WYCD Hoedown Sunday with Miranda Lambert
This native Texan was raised by her private investigator parents in rural Lindale, Texas. Her father taught her about guns, hunting, and Garth Brooks and Lambert soon developed an interest in performing country music. She started singing early on, with her dad on guitar, and by sixteen she landed the opportunity to record music in Nashville but soon returned after her disenchantment with the manufactured sound that they wanted her to produce. Lambert finished high school and became lead singer of the local band at the Reo Palm Isle Ballroom. Lambert got her chance to shine as a solo star on the USA Networks television show, "Nashville Star," where she finished in third place and inked a deal with Epic Records.
Staying true to her passion for authentic country music, she co-wrote eleven of the final twelve cuts on her debut album, "Kerosene." Of her songwriting, Lambert stated, "I mean every word I say in every lyric of every song" and "if you're into honesty, I have the records for you!" Her heartfelt lyrics and her genuine personalty translated into country superstardom for the young singer. Her debut produced four top 40 singles and was eventually certified platinum by the RIAA. Miranda Lambert tour dates were scheduled in the opening slot for country superstars Dierks Bentley and Toby Keith on their respective national tours.
She returned to the studio in 2007 to record her sophomore effort, the aptly titled "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," which yielded the domestic abuse inspired single, "Gunpowder and Lead." The album was also certified platinum and it earned Lambert the award for Album of the Year at the 2008 ACM Awards. Lambert achieved critical and commercial success early on, however, she continues to rack up career highlights and acclaim.
Lamber returned to the studio in 2009 to record her third release, "Revolution," once again contributing her writing abilities to the majority of the tracks. The singles, "White Liar," and "The House That Built Me," garnered her critical acclaim. The 2009 Miranda Lambert concert schedule included her first headlining tour, "Roadside Bars & Pink Guitars," which had scheduled dates at over 22 cities. While on tour it was announced that she was nominated for a record setting 9 CMA awards at the 2010 ceremony where she earned awards for Female Vocalist and Album of the Year. The critical acclaim only continued when she was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Female Country vocal performance for the "House that Built Me," at the February, 2011 ceremony.
Following her huge wins at the ACM and Grammy Awards in 2011, Lambert will hit the studio and the road this spring. Miranda Lambert tour dates for her "Revolution" outing have her on the road throughout the spring and summer. Make sure you catch Lambert's fiery performances. Use Eventful as your source for Miranda Lambert tour dates and concert schedule updates.
Jerrod Niemann: Jerrod Niemann is not a typical country artist, and the audacious, groundbreaking Judge Jerrod & The Hung Jury is a far cry from a typical country album. With the first track, which is a humorously hyperbolic movie trailer, and the attention-grabbing lyrics of the opening song, “They Should Have Named You Cocaine,” listeners quickly realize they’re in for an extraordinary ride. Niemann’s debut for Sea Gayle/Arista Nashville includes up-tempo cuts, heartache balladry, wicked wordplay and a couple of cool covers, all woven together with short comedic interludes. The 20 tracks constitute a progressive, album-length voyage into utterly unique territory in the country music landscape. The lead single, “Lover, Lover,” is a groove-oriented, handclap-fueled Top 15 smash that features nine vocal parts, all recorded by Niemann himself. “My original plan was to just sing the lead vocal part,” Niemann explains. “I was going to get Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, Chris Young and a bunch of my friends to each sing a part. But I didn’t have a record deal, and I realized that getting permission for all of them would have been torturous, so my co-producer, Dave Brainard, suggested that I try singing all the parts. I sang eight out of nine parts the first night. The only part I didn’t have was that low bass part. I just couldn’t hit those notes. So Dave and I went down to the Tin Roof in Nashville, and in the name of country music, we properly medicated the vocal cords. When I woke up the next morning, I sounded like a mix between Richard Sterban from the Oak Ridge Boys and that cartoon Grape Ape.” Listeners might get the catchy chorus of “Lover, Lover” permanently