Miranda Lambert’s new album “Platinum” (out June 3) picks up where the singer/songwriter left off with 2011’s “Four The Record,” when she continued to blow past those who might have written her off as a one-note show, all bombast and arsenal. On “Platinum,” Lambert again showcases her skills as a confident, charismatic vocalist and a top-shelf songwriter, capable of sharp observations and—an even more rare quality among country stars and spitfires alike—scorching introspection and vulnerability.
It’s a diverse, ambitious record that manages to be both wide ranging yet cohesive in the sum of its parts. So even as the artist explores wildly varied themes, emotions and musical styles, “Platinum” is, unmistakably, Miranda Lambert. “You can’t pull one over on her,” says co-producer Frank Liddell, who has worked with Lambert on all five of her records, plus two Pistol Annies albums. “I can’t try to make her sound different than she wants to sound. It’s just all in her heart and in her gut, ‘this is who I am,’ and when we go in the studio, that’s what you’re chasing. There’s nothing else really we can do but make a Miranda Lambert record, because anything straying from that path one bit, we’re gonna get caught. She is, too, and she knows it.”
Lambert comes across, both on the album and in conversation, as very comfortable in her own skin, an observation she accepts. “At 30 years old, having lived and done a lot of things in my career and my life, I have a different take than at 20 when I was makin’ Kerosene,'” she says. “But, I also do not have near the stuff that Reba would have to say, I have so much more to learn and do. I’m just right here smack in the middle of it, hopefully. If I’m lucky, I’m in the middle of it, because I want to go so much farther and wider with my career and my empire, really.”
In laying the foundation for her “empire,” Lambert has built both respect from her peers and a fiercely loyal fan base. In addition to enough awards to fill an Airstream, Lambert has charted 22 titles that have spent a combined 442 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, led by the Grammy-winning “The House That Built Me,” which spent 22 weeks on the chart in 2010. All of Lambert’s previous four albums debuted at No. 1 on the Top Country Album’s chart, and have moved a combined 5.2 million units in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.
|PHOTOS: MIRANDA LAMBERT’S BILLBOARD COVER SHOOT|
Lambert spoke easily and openly about a wide variety of topics, much appearing in the recent Billboard cover story. Plenty didn’t, like when we asked her if her husband Blake Shelton REALLY tweeted the cell phone number of Adam Levine, Shelton’s co-judge on The Voice.
For the record, Lambert’s not sure. “I texted Blake, ‘did you do that, did that just happen?,'” she replies, laughing. “I’m guessing it was a publicity ploy, I don’t know for sure. He wouldn’t actually do that. Blake’s pretty mean sometimes, but not that mean. He would have brought the wrath of Adam, because Adam has done some crazy shit. He sent us a nine-foot-tall, seven-foot-wide cover of himself as People’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive,’ he sent that to our house. So I wouldn’t even want to know his revenge if Blake did that, so I don’t think it’s real.”
As to whether Shelton and Lambert, country music’s power couple, might ever tour together, “I think it’s close to time, if we’re going to,” Lambert says. “There would be nothing better than being able to hang out with my husband on tour, we’ve never actually done that. We’re getting to the point where we want to slow down, we don’t want to tour as much, so I think it’s now or never, if you ask me. If we want to collaborate we should, if we want to tour together we probably should start thinking about it.”
Lambert points out that she and her husband have very different musical styles. “Also, just the scheduling, we have two different labels and management companies and producers,” she adds. “There’s so much more behind it than just saying, ‘let’s go on tour.’ That’s sounds great when you’re driving back roads drinking a beer, then you start the ball rolling and it’s a thousand other things come into play. I’m sure we will eventually, it’s just got to be the right time and the right way. I’m a very strong minded female, I’d be, ‘I want it this way, this is my band, my bus, and I’m sure he’s like, ‘never mind.'”
And, of course, Lambert talks about the songs on “Platinum.” Here’s her take on several the album’s tracks.
