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Miranda Lambert burst onto the country music scene like a can of gasoline! From the Texas singer's first appearance on reality competition Nashville Star in 2003, to her record-breaking ACM Awards win in 2020, she's built a reputation of kicking butt, taking names, and writing some incredible songs. While a high profile divorce, a new happily ever after, and the pressure of being an artist has dealt her a fair share of media scrutiny over the years, she's never compromised when it comes to laying it all out there in her songs. "My job [as a songwriter] is to be honest," she told Songwriting in 2020. "Whenever people ask me personal questions ... I'm like, 'You know what, all the answers you want to know are right there on the record." With hit after hit under her belt, we'd say she's doing something right!
But she wasn't always country music's tattooed, beer-drinking, tough-as-nails queen. From her private eye past as a child to superstardom, let's take a look at the transformation of Miranda Lambert.
A childhood that encouraged performance
Known for her feisty anthems and fireball personality, it comes as no surprise that Miranda Lambert is a Texan, born and raised! She was born in the town of Longview, per Biography, to parents Bev and Rick, who worked as private detectives tackling high profile cases at their own agency (via Country Living). She has one younger brother named Luke and was named after her great grandmother Lucy Miranda, according to Us Weekly.
They lived a perfect life until the oil crash hit Texas — and the young family — hard in the late '80s. After losing everything, the family relocated to Lindale before Miranda started first grade, bringing with them a little bit of livestock and a lot of hope. According to Country Living, it was there that, by a unique set of circumstances, her parents found themselves working on the Bill Clinton's impeachment investigation and things began to turn around for the family. As a teen, Miranda even assisted in digging up dirt for other investigations, once dressing up as a cheerleader under the guise of "selling candy for the school" as part of an undercover operation.
While livestock and sleuthing kept her busy, music was always close by. She grew up listening to country legends like Merle Haggard, thanks to her father who also played guitar and wrote songs, according to Biography. In sixth grade, she "was voted most likely to be a country singer" (via Us Weekly).
Miranda Lambert's start in music was a long time coming
When she was 9-years-old, Miranda Lambert's father took her to a Garth Brooks concert. "She came back and said, 'Daddy, I would like to do that someday,'" her father Rick told The Washington Post in 2007. "I told her she had the voice, and soon after that, I was trying to put a little pressure on her ... But she showed no interest." Dancing and cheerleading took up the majority of Miranda's time until she was 16 years old and entered a country music singing competition. Though she lost, she had caught the bug, creating her own band and performing on the same talent competition that jumpstarted Lee Ann Womack and LeAnn Rimes' careers, according to Biography.
Rick continued to be Miranda's biggest supporter, fronting six grand for the budding performer to record a demo in Nashville. Unfortunately, producers had their own vision for her sound, and she told The Washington Post that the tracks she cut were "awful." Thankfully, she took it as a learning lesson, taking up guitar under her father's guidance and writing her own songs. At 17-years-old, she graduated high school through an accelerated program to focus on music full-time.
Reality TV gave Miranda Lambert her big break
After independently releasing an album and making a name for herself in Texas, Miranda Lambert struck gold when she auditioned for USA Network's Nashville Star in 2003 (via The Washington Post ). To say the then 19-year-old was out of her element would be an understatement. Flying out to Nashville for the reality show that was a mash-up of The Real World and American Idol marked her first time on a plane, according to Taste of Country. "I have to land in Nashville and live in a house with 10 strangers. I basically treated it like moving into a dorm," Lambert said. "I just thought, 'I have to give it my all. I'm here, I've made it, I'm going to try.'"
Even though she was the "youngest [contestant] by 10 years," Lambert made an impression on the judges and viewers across the country. Although she scored third place behind Buddy Jewell and John Arthur Martinez, the exposure landed her a deal with Sony Music (via Biography). Lambert looks back at her hard work as a teenager fondly, telling reporters at a country radio seminar in 2020 (via Taste of Country) that "all [the] grit from the bars, all the moments where nobody was listening, people were clanking balls ... requesting waltzes 24/7" was preparation for her big moment.
Miranda Lambert lit up country music like Kerosene
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Miranda Lambert, seen above performing at the 2005 CMAs, released her debut studio album Kerosene the same year. Supported by lead single "Me and Charlie Talking" and its fiery title track, the record quickly established her as a rising country star. The record sold 40 thousand copies in its first week, topping the Billboard country album chart and making her the fourth female country artist ever to nab the top slot with her debut LP. Going straight from high school to Nashville Star to recording her album, Lambert largely took inspiration from her parents' careers and love lives. "When I was writing for [Kerosene], I was 17 to 20 years old and I didn't have a lot of life to write about," she told The Washington Post in 2007.
