Miranda Lambert treated music industry professionals in Nashville to an early preview of Wildcard on Monday night (Sept. 23) during an hour-long performance with her band before a packed audience at Exit/In.
“I’ve been doing this since 2005,” she said. “For 17 years for a living. I love it so much … these times are especially hard and changing [while] figuring out how the hell to put a record out anymore. I’m still so old school and romantic about records and how they’re a snapshot of someone’s life and they’re a journey of the last couple years … Even though I’ve been doing this since I was 17, I feel like I’m just getting started.” Wildcard comes out Nov. 1.
The 12-song set saw Lambert performing album closer “Dark Bars” for the first time by herself as co-writer Liz Rose stood in the front row mouthing along to the lyrics. Additional highlights included the swampy “Holy Water” and “Tequila Does,” the latter of which embraces two time signatures. Lambert admitted that she has fun watching the “cowboys” go from a two-step to a waltz while she sings the song. “If you don’t like this and don’t think it’s country, then you don’t like country music,” she said.
Below are 5 things we learned about Lambert and Wildcard at her Nashville album preview.
Even Lambert gets nervous playing new material
“We always get a little jittery when we play in Nashville for some reason because it’s Nashville,” Lambert told the mostly industry crowd early on in her set. “The energy is high, and the expectations are high. I’m excited to be in a bar with a drink in my hand, playing new music. We’re going to do several new songs; some we’ve never done before in front of people. Sorry, I may mess it up.”
“Bluebird” was inspired by a poem
One of the most country leaning songs on Lambert’s upcoming project is the hopeful “Bluebird.” She penned the song with frequent collaborators Natalie Hemby and Luke Dick.
“Luke had texted me the line from an old poem he had seen. It said something about keeping a bluebird in your heart and he said, ‘I want to write that with you because I feel like that’s what you did and that’s what we all do,’” she recalled. “When we got in the room to write it, it felt really magical. Something about a bluebird is hopeful, even through blue times. When I sing this song, I feel a little flutter and I feel every single word I sing.”
Former producer Frank Liddell gave his blessing to part ways on Wildcard
Lambert has worked with Liddell since she launched onto the scene with her 2005 debut album, Kerosene. Her decision to go in a different direction and enlist the help of a new producer for Wildcard was difficult, but necessary.
“I made this record with Jay Joyce. It was a big decision for me because I made every single record of my career with Frank Liddell, who I adore and love and trust so much. Like any long relationship, sometimes you reach a place where you have to regroup. Me and him had a bottle of wine on the magic porch and we talked it out. We thought, ‘Maybe we should take a minute from each other and go get inspired from somewhere else and come back and revisit.’ He gave me his blessing, which I needed.
“I called Jay Joyce. I knew that I needed to approach this record with the same energy and heart and open-mindedness that I approached my first record in 2005 called Kerosene. I wanted to be open and pushed and Jay was able to do that. I feel like in a way I reinvented a new rock ‘n’ roll sound for myself when I hear these songs. Also, in a way I’ve revisited the rock ‘n’ roll sound as a musician in the first place … My husband was playing [‘Mess With My Head’] in the car and right after it ‘Kerosene’ came on and I was like, ‘This isn’t a departure at all. I’m just back, bitches.’”
“Too Pretty for Prison” was inspired, in part, by Karen Fairchild’s Gucci boots
“[Little Big Town’s] Karen Fairchild came over to talk about the tour and we were going to have 17 people on stage. We were trying to figure out how to navigate that … so we had wine, and everything is better when you talk about it over wine. We had a great night and had girl time. She lives literally around the corner. I said, ‘Well, you had wine, I’d rather you not leave.’ I told her, come over and I was wearing yoga pants and we were going to do a casual thing and she shows up with Gucci boots. I was like, ‘You can’t leave after you’ve been drinking. I know you live right down the street. You and your Gucci boots are way too pretty for prison.’
“The next day I went to write with the Love Junkies and Karen had been there earlier that morning and they said, ‘Well, we heard we probably have a song title already.’ I was like, ‘What song title?’ They said, ‘Karen was here earlier and said you told her last night she was too pretty for prison.’ I go, ‘That’s a damn good song title. Go me!’ We were sitting on the floor at Liz’s house and I said, ‘This is a duet. It’s a Maren duet.’ I texted Maren right then and I said, ‘I have a duet about killing somebody, you in?’ It’s kind of a country music trend at this point. I’ve already killed one husband in ‘Gunpowder.’ This is the second husband. It also has a throwback feel to [the Dixie Chicks’ ‘Goodbye] Earl.’”
“Dark Bars” was written while on a fire escape in New York
Onstage alone with her acoustic guitar, Lambert debuted the vulnerable “Dark Bars.” “I’m not in pain/ I’m not on pills/ But I’m still hanging out in dark bars/ On a bar stool for the cheap thrills/ Watchin’ drunks all drown with no lifeguard/ I know a thing or two about broke hearts/ Neon truth can hit real hard in a dark bar,” she belts on the stirring chorus.
“I’ve never played this song live before. It’s one of my favorites on the record … I was in New York. I’ve been spending a lot of time there because I married a Staten Island man who is a NYPD officer. I’ve been spending a lot of time in SoHo, we have an apartment with a fire escape. I was feeling creative and I texted Liz Rose, ‘Come to New York,’” Lambert said, eventually convincing all three members of the Love Junkies including Lori McKenna and Hillary Lindsey to join in on the trip. “We went and had cheeseburgers and we sat on a fire escape and smoked cigs out the window. It’s an artist community, so I felt there was art there and we should hone in on it. Liz got there early, and she came to my house. She was on the way in the car and I said, ‘Let’s just go hang out in some dark bars and see if we can find some stories to write about.’ She goes, ‘I think this is the story.’”
Watch Lambert perform “Dark Bars” below
“It All Comes Out in the Wash”
“Mess With My Head”
“Way Too Pretty For Prison”
“Willin’” (Little Feat cover)