I didn’t know Miranda Lambert until she visited my home for an interview this past June, but then again, maybe I did. Because this petite blonde (she’s 5’4″) with dimples to die for from Lindale, Texas, is shaking up Nashville in a way nobody has since Loretta Lynn sang “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (with Lovin’ on Your Mind).” Here’s what the rising country music superstar had to say about Merle Haggard, growing up in East Texas, and life on the road.
What did you think when you heard you were going to be on the cover of a magazine called Garden & Gun?
I was excited. I think that fits my personality.
You’re a gardener, right?
Yeah, I live on a farm and I was just talking to my boyfriend last night about what we’re going to plant. Plus I’m a “gun-toting chick”—I have my concealed handgun license—so it all sounded perfect!
Is your purse in the house?
Purse is in the house.
I have to ask: Are you packing heat?
No, not today [laughs]. I felt like I didn’t need to bring it today.
Okay. So let’s talk about songwriting. From just listening to your first two CDs [Kerosene and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend], I love the emphasis on the writing.
It’s real important to me. The Texas singer-songwriter thing is what I grew up with. Of course, I’ve always been a mainstream country music fan, too.
Do you have a favorite place to play in the South?
Oh, I love playing in the South, period. I just love playing for people who are like me, who believe the same things that I believe. But they’re everywhere, really. I seek out the rednecks all over the country [laughs]! But a favorite place? Well, I love to play Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas. I mean, there’s no AC and it’s the oldest dance hall in the state, but it just has great vibes.
What about bigger venues?
I’ve done arenas with George Strait and Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley. But really when it comes down to it, I always like to go back into a club, where it’s so intimate—people are right up against the stage and they’re drinking beer and it’s a Friday night and it’s their payday, and that’s just where I shine, because that’s where I started.
What do you love about Nashville?
Nashville is basically a small town—at least the music part is—because everybody who moves here, moves here from someplace quaint and cool, someplace that started them in music, and so they come here to follow the dream. Everybody here seems to have something in common, one major goal. I don’t live here now, but I lived here for a year after Nashville Star [the TV show that helped launch Lambert’s career], and I was always meeting people who seemed like they were from my hometown.
Did you have a house here?
I had an apartment. The first apartment I ever lived in was in Nashville. It was scary because I was ten hours from home. But it was good for me. And then I just gravitated back to Texas because that’s where my roots run deep.
Yeah. I imagine it’s hard to get that Texas out of you.
You can’t get it out of you.
Talk about your passion for the outdoors.
I love the outdoors. I’m a hunter, and I fish.
Which do you like better—hunting or fishing?
Hunting. You know, I’m just not that good at fishing, but I’m learning.
When you do fish, what kind of fish do you go for?
Oh, catfish or bass.
You ever cleaned a catfish?
I can. It’s not good.
It’s pretty gross.
But I sort of can. I mean, I don’t really do it the right way necessarily. But my first deer I ever got with my bow, I cleaned myself. So I can do it, but I prefer not to.
What’s next musically?
I’m writing a lot…finally. It was a long battle, because for my first record I wrote from the time I was seventeen to the time I was twenty. I wrote all the time. Every day. Two songs a day sometimes. And then when I got that record [Kerosene] done, I had all those songs to choose from. Then, within a year, it was time to make another record and I was like, “What? I’ve been on the road two hundred and ten days…”
“…and all I’ve done is talk to DJs.”
Exactly. But somehow I really dove in and started concentrating on what had happened in my life and what was going on in my life, and I came up with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. So I feel like it came together a lot better than it could have. With this record, I’ve slowed down to where I can have time to laugh and spend time with my dogs and do things that normal people are supposed to do, instead of just work all the time.
My mom and I did just like Loretta. We got in the car with a cooler and my guitar, and we traveled all over Texas
Okay. The first time you heard yourself singing on the radio—where were you?
I was in the car with my mom. My mom and I went on a radio tour in Texas, back when I had my own little independent record out.
What was the name of that song?
It was called “Texas Pride.” Somebody had called the house and said, “You’re on the Texas Music Chart.” And I said, “What’s that?” I didn’t even know. So when they started playing me, my mom and I did just like Loretta [Loretta Lynn and her late husband, Doo]. We got in the car, a Ford Expedition, with a cooler of bologna sandwiches and my guitar, and we traveled all over Texas, which was a lot of traveling [laughs]. We would literally drive into a town and look for a radio tower. Sometimes they wouldn’t let me in the door, and sometimes they’d let me on the air. And I remember it was on that tour—we had just left the station and they put my record on, and I couldn’t believe it, that I was seventeen and getting played on the radio. It was weird. It was just this homemade two-thousand-dollar record that my dad had somehow scraped up the money to pay for.
Talk a bit about your musical influences.
Well, I’m a big Merle Haggard fan. And I know everybody says Merle, but I really mean it. I love the way he sings, plays, writes—everything.
What’s your favorite Merle Haggard song?
I love “Red Bandana.”
What about “Mama Tried”?
Oh, I love “Mama Tried”! I mean, there’re a few that are just given favorites. But I love “The Way I Am”…“Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star” is a beautiful song. Merle’s singing is so pure. Plain and simple, but it grabs your heart. Like country music is supposed to be. And…Jack Ingram is a huge influence of mine, and Allison Moorer. Those two were the ones I listened to when I was seventeen and I was trying to write, but I wasn’t sure what was going on. I’d listen to them and go, “Okay, now that’s the direction I want to go.”
Is your dad a big Merle Haggard fan?
Yes. And he’s a singer-songwriter, too. That’s where I got my love for this. He had a band before I was born. And then my mom used to be David Allan Coe’s babysitter, and so…
Wait a minute. Your mom used to babysit David Allan Coe?
Well, not him. His kids [laughs].