stuck in their heads — which is exactly what happened to Niemann when he heard the original version of the song, written by Dan Pritzker of the rock band Sonia Dada, and titled “You Don’t Treat Me No Good.” “When I first heard that song, I was in a community swimming pool in Liberal, Kansas, in 1993,” Niemann recalls. I’ve always loved that song, and I associate it with my childhood. I took it into the studio, played it for Dave [Brainard], and literally five minutes later we were recording it, just on a whim.” Niemann wrote or co-wrote ten of the album’s dozen songs. His co-writers on “They Should Have Named You Cocaine” were his buddies Jamey Johnson and Dallas Davidson. This track’s unusual production merges traditional, jazzy sounds with a space-age theremin (inspired by the Beach Boys) and just a touch of the Electric Light Orchestra hit “Strange Magic.” Niemann shows his sensitive side with “What Do You Want,” the emotional centerpiece of the album. “That was the first time I had ever written a song truly from the heart,” Niemann admits. “I wasn’t trying to write a hit song. I just wanted to get it out of my system. I was missing an ex-girlfriend, and I would just start the process of getting over her, and then I’d hear from her. So that’s how that song came about.” Niemann’s compositions reflect an adherence to the adage “Write what you know.” He calls “Old School New Again” his “soapbox” number because it comments on the machinations of the music industry. The song chronicles the hopes of a struggling musician, as Niemann sings, “I know times, they change / So I ain’t sayin’ we need to go back to Nudie suits, rhinestones and fringe / I just wanna be proud of what I’m playin’ / And sing a little Lefty now and then.” He returns to the music-industry theme with the lighthearted barroom anthem “One More Drinkin’ Song.” The track is preceded by “A Concerned Fan,” a tongue-in-cheek skit addressing the notion of using demographic data as the basis for writing a country song. The solo composition “For Everclear” is the smile-inducing tale of a hard-partying college student who winds up in bed with his instructor. A boisterous cover of Robert Earl Keen’s “The Buckin’ Song” features the kind of sly wordplay that Niemann has made a trademark of his own songwriting. “I didn’t write that song, but I thought it was just offensive enough to put on the album,” he jokes. Puns and wordplay also are showcased in the tropical tune “Down in Mexico” and its accompanying sketch, “Phone Call at 3 A.M.” This Buffettesque track proves that an episode of quasi-drunk-dialing can result in a great country song. Other album highlights include the R&B–flavored scorcher “Come Back to Me,” a poetic rumination on lost love called “Bakersfield,” the honky-tonk rave-up “How Can I Be So Thirsty” (penned with John Anderson and Billy Joe Walker, Jr.) and a dramatic ballad with strings, “I Hope You Get What You Deserve.” With a single spin of the album, it’s obvious that the recording sessions for Judge Jerrod were a blast. Ironically, Niemann’s personal life at the time was in tatters. Although Niemann had experienced triumphs as a songwriter — with his songs being recorded by Garth Brooks, Jamey Johnson, Julie Roberts and Blake Shelton — he yearned to be a performer himself. Things weren’t going well in that regard. He had signed a recording contract, only to see the deal fall apart. Niemann signed another recording contract, but that one also failed to come to fruition. Then his life took a turn for the worse. “I was at rock bottom,” he recalls. “I had horrible depression. I ran off a girl I was dating, and she moved clear to India. I gained 60 pounds, so I looked like the Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. I didn’t write a song for almost a year. That’s when I ran into Jamey Johnson, at that point in my life. He said, ‘Man, I can tell you’re not yourself. Why don’t you go cut a record? That’s what I did, and it changed my life.’ And Jamey was right. So I took a year to record the album, and by the end of that process, I had lost every bit of the weight. It’s amazing how doing something that you love can change your inner self and your outer appearance.” After Niemann finished the album, he shared it with the heads of his publishing company, Sea Gayle Music. They wanted to shop it to Arista Nashville, and Niemann agreed, but under one condition: Not a single note on the album could be changed. In a bold move, Arista Nashville signed Niemann and agreed to release the album as is, even keeping the title (with its double entendre) intact. Niemann says, “We called it Judge Jerrod & The Hung Jury, but it’s not so much because I’m a judge. Instead, it’s about the idea that everybody is going to judge me and my band for making this album. Whenever you attempt to do anything different or unique, people are going criticize it. But that’s okay. I’ve been made fun of my whole life. Why stop now?” Niemann grew up in Liberal, a tiny town in west Kansas. As a child, his knowledge of music was expanded at the skating rink that his parents owned. “That’s where I got my street cred, as a 7-year-old, rolling in circles, looking dangerous and mysterious on eight wheels of Country & Western thunder,” he recalls with a laugh. “I remember skating to Queen, to Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith doing “Walk This Way,” and to the Oak Ridge Boys’ “Elvira.” After graduating from Liberal High School, Niemann studied music for two years at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas. Then he moved to Fort Worth, where he honed his songwriting and learned how to win over tough crowds in bars. He moved to Nashville in 2000. Today, Niemann is ready to become the full-fledged artist he always dreamed of being. “A few years ago, my friends and I were burning up the honky-tonks in Nashville, but now everybody has matured a little bit,” he reflects. “We all realized that we’re representing country music whenever we leave Nashville. We still get rowdy and have fun, but we know where this town came from. We love it and we respect it. We’re doing what we can to ensure that country music fans have music that not only entertains them, but that they can enjoy in any mood.” Niemann feels that he can be a distinct voice in country music, but he realizes he’s standing on the shoulders of giants. “Waylon and Willie are considered hard-core traditionalists now, but they were very innovative back in the day, and they caused a lot of controversy. No one’s ever going to say what they said, or sang what they sang, as well as they did. But I think there’s something unique that I can contribute to the format. If I can make somebody laugh, or get someone who’s never listened to country music to come over and check it out, then I’ve accomplished my goal.”
Chris Young: Chris Young, the country crooner who won Nashville Star in 2006 proved that he has the right kind of twang to hit the top of the charts.
The Murfreesboro, Tennessee native has country music running through his veins. His grandfather was a performer on the long lived country variety show Louisiana Hayride, and he grew up performing in children's theatre programs. Young eventually attended college and supported himself by performing at more than 150 concert dates a year. It wasn't until a show in Arlington that Young was encouraged to try out for the USA Network reality competition show "Nashville Star". After a two-month run, Chris Young was declared the winner at the age of 20, making him the youngest competitor to win the title.
Young was awarded a contract with RCA Records who released his self-titled debut album in 2006. The album was produced by Buddy Cannon, who was the Academy of Country Music's Producer of the Year in 2006, and it debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top Country Albums charts. It yielded the singles, "Drinkin' Me Lonely" and "You're Gonna Love Me", both of which received tepid rotation on the country dials. It was with his sophomore album "The Man I Want to Be" that Young reached country gold. The album produced three #1 singles and solidified Young as a top male vocalist. Young released single after single to heavy radio airplay, including "The Man I Want to Be" and a re-released version of the single "Voices". Young received a nomination at the Academy of Country Music Awards for Top New Vocalist where he was also a presenter. His single "Gettin' You Home", was nominated for a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance signaling the cowboy's arrival to critical acclaim.
Pistol Annies: It began on a wild hair: Two girlfriends on a giddy whim, calling a third gal late one night with an invitation to join the fun and maybe start a little trouble — and a band.
“I thought they were in slumber-party mode,” recalls Angaleena Presley of that midnight call she got nearly two years ago from her friend, fellow Nashville-based singer-songwriter Ashley Monroe. Monroe wanted Presley to email every song she had immediately because she “and Miranda” had hatched a plan to put a band together and they wanted her onboard.
“I was like, ‘Girls, you’re going to wake up tomorrow and realize you’re stupid,” Presley continues. “And then I went, ‘Miranda who?’ And Ashley says, ‘Lambert!‘ That’s when I was like, ‘Oh … better get out of bed right now!’”
