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Miranda Lambert: Breaking The Country Music Mold
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Miranda Lambert: Breaking The Country Music Mold

Music Interviews

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

We are going hear, now, from a country star whose songs about abuse and revenge set her apart from Taylor Swift and the other young blond singers of Nashville, singing about heartbreak. Miranda Lambert may be young and blond herself, but she started out and remains a rebel, as you can hear in this early song "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND")

MIRANDA LAMBERT: (Singing) It took me five bars, saw 30 license plates. I saw her Mustang and my eyes filled up with rage. I brought my pistol but I ain't some kind of fool. So, I walked right in barehanded and she was on his arm while he was playing pool...

MONTAGNE: A fondness for lyrics about guns and drinking doesn't commonly endear female singers to country fans, but Miranda Lambert's first three albums all hit the top of the country charts. And last year, the Country Music Association named her best female vocalist. She's up for that honor again this year and she's got a new album called "For the Record."

On one of the songs, called "Fine Tuned," the singer compares herself to a stalled truck, of all things. Her lover is a mechanic who comes to fix her.

LAMBERT: It's got some cute innuendos. It's on the verge of raunchy and fun.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FINE TUNED")

LAMBERT: (Singing) I've been (unintelligible) and I need a fall in love till it works. Engine of a heart that would not start, I had to jump it so much it hurt. Every time I looked under the hood it was always a mystery. You pulled up in a rescue truck, showed up with a master key and revved it up for me...

MONTAGNE: Yeah, it's got a fair amount of innuendo, actually.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: You're so in the territory of cigarettes and a rough edge, but it's a good time song.

LAMBERT: Yeah, you know, this song has some humor in it. And, you know, every time I've played it for anybody and there's been some girls in the audience, they're always up dancing by the very end of the song. So I think it's got a fun groove to it.

MONTAGNE: How did your upbringing in a small Texas town - you're the daughter of a policeman-turned-private detective - how do you think that shapes your music?

LAMBERT: My parents didn't let kids stop their lifestyle. They just brought us along wherever they were going, whether it was parties, or to do a surveillance, or whatever.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAMBERT: We were just there.

MONTAGNE: What - what. Stop, to do a surveillance? Do you ever went along with your parents to do a surveillance on someone?

LAMBERT: Yeah, I mean a lot of times. I mean mom would just take us and my brother and I would be in the back of the Suburban, coloring. And she'd be watching some guy, waiting for him to cheat on his wife.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: That could have been kind of boring. But I guess if you had a coloring book, it was OK.

LAMBERT: It was really boring. But now, looking back, it's like people would always say, oh my gosh, your parents' job is so interesting. And we're like no it's not; it's 13 hours in a hot car in August, coloring books.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAMBERT: It's not fun. But I'm glad, because we weren't sheltered from that. I mean we were, in a way, because we were going to church every Sunday and in this safe, awesome Texas home. But, you know, we got to hear about how bad it can be.

MONTAGNE: You have a song that in it some ways goes straight to that. It sounds like it goes straight to your own childhood. And to, also, the potential for other people having broken and hurt lives. It's called "The House That Built Me."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE HOUSE THAT BUILT ME")

LAMBERT: (Singing) I thought if I could touch place of feeling. This brokenness inside me might start healing. Now here it's like I'm someone else. I thought that maybe I could find myself. If I could just come in I swear I'll leave, won't take nothing but a memory from the house that built me. You leave home, you move on, and you do the best you can. I got lost in this old world and forgot who I am...

MONTAGNE: Of course the key to that is the singer has had something bad happen, has gotten lost.

LAMBERT: Well, since 17 years old I've been on the road. And sometimes you do feel like I just want to go home and eat my mom's cooking and find my footing again. You know? I mean everybody just says, you know, it made them want to go find their childhood home again.

MONTAGNE: Well, I figured - and this is a bit unusual - I take it that your parents occasionally would open your home to women who were trying to escape abusive marriages.

LAMBERT: Yeah, we took in women that were victims of domestic abuse. And they lived with us. For two years, on and off, I had to share my room with either a daughter, or a mother and daughter, who needed a place to stay. And the problem is half the women take your advice and use your help and get out. And half of them can't leave. They always go back.

MONTAGNE: Is there one song that we could that would reflect that?

LAMBERT: Well, "Gunpowder and Lead" is - that is what that song is about. I mean it's about domestic abuse and this woman that's had enough.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GUNPOWDER AND LEAD")

LAMBERT: (Singing) His fist is big but my gun is bigger. He'll find out when I pull the trigger. I'm going home, going to load my shotgun. Wait by the door and light a cigarette. He wants a fight. Well, he's got one and he ain't seen me crazy yet. Slapped my face and shook me like a ragdoll. Don't that sound like a real man? I'm going to show him what little girls are made of, gunpowder and, gunpowder and lead...

All I can do, as a musician is, you know, write about it and hopefully give women courage through what I say in my songs. And I've had a lot of women come up to me over the past years and say, you know, "Gunpowder and Lead" gave me the courage to get out.

MONTAGNE: Do you see yourself as crossing boundaries? I mean the kind of boundaries that have been setup for country women singers.

LAMBERT: I hope so because to me country music is about real life, you know, and the good and the bad. And that's why country started, is because it was Hank Williams telling true stories. And that's, you know, I don't see why a woman can't tell the truth just as fast as a man can.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BAGGAGE CLAIM")

LAMBERT: (Singing) If it ain't obvious what has set me off today. Behind every woman scorned is a man who made her that way...

MONTAGNE: Miranda Lambert, thank you very much for joining us.

LAMBERT: Thank you for having me.

MONTAGNE: Miranda Lambert joined us from Nashville. Her new album is called "For the Record." It's out next week. You can hear more at NPRMusic.org.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And I'm Ari Shapiro.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BAGGAGE CLAIM")

LAMBERT: (Singing) When you hit the ground, check the lost and found because that ain't my problem now. I can't carry it on. I got a lot of troubles of my own...

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