She continued to build her profile touring with country greats like Keith Urban and George Strait (via Biography), scoring nods at the 2005 CMA and 2006 ACM Awards, as well as her first Grammy nomination for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
She quickly became country music's most 'terrifying woman'
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Miranda Lambert continued to play up her spitfire persona with the 2007 release of sophomore album Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. "I feel like I've upgraded a little as far as my songwriting and my vocals and my performance," Lambert told American Songwriter that year. "I've grown and I think it really shows in this record." While country stations failed to launch any of her singles into mega-hit rotation, saying she was "too angry" or hadn't found the right track yet (via The Washington Post ), both the album and single "Gunpowder and Lead" were certified double platinum by the RIAA. The record was critically acclaimed, earning her Album of the Year at the 2007 ACM Awards (above).
The album found her building on the angry woman persona that began to fester with Kerosene. In 2008, Esquire named her 'Terrifying Woman of the Year,' citing her "conceal-and-carry handgun" license and "graphic revenge fantasy" track "Gunpowder and Lead" as evidence. While the song helped build her renegade reputation, Lambert said it contained underlying meaning and subtext. "When I was younger, my parents took in abused women and their kids," Lambert told The Boot of the song's inspiration. "It's meant to be taken light-hearted in some aspects. But it's also very real to me, because I saw first-hand what damage it can to do a family to be in an abusive relationship."
Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert were country's it couple
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What is there to be said about Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton? The country stars' relationship was great until it wasn't. Though Shelton was married when they first met to perform "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma" on CMT's 100 Greatest Duets in 2005, that didn't stop the sparks from flying. Shelton and his wife officially divorced in 2006, and confirmation of his relationship with Lambert came shortly after in 2007 (via Life & Style).
As Lambert left her Texas roots to live with Shelton in Oklahoma, the media fell head over heels for their romance, prompting them to tour together in 2008. "We have definitely an antagonistic kind of fun, competitive relationship," Lambert told CMT News. For his part, Shelton conceded that "as miserable as we are together, it's way more miserable when we're apart." According to Us Weekly, the couple got married in May 2011, although their love story was cut short when they got divorced in 2015. "This is not the future we envisioned," the two said in a joint statement to the outlet. "And it is with heavy hearts that we move forward separately." While tabloids latched onto rumors of both Lambert and Shelton's alleged infidelity, the two had long reported that they barely spent time together because of their busy careers. Though we'll let Lambert's shady 2019 ACM Awards performance — and Shelton's post-divorce release – speak for themselves.
Miranda Lambert's childhood inspired a huge hit
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With a high profile relationship and handful of awards, Miranda Lambert was poised to finally ascend to country superstardom with the release of 2009's Revolution. While "Dead Flowers" and "White Liar" were modest hits playing on her spunky reputation, it was "The House That Built Me," her soft and candid third single, that would become her first No. 1 hit on the country charts. The emotional track finds Lambert revisiting her childhood home where her "favorite dog is buried in the yard" and "daddy gave life to mama's dream," hoping to find healing in reliving the past. The track also scored Lambert her first Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 2010.
While Lambert told CMT News that "The House That Built Me" was a "life-changing song," its saccharine message didn't mean Lambert had softened up completely. Tracks like "Time to Get a Gun" and "Only Prettier" continued to establish her as country music's outlaw woman. "I'm all-American in some ways, and in some ways, I definitely like to push the limits a little bit," she told CMT News in 2009. "I'd rather have people who love me and hate me than just be vanilla and everybody being like, 'Ehh, she's OK.'"
She launched a successful side project in 2011
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On the heels of Revolution, Miranda Lambert took a beat in 2010 to try something new with singer-songwriters Ashley Monroe (above left) and Angaleena Presley (above center). Lambert and Monroe already had a strong working relationship, having penned "Heart Like Mine" and "Me and Your Cigarettes" together for Lambert's third album. According to Sounds Like Nashville, Monroe introduced Lambert to Presley's music one night and after creeping on Presley's MySpace page — remember those? — the idea for the trio, Pistol Annies, was born. All three ladies adopted plucky nicknames for the group: Lonestar Annie (Lambert), Holler Annie (Presley), and Hippie Annie (Monroe). "We write about our stories, our friends' stories, and the stories of the people we hear around us," Lambert told Stereogum of their traditional, rootsy approach.
The group's first album, Hell on Heels, arrived in 2011 with a lead single by the same name. Despite having little promotion, the record was loved by critics and commercially successful, with both the single and album receiving RIAA platinum and gold certifications, respectively. While the three women also have their own solo careers, Monroe told Stereogum that they're "extra strong" when they're together. Pistol Annies has released two more albums: 2013's Annie Up and 2018's Interstate Gospel, the latter of which scored the group its first Grammy nomination.