Between the two of them, Presley and Monroe (from Kentucky and Tennessee, respectively) had landed a handful of cuts working Nashville’s Music Row for the better part of the last decade. Monroe had also worked on projects with famed indie-rocker/producer Jack White and released a major-label debut, while Presley has an exceptional album of her own waiting for a proper home. Lambert, meanwhile, has been one of country music’s biggest stars with three successive No. 1 albums: 2005’s Kerosene, 2007’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and 2009’s Revolution … and odds are that her forthcoming Four the Record will continue the hot streak later this fall. Monroe actually co-wrote two songs with Lambert for Revolution, including the chart-topping single “Heart Like Mine.” But the songs they’d begun writing that fateful night at Lambert’s cabin in Oklahoma two Novembers ago begged for an entirely new and different outlet.
“They really weren’t right for me or her individually, but they sounded so cool, we were like, ‘What can we do with these songs?’” says Lambert. “But we also didn’t want to give them to anybody else,” adds Monroe. “It’s like in our minds, we already knew what was going to happen.” That’s when Monroe asked Lambert if she had ever heard her friend Presley’s songs, and promptly made her listen to a few tracks online. “I knew if I played her one note, she’d flip.” She did, and a flurry of excited phone calls, covert meetings and one name change later (their original handle, Calamity Janes, was already owned by a stripper), the Pistol Annies were born.
Only then did they break the news to their respective managers, publishers and label reps. As Presley explains, “Our motto is, ‘We ask for forgiveness, not permission.’”
“I don’t think it was my manager’s favorite thing that I’ve ever said — ‘I’ve started a band and you have to deal with it!’” confesses Lambert with a mischievous grin. “But it’s worked out great. When she realized that it was serious, she was like, ‘Let’s go full on.’”
Full on, and fast. The newly formed trio began writing and recording songs together straight away, but barely had six tracks down when they were offered an opportunity to make their official debut on national TV via the Academy of Country Music’s Girls Night Out special on CBS in April, 2011. “I told our manager, ‘Well that’s great, but I don’t know if we’re actually ready yet!’,” says Lambert. “It was scary. I’ve never been more nervous in my life.”
“The first time we ever played with a live band behind us was actually at rehearsal the day of the show,” marvels Presley. “The show itself was the second time. We literally just jumped in the water, and it was sink or swim. For me, it was like jumping the Grand Canyon, because although Miranda had let me get up and sing with her at one of her shows the weekend before, prior to that I’d never played anywhere bigger than like, the Bluebird Cafe. So I was nervous all day — until I saw Miranda, and then I thought, ‘I ain’t that nervous!’ And then a calm came over me.”
“I was really nervous too,” adds Monroe, “but the moment we walked out onstage and sang the first note, I thought, ‘OK, we’ve got this.’”
Indeed: The Pistol Annies’ performance that night of their original song, “Hell on Heels,” hit the proverbial bull’s eye, with the three women trading chilling verses and marrying their three distinct voices together on the chorus, a hair-raising declaration of wicked girl power dished out with the dangerous beauty of deadly sirens. Never before or since has the old country maxim “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” seemed more true. You can take their line about having “done made the devil a deal” with a grain of salt, but they sell it with a conviction that suggests you damn well better keep your guard up, just in case.
Fittingly, “Hell on Heels” is both the title track and the opening song on the Pistol Annies’ smoking debut, which delivers on the promise of that first high-profile performance in spades. Clocking in at a lean-and-mean, filler-free 30 minutes, the album is equal parts sass (“Hell on Heels,” “Bad Example,” “Takin’ Pills”), heartache (“Beige,” “The Hunter’s Wife,” “Family Feud”) and hard knocks (“Lemon Drop,” “Housewife’s Prayer” and “Trailer for Rent”), sweetened with just enough wistful Southern romance to reveal a teasing hint of vulnerability (“Boys from the South”). Every song was written by one or more of the Annies, with only one intrepid outsider — Lambert’s husband, Blake Shelton — sneaking in for a quick co-writing credit.
