normal life, even if it’s just for two days. It’s very important to practice self-care, more for the mind than anything. You can press through if your body’s tired, but when your mind gets tired, it’s a whole different game. I used to overcrowd my life. If I was exhausted, I would go harder and get my energy from the pace. Now, I clear my thoughts and heart by alone time, or time with my husband and my family, or time at my farm with my animals, riding horses. I try to have good friend time, too—a girls’ night is a good fix. 

 

You’ve made a point throughout your career of putting together all-women tours—you’re just wrapping up one now with Maren Morris, Tenille Townes, Elle King, and more. Why did that become a priority for you?

It just feels better to band together and to lift each other up. Coming up, I was on tour with a lot of amazing men. I toured with all guys, and I learned so much from them, but I didn’t really have a network of women to bounce things off of, or a female mentor. I’m hoping to change that, and to make a world of camaraderie—for them to have someone to call if they need anything, you know? It’s really always been at the forefront for me. 

 

On top of touring and recording, you have a nonprofit devoted to rescue dogs, MuttNation. What sparked your passion for that and what’s been the most rewarding part of the experience?

My manager asked me, in 2009, what I wanted to use my platform for—because once you get to a certain level, you can bring attention to something positive—and mine was a no-brainer. I grew up on a farm, so I grew up with rescue dogs and stray dogs everywhere. My mom and I started MuttNation when I adopted my first shelter dog, Delilah. She kind of inspired the whole thing. The most rewarding part is seeing what I call matchmaking. When I see a family that sees their dog, when that moment clicks and the lightbulb comes on, it gets me teary-eyed every time. It’s just saving one dog at a time, but it makes such a difference if everybody does a little bit.

 

 

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You mentioned being raised on a farm, and you grew up eating homegrown veggies and wild game. How much of that lifestyle has stuck with you? 

The first thing I did when I “made it” was to buy a farm. I don’t hunt anymore—I raised a baby deer, so that kind of changed the game for me. [Laughs] But I definitely still love wild game, and I love to go out and fish and just be in nature. We have a beautiful garden. I actually spent my last weekend off before the tour canning and pickling stuff from the garden. I love pickles—cucumbers are my favorite. I’m still very in touch with that side, and I think that’s one of those things you can do to stay grounded. 

 

“Dark Bars” is one of the great old-school-influenced country songs on Wildcard. Do you have a favorite “dark bar” in the South? 

In Nashville, one of my favorite places to visit is Loser’s in Midtown. Like everything in Nashville, it’s grown and it’s crazy big now, but when I first started going there over a decade ago, it was a tiny little dive bar with the most amazing jukebox. Good music and neon lights can change everything, you know? I also love a big club, like Billy Bob’s, for instance, or Greune Hall, in Texas. It’s the vibe. You know when you walk in if a bar has stories or not.

 

You were on the cover of Garden & Gun in the fall of 2008. If you could go back and give advice to the woman on that cover, what would you say? 

Pace yourself a little better. [Laughs] In your early twenties, you’re chasing your dream, and for lack of a better term, you’re a little balls to the wall about everything—head down, nose on the grindstone. In my thirties, I’ve learned a better balance of life and career than I had in my twenties, and I’m very thankful for that. So I’d probably tell her to chill a little bit and to soak in what’s happening around her—and I’d also tell her that it’s all gonna work out.


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