“Girls” (written by Nicolle Galyon/Natalie Hemby/Jimmy Robbins)
Lambert sings convincingly of a “fighter with a centerfold face,” in a pulsing mid-tempo featuring soaring harmonies and inventive background vocals. “I get pitched 100 ‘Gunpower & Leads’ and I’m like, ‘give me something I can’t write, I can write those all day long.’ I like to hear things where I go, ‘damn, I wish I’d written that.’ Natalie [Galyon] is a freak of nature, she’s such a great writer,” Lambert says. “I heard [“Girls”] and it was like, ‘oh my gosh, it’s so true.’ Girls, we’re so complicated, can’t live with us, can’t live without us. I feel like that song says that so well, it’s so beautiful. Every girl I play it for is like, ‘that’s me!’ and that’s what you want, it’s so relatable and powerful. Even guys, ‘oh yeah, that’s my girl, that’s my wife, that’s my mom, that’s my daughter.’ I love songs that make you feel something and this one definitely does.”
“Platinum” (written by Miranda Lambert/Nicolle Galyon/Natalie Hemby)
The new album’s title cut is pure swagger. When asked, Lambert cops to being the author of the track’s signature line: “Well, don’t you know I blaze a trail, but hell, you can come with me.” Given Lambert’s platinum-level success, along with lines like, “Something about platinum irrefutably looks as good on records as it does on me,” parallels between “Platinum” and sales milestones are inevitable, but Lambert says the term means far more than that.
“I don’t want people to take that too seriously,” Lambert says, saying “Platinum” the song is a “lifestyle” song. “When you’re in the industry and you hear ‘platinum’ you think platinum album. But platinum is a lot of things: it’s hair, it’s diamonds and platinum, it’s Bud Light Platinum, it’s the color of an Airstream. So I hope that other people don’t look at that title and think, ‘oh my God, she’s thinking her album’s gonna be platinum.’ That’s not what I’m thinking. I mean, yeah, I’d love that, Mom says, ‘say it as though it’s so.’ I hope all my albums go platinum. But it’s more about my life and my lifestyle and all of those things that encompass that word, so there wasn’t another title. It just felt right.”
“Platinum is a lot of things: it’s hair, it’s diamonds and platinum”-Miranda Lambert
“I wrote it with Natalie and Nicole in my condo in Nashville on Music Row,” Lambert continues. “The lyrics are funny, two of us are blonde, and we’re just talking about stuff like that, ‘can you believe we’re sitting in a high-rise condo right now, from where we all came from?’ I wanted it to be like a bunch of girls gossiping. Some people get somewhere just by putting on a lower cut shirt and making there hair a little blonder. That’s how some people do it, and that’s fine too, whatever it takes. But I wanted that feel in the song when we cut it, ‘let’s get some girls in here and see what it sounds like it.’ We had Nicole come in who wrote it with me, and Gwen Sebastian who sings with Blake on the road, and was also a contestant on ‘The Voice with him Season Two, and then Aubrey, Frank’s daughter, an amazing singer. We just got in there and got some cocktails and started talking and singing, and that’s what the songs supposed to be like, a gossipy girls song and kind of an anthem.”
“Little Red Wagon” (written by Audra Mae/Joe Ginsberg)
Lambert brings the sass in “Little Red Wagon,” a wild, cowpunk workout. Even with Lambert’s familiar turbo-twang vocal and tongue-in-cheek delivery, “Little Red Wagon” is among the most adventurous songs she has ever recorded.
“There’s this girl named Audra Mae, and I kind of stalked her when I heard that song,” Lambert explains. “I was like, “I’ve got to talk to this girl, her record is amazing.’ So we got to be friends, and we wrote a couple of times in L.A. She’s from Oklahoma City and she lives in L.A., she’s exactly my age, and we just started hanging out. Finally, one day I mustered up the courage and said, ‘do you care if I cut Little Red Wagon, if I have the balls to do it, of course, because your version is so good?’ She said, ‘sure, go ahead.’ That’s her singing on it, too. It’s such a cool song. I love attitude songs, but they can get old if you don’t do ’em right. I don’t want to keep doing the same type of attitude song, I’ve got to change them up. I can’t wait to do this one live. It was so fun to cut and such a fun thing to do in the studio. It felt like me.