“We were all over at my house, writing a song called ‘Family Feud,’ and Blake was there and happened to play an awesome melody, so he’s the only outside writer,” explains Lambert. “We call him Pistol Andy — and he knows he’s lucky.”
The three girls have all adopted nicknames of their own: Lone Star Annie for Texan Lambert, Hippie Annie for Monroe, and Holler Annie for Presley (a nod to her Eastern Kentucky roots). They’re all women of the South, but as Monroe points out, they each bring different musical influences to the table: classic Tennessee country (a la Dolly Parton) from Monroe; bluegrass from Kentucky girl Presley (daughter of a third-generation coal miner); and hard-edged, outlaw honky-tonk (from Waylon to Merle) from Lambert, who cut her teeth playing the rowdy bar and festival circuit in Texas long before finding fame in the mainstream. But it all blends together in the Pistol Annies’ original music as seamlessly as their voices. “The music just came so easily, it’s like we didn’t even have to try,” says Presley. “It kind of just spilled out of us. I think we were writing a song with 30 minutes of getting together for the first time.”
“Sometimes when you write with people, you don’t have chemistry at all,” notes Lambert. “But we have chemistry as friends, we have chemistry onstage, and we have chemistry in our writing. We’re three singer-songwriters that come from different places, but we’re girls with all the same issues, just saying what every woman in America wants to say or wants to hear. In our songs, we say some things that people aren’t usually allowed to talk about — or things that people talk about in their homes, but they don’t usually say on record. That’s actually kind of been my thing the whole time, and Ashley and Ang’s, too, but just not as many people have had a chance to hear it.
“That’s why I think the Pistol Annies is such a great avenue for all of us,” Lambert continues. “Because I love great music, and I get mad when it’s not heard, and now I’m going to use what I’ve built for two of my best friends who are great and deserve to be huge stars on their own. This has given me a new excitement, a new passion. Usually, after I write a record, I don’t want to write anything for a couple of months, because I’m just burned out. But I started writing with these girls immediately after I released Revolution, because this band inspires all of us so much. It’s like we can’t get enough.”
Just don’t make the mistake of calling it a “side project.”
“This is the farthest thing from a side project that I could do,” Lambert makes clear. “Somebody asked me that in an interview, and it made me mad — I think they did that on purpose. I don’t do side projects. I do projects that are 100-percent, or I don’t do them. And these girls have plenty to say, too. I really want people to know that when they come to see a Pistol Annies show, they’re not going to see anything about Miranda Lambert. It’s all about the Pistol Annies.”
Presently, though, Lambert’s own shows are the only place to see the Pistol Annies live: To hone their chops in preparation for their own tour in the near future, the Annies have been accompanying Lambert on her solo dates, with room made in many of her full-production concerts to accommodate mini Pistol Annies sets that are already going over like gangbusters. Lambert notes that fans at her pre-show meet-and-greets have started routinely asking her, “Are the Pistol Annies with you? Are they going to sing tonight?”
“At the beginning, when the three microphones would be put out front in the middle of her show, people had their mouths agape and would be like, ‘Huh?’” Presley admits. “But now — like when we were just in Maryland — when those three mics came out, the crowd went wild before we even came onstage.”
“We’re just taking it a step at a time because we don’t have a rule book, and bringing them out with me has been cool because we’ve already got the busses and the production and the fans to play to,” says Lambert. “But I can’t wait until we go do Pistol Annies shows just as Pistol Annies, because that’s my goal. And because I don’t want the pressure all on me — they have to share it, too! That’s what’s fun about being in a band, you know?”
“She really believes in us, and we are a group, but we’ve learned so much just being on the road with her,” says Monroe, with an affirming nod from Presley. “I mean, there is nothing fake about her. She says, ‘I’m just one of y’all,’ and she means it, but she also says, ‘I can’t wait for y’all to get famous so you can’t go into Wal-Mart anymore either without getting recognized!’”