Two-Stepping Through Texas with Miranda Lambert

The country star and fellow songwriter Jon Randall on Lone Star dance halls, homegrown tomatoes, and their stripped-down new album, The Marfa Tapes

Photo: Spencer Peeples

From left: Jon Randall, Jack Ingram, and Miranda Lambert in Marfa, Texas.

“Texans are very proud about being Texans,” Miranda Lambert says. “The terrain alone lends itself to it. We’ve got everything.” Lambert’s new album, The Marfa Tapes, recorded with fellow songwriters Jon Randall and Jack Ingram, draws plenty of inspiration from the trio’s home state, from the background noises—cows and coyotes make several appearances—to the callouts to Lone Star dance halls and highway stops.

Out today, with a corresponding film out May 8, the stripped-down album offers bare-bones acoustic takes on fan favorites “Tin Man” and “Tequila Does” alongside thirteen previously unreleased originals, all written and recorded in Marfa, Texas. In between morning scrambled eggs, afternoon drives, and late nights swapping melodies around a campfire, the three Texans crafted light-hearted sing-alongs (“Geraldene,” “Homegrown Tomatoes”) as well as more introspective reflections (“Amazing Grace (West Texas),” “Ghost”) that all somehow feel like you’ve been singing them forever.

“We all grew up on the same kind of music, and a lot of that was Texas-based,” Lambert says. “The record was inspired by all of those things—by Texas music artists, by relationships and roots that run deep there, and just by the big sky of it all.” Adds Randall: “Hopefully you can feel the dust and taste the tequila when you’re listening.”

Listen to a couple of the tracks below, and read our interview with Lambert and Randall about making the new album, the allure of the Texas landscape, and the food that fueled their creativity. 

What is a typical day like in Marfa?  

Randall: Well, Miranda, she’s always up first. She is the breakfast queen, so by the time I could crawl out of my cave with my guitar in hand, she’s already got that breakfast and coffee rockin’. 

The breakfast queen? 

Lambert: Nothin’ fancy: bacon, canned Grands biscuits, tater tots, some scrambled eggs—Jon calls ‘em dirty eggs, with the bacon grease—and whatever leftover Mexican food we’d brought home. We’d usually do breakfast, hang out, and listen to some music. We might drive around and see the scenery. In the afternoon is when we’d get our mojo going.

Randall: There were about five thousand acres down there to explore. We were so far from anything else, and there’s such freedom in that: sitting and drinking coffee and not talking. Looking at the sky and listening to the cows and looking at the mountains. That’s half the day, just sitting and taking it all in.

The album includes so many Texas snapshots—like the dance halls in “Texas Two-Step” 

Lambert: We relied a lot on Jack on that one. He’s a total Austinite, so he was quick to the draw on references on that. But I think a lot of the places and feelings in that song, we’ve all lived. 

Randall: The Broken Spoke. Gruene Hall. If you’ve ever been there, then you will know exactly what we’re talking about. They’re dance halls—not honky-tonks, not taverns.

Lambert: I mean, I look at Billy Bob’s Texas. Their Instagram yesterday was like, “Okay, we’ll see y’all at noon for line dancin’ and lunch.” That’s only happening in one place in the world, and that’s Texas.

You also included new versions of “Tequila Does” and “Tin Man.” What do the stripped-down recordings offer listeners? 

Lambert: I mean, that’s how most songs start, right? They’re on a voice note on your phone, or maybe, back in the day, on a recorder. These songs start with a guitar and some singers and some words and some inspiration from somewhere, and it’s not often anymore that you get to hear them in that raw state.

Randall: We’re all musicians here, but I’m also a huge music fan. I think about how many of my heroes I would’ve loved to have heard do their songs like this. It’s pretty cool that Miranda fans are getting to hear these songs in the way that we wrote them and in the place that we wrote them, with the cows and the wind and the birds in the background.

One of the new songs, “Amazing Grace (West Texas),” touches on many different parts of life that can “feed your faith.” What’s been feeding your faith lately?

Randall: This record coming out is feeding my faith. The response has been really beautiful so far. It makes us feel like people care about what we did as much as we do. And if we can get that out of it, that’s going to inspire me to just keep wanting to write songs like this.

Lambert: I agree. Some friends went to an awesome place and wrote some songs about the place they’re from, and now we get to put it out and hope people enjoy it. Last year made everyone slow down and sort of opened up other possibilities and more room for relationships and art and rescuing dogs and all the things that I love in my life. This record represents that for me. Everybody in the world had a lot more time to think about what means something to them and the people in their life who mean something to them.

“Geraldene” is such a fun track—and I know Dolly Parton fans will love the reference to “Jolene” in the lyrics. How did that song come about? 

Lambert: “Geraldene” is one of my favorites. And my favorite line, just for the record, is “I’m the only bitch in the band.” [Laughs] My memory of that song is mostly Jon and Jack getting in a fight: We bicker like siblings, and Jon’s our mediator, usually, because Jack and I are a little more hotheaded.

Randall: Not this time. [Laughs]

Lambert: I had gotten the name from [the documentary] Heartworn Highways. Townes [Van Zandt]’s dog in the movie is Geraldine, and I always thought that was a cool name. We were all on a picnic blanket, lying out in the yard with guitars rockin’ and trying to write “Geraldene,” when we get stuck. Fifteen minutes go by, and everybody starts to get mad. So I was like, “I’m going to take this opportunity to go inside and get a string cheese and make myself a drink.” I come back out and these two are still going, so I go back inside and bring out beers and say, “Everyone, have a beverage, and let’s just calm down.” And the song won in the end.

Randall: That’s what I love about this trio. No matter how we get there, the process always takes us to a song that we all three think is the right thing. That’s what co-writing is. 

The album has a song called “Homegrown Tomatoes,” and Miranda, I know you have a garden back at your home in Tennessee. Now that we’re getting into tomato season, what are your favorite ways to eat them?

Lambert: Fried. [Laughs]

Randall: [Laughs] That is an East Texas thing right there. They are good fried, but I like ‘em on a sandwich. Just mayonnaise, a little bit of pepper—I’m not a salt guy, but a lot of people love salt—and Wonder Bread.

Lambert: Wait, do you put tomatoes in your guac?

Randall: Oh, yes.

Lambert: Okay, then that is my favorite.