Miranda Lambert: Nashville's Shooting Star
Shooting to Fame
Miranda Lambert is hanging out backstage at a sports arena in DeKalb, Illinois, talking about her surreal life. The singer has just swept the Country Music Association Awards in Nashville (Female Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year and Music Video of the Year) and watched her fiancé, Blake Shelton, win, too (Male Vocalist of the Year). Half-joking, half-serious, she wonders aloud whether this good news is a mixed blessing. "Being happy is horrible for songwriting, especially for country music," says Lambert, who'll perform at the arena later tonight. "We just want to write about leaving and sadness. We're all better when we're tormented. I have to put myself in a dark place if I want to write something good."
Luckily, today the 27-year-old Texan, who speaks with a regional twang ("I" sounds like "ah"), is radiating good cheer. She's dressed in jeans and comfortable black suede boots and sports a large diamond-and-platinum engagement ring. It has been six years since Lambert met Shelton, 34, when they were paired on a Nashville duet show (they sang "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma"). At the time Shelton was married and Lambert was in a relationship. "So we were just friends for a long time. We wrote songs together," says Lambert. "He ended up getting divorced and eventually we fell in love." The couple will wed in 2011. "Blake is outdoorsy, outspoken and really funny," she says. "I used to have no sense of humor. Everything was a big deal. I've gotten so much better about not taking things too seriously -- and Blake is the reason why."
"With Blake," says Lambert's mother, Bev, "Miranda has laughed more in the last five years than she has in her entire life."
Lambert was only 17 when she landed a weekend singing gig at the Reo Palm Isle Ballroom near her hometown of Lindale, Texas. Two years later she parlayed a third-place win in the USA Network's talent show, Nashville Star, into a recording contract. She then spent several years touring the country as a warm-up act, sharing sleeping quarters on her bus with a dozen guys -- band members and roadies. (At one point, she recalls calling her business manager and saying, "I need you to check: How much is it to live in an insane asylum and how much is it for a second bus? Because I either have to do one or the other.")
These days she is the headliner with a 23-person entourage and plays more than 100 shows a year in venues that seat up to 30,000. She even got that bus -- an upscale number decorated with patchwork quilt-style curtains, a framed poster of the Marlon Brando movie The Wild One and a Murphy bed. "After a show I'll get on the bus and pull my bed down," says Lambert. "I have three rescue dogs -- Delilah, Delta and Cher -- and they jump in bed with me and we go to sleep."
Now that fans recognize her, it's more difficult for Lambert to move around. "I can't even go to Walmart anymore!" she says. She's also dealing with the pressures that come with fame, like trying to maintain a healthy weight. "I've gone through a lot of weight issues and spent my 20s going up and down," admits Lambert, who recently rehired her personal trainer so she can get into shape for good. "I called my trainer a month before the CMA Awards [last November] and said, 'I'm ready to make this a lifestyle and not a crash diet.' Every time an event was coming up I was trying to figure out how to lose 10 pounds in two days. I've always been a size eight-ish. Now I'm down to a six, which is fine with me. When you're onstage, you don't want to be thinking about what's jiggling."
Lambert's concerts are definitely physical: When she performs she struts, she dances, she tosses her hair -- she has even been known to throw the microphone stand down with such intensity that it breaks. Her lyrics are equally fiery. Her first CD was titled Kerosene, and her second, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. In her songs women don't pine passively at home, weeping over lost love. Instead they track down cheating or abusive boyfriends and give them hell or threaten them with a shotgun. In 2008 Esquire dubbed Lambert "Terrifying Woman of the Year."