Miranda Lambert made her acting debut on Law & Order
While Miranda Lambert has never shied away from a tongue-in-cheek adlib or a theatrical music video, she never had any big screen aspirations. Though the country singer did make a guest appearance on one television show — only because it was her favorite. Lambert starred in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in February 2012, playing a very serious guest role that "pushed [her] out of [her] comfort zone," she told CMT News. "I have a pretty small part, but it's big to me because I've never acted in my life," Lambert said.
Although she nailed the part (screenshot above), it sounds like we won't be seeing any more of her thespian chops anytime soon. "I never wanted to act," she confessed to CMT News, adding, "I still don't ... I just wanted to be on that show mainly so I could be a groupie and get my book signed and everything."
She continued to solidify her Platinum status with her fifth record
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Something about platinum irrefutably looks as good on records as it does on Miranda Lambert! The "Baggage Claim" singer's fourth album, 2011's Four the Record, furthered her star power as not just as a country singer but a musician in general. "Over You," which she co-wrote with ex Blake Shelton as a tribute to his late brother, topped the country charts and received Song of the Year honors at the 2012 CMA and 2013 ACM Awards. The album itself debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, an all-time high for Lambert's career until she bested herself by taking the top spot with her fifth record, Platinum, in 2014.
At this point, she was certifiably "a generational icon, a rule-breaker [and] a rock star," according to SPIN, and the album spoke to her growth as an artist and human. "Bathroom Sink" and "Priscilla" found her reflecting on the pressures of being a woman and tabloids for the first time. "We put so much pressure on ourselves to look a certain way, to look like other women," she told Spin. "Some days you do feel beautiful, and then someone will knock you down with a mean comment." Though the album scored Lambert a Grammy (shown above), she told Billboard that the record's title wasn't a reference to a "platinum album" or accolades, but her "lifestyle." Although, in classic Lambert fashion, it was in fact certified platinum in 2016.
The Weight of These Wings was a reflection on Miranda Lambert's divorce
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Miranda Lambert's sixth album The Weight of These Wings was perhaps her most anticipated, not only because it arrived two years after her last record in 2016, but because it was her first release following her divorce from Blake Shelton. While it consisted of two emotional parts — The Nerve and The Heart — Lambert maintained that the 24-track record was not a "heartbreak album" in an interview with Billboard. Still, with solemn tracks like "Tin Man" and "Vice," it found her in slightly more candid territory than perhaps her past records. "The sassy confidence, yes, that's what I've kind of built my career on," Lambert told Billboard. "But it also takes a lot of confidence and strength to be willing to be vulnerable."
Lambert admitted that she was "nervous as hell" releasing music following her divorce, but as a songwriter for nearly her entire life, she felt that "the right thing to do was just come out with something real honest." Her candidness paid off big time! Not only did she take home an Album of the Year trophy at the 2017 ACM Awards for the double platinum LP, but she extended her record as "the artist with the most wins in the history of the category," per Hits Daily Double. In 2020, Rolling Stone named it one of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Miranda Lambert found her happily ever after with a retired police officer
A series of heartbreaks led Miranda Lambert to hubby Brendan McLoughlin, a New York City police officer who has since retired (via People). Lambert met McLoughlin in 2018 while promoting the Pistol Annies' new record on Good Morning America, per People, telling the outlet, "I've been through enough in my life to know what I don't want, so when I know what I do want I snatch it right up." The couple secretly married in Nashville in January 2019, with Lambert announcing to the world that she "met the love of [her] life" a month later on Instagram. They appear to be a perfect pair as McLoughlin is always down to travel with her on tour. Lambert told People she was lucky to meet another "kindred spirit." His washboard abs certainly seem to help, as well.
Lambert remains effusive over her new beau, writing that he makes her "the proudest wife and stepmom" in a January 2020 post celebrating their first anniversary. One from the city and one from the farm, they come from different worlds and split their time together between New York and Nashville, where Lambert told People that she's "got bunnies and horses and dogs, cats, and ... can wear no makeup and be in the same clothes for three days." Though the two haven't had any children together yet, they made a big adoption together in 2020: a full-sized RV they lovingly named "The Sheriff."
There's only blue skies ahead of this Bluebird
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The release of Miranda Lambert's seventh album, 2019's Wildcard, marked a full circle moment for the now legendary country singer. As the third place finisher on Nashville Star, her long lasting career may have seemed like a wildcard pick in 2003 but she's outlasted the performers who placed before her, doing it entirely on her own terms.
There's no way country music will forget this Texan, and it looks like she's not going anywhere. She scored another No. 1 country hit with "Bluebird" in 2020, later becoming the most-decorated artist in ACM Awards history (via The Boot), as well as the most-nominated female performer in CMA Award history, per Good Morning America. Her hubby appeared in her video for "Settling Down" the same year, marking the first time Lambert's had a love interest in any of her videos (via Radio.com) and with her forever man, nonetheless! While she begs the question, "Am I settlin' up or settlin' down," it's plain to see that Lambert isn't settling at all when it comes to her decade-spanning career.