“Smokin’ and Drinkin'” with Little Big Town (written by Natalie Hemby/Luke Laird/Shane McAnally)
A wistful, atmospheric piece of nostalgia, with unexpected vocal effects and a ’70s soul vibe. “Natalie’s demos are so good, she’s such a great singer and so innovative, she inspires me as a singer, let alone a writer,” shares Miranda. “When I heard that song, I felt like it was nostalgic, there’s a lot of nostalgia and looking back on this album, thinking about where you were and what makes you who you are. I’ve never done a song like this, leave it to me to take a party song and make it sad. Just the other day we were doing a pasture party for my friend, we literally set the pasture on fire, people were smoking, we were drinking, my blue jeans smelled like smoke, and I said, ‘this is what that song is about.’ Anybody of any age can relate to it.”
“Priscilla” (written by Nicolle Galyon/Natalie Hemby/Jimmy Robbins)
A percussive rockabilly rave, “Priscilla” will surely draw comparisons between Priscilla Presley’s marriage to the King and Lambert’s own tabloid attention as the wife of country star Blake Shelton, with Lambert convincingly delivering lines like, “You and me share a unique position/Married to a man that’s married to attention.”
“What better way to address it than this?,” Lambert asks. “I had been hanging out with Natalie, we’d been writing, and it was one of those weeks when somebody had handed me a magazine and we were getting divorced, or I was having alien twins, or something weird, and she was like, ‘how do you deal with this?’ I was like, ‘well, I don’t have a choice, I either deal with it or I go crazy.’ A couple weeks later she was watching a documentary on Elvis and Priscilla, and so she wrote this song with Nicole and Jimmy Robbins. She sent it to me, and I thought, ‘hmmm, I wonder where the inspiration came for this song?’ I played it for [producer] Frank [Liddell] and Blake, and they were like, ‘well, it’s different, and I was like, ‘yeah, but think about what this stands for in my life right now. I’ve got to address it, I can’t run from it, everybody knows it’s happening. Let’s just hit it head on and get it over with.”
“Bathroom Sink” (written by Miranda Lambert)
A pulsing country rocker that’s one of the album’s prime cuts, “Bathroom Sink” boasts a thrumming intensity and a vulnerable, heartfelt lyric, focusing on the mundane when much bigger issues are in play. “It’s amazing the amount of rejection that I see in my reflection,” Lambert sings in the chorus of a song that echoes everyone from the Who to Haggard.
“I feel like on every record I’ve got one of those scary ones that I wrote by myself, so I can’t blame it on anybody else,” she says. “It’s scary for the rawness, and for the emotion in it. It’s kind a like, ‘should I put this on there, should I not?’ because it’s just, ‘here I am, here’s me.’ It’s one of those where your mom says, ‘gosh, this makes me sad,’ and that’s exactly what she said. But it’s just real, just a real moment. I don’t’ live there, but it’s a real moment that you go through. Everybody does. I wrote it on a plane by myself headed to a show. It’s just one of those moments in time, and I am proud of it. I take a lot of pride in writing by myself, because I feel like sometimes its so easy to write with all these amazing writers, it’s so easy to lean on them for better lines than you can come up with. But sometimes it’s important to just sit down with a guitar and write a song by your damn self, to make sure you still can, for one thing.”
“All That’s Left” (written by Dixie Hall/Tom T. Hall)
Pure country swing with modern twist, this classic from Tom and Dixie Hall features a retro Miranda vocal and a terrific performance from Nashville legends the Time Jumpers.
“I opened a whole bunch of times for Asleep at the Wheel when I first started out in Texas,” Lambert says. “I guess this song kind of reminds me a little bit of that, if I’m lucky and worthy of sounding like them a little bit. I heard that song on the way home from a Beyonce concert, I went and saw Beyonce for the fifth time, yes, I’m a stalker. I saw her at American Airlines Center in Dallas, and I was headed home, and I had the radio on Bluegrass Junction on XM, and that song came on. I pulled over and Googled it, it was such a cool song, and then I realized that Tom and Dixe wrote it. I was going over it and over it with Blake and I was like, ‘we can do something different on this song.’ Blake had the idea to get the Time Jumpers on it, this music kind of lends itself to that. So Frank asked them and they said yes, I was so excited. That song has so many different lives it could have taken, but it has its own personality on our record, and it still felt so good. I was so nervous when they were in the studio that I had to go back in and sing it again after they left, because I couldn’t get my crap together, I was just watching them play. I was so excited and nervous I couldn’t sing.”
