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Miranda Lambert, perched on a couch at her Nashville record company, is listing all the guest singers on her new album. "There's Charles Kelley from Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, and I've got Blake, of course, my husband..." Then she stops and laughs. "It's fun to say that." She's still adjusting to being a newlywed -- after getting hitched to country singer and The Voice star Blake Shelton on a Texas ranch last May -- but her life, as usual, is galloping along. She's part of a new country girl group, Pistol Annies, whose first album, Hell on Heels, is a hit. And this month the Grammy winner is releasing Four the Record, which is her best -- and most personal -- solo album yet (she wrote or cowrote six of the songs).
Lambert may not be the rowdy teenager who burst onto the scene in 2003 with the USA Network talent show Nashville Star, but the 28-year-old is still as fiery and plainspoken as ever. (And she still kicks back after shows with "Miranda-ritas," her own concoction of "Bacardi, Crystal Light, and a splash of Diet Sprite.") Today, having rolled out of bed at 10 a.m., the Texas native wears sleek purple pants, a black T-shirt, and a feather hair extension. "I got feathers, like every other girl," she says, playing with her hair. "Hey, if you can rock it, rock it." Over a long afternoon chat, Lambert talks openly about family, fame and, for the first time, her marriage to Shelton, 35. "I only had one person say to me in the first month of my engagement that I was going to love being married," she says. "The rest of them were like, 'You're going to ruin your relationship!' But I feel excited to be married. When I see Blake playing with his wedding ring, it reminds me that somebody has my back forever."
You've said it took you a while to realize you shouldn't push Blake into marriage -- because he was skittish after a divorce. What made you sit back and wait to see what happened?
When you're dating for two years, a girl gets antsy, like, "Come on, where's my diamond?" I just realized that wasn't working so I decided to change up tactics. I'm so glad we didn't get married when I wanted to. You think you've been through things after two years, and then you date two more and you're like, "I'm glad we weren't married two years ago, because we probably wouldn't have made it."
How do the two of you balance each other?
He loves to joke, and I'm the voice of reason. Sometimes I'm like, "Okay, it's serious time. We need to have a conversation that doesn't involve jokes." Definitely I'm more standoffish and less approachable than he is. He'll welcome everybody in with open arms, but they're not getting to know the real Blake, on a deep level. I'm the opposite. I don't let anybody in, but when I do, I love them so hard, it's like I'll never let them go.
You and Blake wrote a song for your new album called "Over You" about an incredibly difficult subject: the death of his brother. How did it come about?
Blake's brother was killed instantly in a car accident at 24, when Blake was 14. And one day he just opened up and was talking to me about it. And then he was playing this pretty little melody and we started adding words. I said, "You went away," and Blake said, "How dare you," and we both started crying. I've never cried writing a song before. Now that I'm so close to him, it's my pain, too. Later he said, "I think it's better if you record it. Honestly, I don't think I can get through singing it every night onstage, so what's the point?" I love that song, and I feel like it's time for me to show I have that side of me that's vulnerable and hurting for someone else.
You and Blake have experienced major success in the past year. How do you deal with being country music's most watched couple?
We live in Oklahoma, two hours from any city, and it's a haven. Just being in the woods, sitting around a fire being normal, keeps us sane. We don't have a house in Nashville or LA -- though Blake is in LA a lot when he's filming The Voice. We're not part of a scene. We come from a town of 4,000 and go to his mom's for dinner every night that we're home. She always has beans and corn bread going. I'll say, "Hey, Dorothy, what are we having for dinner?"
You mentioned The Voice. Were you surprised the show became a hit? Was Blake?
We were all surprised. I think the people at The Voice were surprised! But part of his celebrity, to me, is his personality. He's a great entertainer and he needs to be somewhere where he can show that funny side. I didn't want to know anything when I was watching the show. I'd say, "Don't tell me what happens! I want to watch it as a fan."
Do you give him feedback?
Oh gosh, yes. Some days I was like, "Why did you pick that song? Why did you make her sing that?" He'd say, "Why don't you just go be the coach?" It's funny. He listens, though.
You both have separate farms in Oklahoma. Any plans to live together?
They're only six miles apart. My house was built in the '50s and Blake's tall and the door is short, so he physically can't live at my house, so we kind of moved into his. His is a total guy house, so I've been working to make it girl-friendly. You know, bedspreads and candles. We actually want to build a house but we have to find the time to do it. As long as there's somewhere for him to hang his deer heads, I can do what I want.
What's a typical day just kicking back?
We love to ride four-wheelers, go for walks. No makeup for me, and I wear Dickies overalls. They're dangerous, though, because if you don't work out for a while and you're wearing overalls, you tend to forget that your jeans might not fit when you put them back on. Perfect for Thanksgiving dinner.
Speaking of, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?
My family comes from Texas to Oklahoma. Everybody brings their specialty. I'll usually make a ham. The year before last we fried a wild turkey we killed. And Blake has a tradition we've taken on. We spend the whole week with our family -- not just a day thing. And his family and mine get along great, which is such a blessing.
What about your fans -- do you hear a lot from them?
I get a lot of girls saying, "Thank you for being normal." Besides my job I really am a normal girl. I'm from a tiny town in East Texas. I'm a normal size, and my weight fluctuates just like everybody else's. Every time I do a meet-and-greet a fan will say, "You make us feel like it's cool not to be skinny."
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, November 2011.