Lambert seeks repeat success with new CD
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – She torched a cheating lover’s home in “Kerosene” and loaded up a shotgun for an abusive man in “Gunpowder & Lead.”
She named the title track to her latest album “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” for Pete’s sake.
And yet Miranda Lambert, a striking blond with pouty lips, laughs at the suggestion she might be, well, the girlfriend from hell.
“I’m actually a nice person, most of the time,” she says softly.
And despite the tough demeanor, she’s actually feeling a touch fragile these days. She faces the pressure of following up a successful debut, and she’s scared to death about it.
“If I don’t do that well, I let everybody down. I let myself down,” she said.
While her 2005 debut “Kerosene” went platinum, it didn’t get much help from country radio. Her highest-charting single by far was the title cut, and it failed to make the Top 10 on Billboard’s country music singles chart.
The edgy title track from her new album, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” stalled at No. 50. Her latest single, the more traditional “Famous in a Small Town,” is just now registering on the charts.
“I think with the right single she’s going to break. The question is does she have it yet,” said Brian Jennings, program director at WGAR in Cleveland.
No one questions Lambert’s talent. She’s been writing and performing since she was a teenager. She’s toured with superstars George Strait, Keith Urban and Toby Keith. Her performance at last year’s Country Music Association awards was a jaw-dropper for the normally staid CMA, with Lambert smashing her guitar on stage like Pete Townsend.
On the new record, she again wrote or co-wrote most of the songs. And while she can still come across as the wild blonde whose idea of a night out involves tequila and gunplay, she shows a more vulnerable side with ballads like “Love Letters,” “More Like Her” and “Easy From Now On.”
“I’m 23 years old, and I go through the things that a regular 23-year-old girl goes through,” she said. “I don’t want people to look at me and think, ‘Oh my God, she’s scary. She’s the crazy ex-girlfriend.'”
Lambert has one of the more unusual stories in country music. Growing up in Lindale, Texas, her parents were private detectives who shared stories of cheating and deceit over dinner every night.
“To me, it was just mom and dad’s job. But seeing that harsh reality of real life early on started coming out when I was writing,” she said.
They got the case of a lifetime when Paula Jones hired them for her sexual discrimination lawsuit against President Clinton. They worked on it for two years, and it left a big impression on Lambert and her younger brother.
“Mom and dad would leave the house and say, ‘These men in black might come to the door, and they’ll want our files. Just let them in, and you go to your room and lock the door,'” she recalled.
Crazy stuff, and pure gold for an aspiring country singer. She began writing songs at 17 and playing at rodeos, fairs and radio stations across Texas.
She cracked the Texas music chart before she even finished high school and won a spot on the inaugural season of USA Network’s “Nashville Star” talent show, finishing third behind winner Buddy Jewell.
Lambert stood out from the get-go, said Tracy Gershon, a judge on the show and a Sony Nashville executive who ended up signing her.
“She had a lot of focus and vision,” recalled Gershon, now vice president of A&R at Warner Brothers Nashville. “She was an old soul in a lot of ways. Her points of reference for songs were Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton. She had a great sense of music history about her and a real sense of herself.”
By not winning, Lambert did herself a favor. Unlike Jewell, she got a recording contract without the pressure to put something out right away. And she took full advantage it.
Gershon remembers a meeting with former Sony Nashville President John Grady and other top brass where Lambert told them she wanted to write her own songs and pick her own musicians, and she was willing to walk away if she didn’t get what she wanted.
“I had my mouth open,” Gershon said. “She said it with such force, and they said OK. I had never seen that.”
The resulting album “Kerosene” debuted at No. 1 in 2005 and established Lambert as a rising star.
With the new record, she knows that radio airplay is key, and she said she’s ready to go back to promoting herself one radio station at a time if she has to.
“Hey, I did it before and I’ll do it again,” Lambert said. “I’ll march my happy butt right into the station and tell them to play my music, because it worked when I was 17.”
It is a great disc and I love her…even if her songs would scare me away from dating her!!
Lambert seeks repeat success with new CD