“Gravity’s A Bitch” (Written by Miranda Lambert/Scotty Wray)
A bluesy, boozy barroom rumination on aging that showcases Lambert’s ace-in-the-hole sense of humor. “I wrote this with my guitar player Scotty Wray, he’s been with me since I was 17, he’s in his 50s,” she explains. “We came to me at a festival and said, ‘hey, I got a title: Gravity’s A Bitch.’ I said, ‘yes it is. Let’s write it.’ So we got in the bus and literally wrote it in like 30 minutes, it kind of wrote itself. He has these amazing melodies, he plays guitar so well, and I said, ‘I know what it’s like after 30, you tell me the rest, what do I have to look forward to?’ We just started writing little things about every age. It was fun, it’s one of those things you have to face, everybody knows it’s gonna happen. That’s why there’s Botox and Spanx, I guess.
“Something Bad” with Carrie Underwood (written by Chris DeStefano/Brett James/Priscilla Renea)
Debuted live at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards, this pounding rocker taps into the edgier tendencies of country music’s top female artists.
“Carrie Underwood is a badass, and she’s such an amazing vocalist,” says Lambert. “I was nervous to ask her to even sing with me. When I finally sent her the song she said, ‘yeah, let’s do it,’ I was like, ‘this will be cool,’ because two of the females in country collaborating doesn’t happen that often. It needs to, but it doesn’t. I’m real pumped about that song. I feel totally honored that she sang it with me, and I’m excited about the possibilities of the video and performing it live with her. Having somebody stand beside you and sing that’s as good a vocalist as she is will really push me to be better, and I’m excited about that too.”
“Carrie Underwood is a badass” – Miranda Lambert
“Holding On To You” (written by Miranda Lambert/Jessi Alexander/Ashley Monroe)
A simmering, slow burn of a torch song, and one of Lambert’s strongest vocal performances to date. “I wrote it with two of my best friends, so that helps,” she says. “We wrote it at a show in Michigan. My dad’s best friend of 45 years had passed away not too long before I sang it in the studio. They were music lovers and I remember when we wrote it I couldn’t wait to play it for him, his name was Rod, and I was like, ‘oh my god, Rod will love this.’ He was kind of my music judge, I always couldn’t wait for him and his wife to listen to my records and tell me what they thought, they love music so much. He had passed away, and I couldn’t find inspiration. It’s hard to find inspiration when you’re not doing it live. I do a lot of my vocals right when we’re cutting it, but this one I had to go back in and sing. Like, you’re standing in there on a Wednesday at 2 o’clock, it’s hard to get inspired. I was just walking in out of an interview and I couldn’t get my mojo, and I started thinking about him and her and their love, they’d been married for so long, and how much they loved music together. Something came over me, and I was singing it like she would to Rod, how would she say it? I called her a couple weeks later and said, ‘hey, I cut this song, and you and Rod were my inspiration.’ That song means a lot to our family now because of that, and I hope it’s one of those songs that people find something to grasp on to with it.”
“Two Rings Shy” (written by Miranda Lambert/Brandy Clark/Heather Little)
With its blend of Beatles-esque studio magic and sharp lyrical insight, “Two Rings” is among Lambert at her most sonically ambitious.
“I wrote this one with Brandy Clark, who wrote ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’ and who I collaborated with on ‘Gunpower & Lead’ and ‘Me and Charlie Talkin”. When we wrote this song,” Lambert says, “I told Frank I wanted it to sound like the circus, like literally we need to go to a circus somewhere and just record sounds. It actually has a really good point to it. The lyrics matter. There’s a lot of smart lyrics in there, because I wrote it with two really smart girls. The point of this song is very direct: don’t fool with me.”