Producer Frank Liddell compares most country music stars to drivers in Manhattan. They circle and circle until they find a parking spot, and once they find one, they never want to leave.
Miranda Lambert found a roomy space in the shade when she released the career-changing Revolution in 2009.
“A lot of times, that parking place will dictate an artist’s entire career,” Liddell said. “Miranda, with this last record, she had a pretty good parking place. And she just drove right out of it without thinking twice about it.”
You can hear where she’s headed on her new album, Four the Record, out today. It’s Lambert’s follow-up to the album that won her universal critical praise, enough fans to ratchet her career to the headliner level and a bushel of trophies, including a Grammy.
All conditions were right for Lambert to deliver a new version of Revolution, repeating the blend of sass and smarts and a little bit of tenderness that turned out to be such a combustible mix.
But the 28-year-old delivered something very different. There’s still a little bit of that blonde firebrand who set country music ablaze in Four, Lambert’s fourth album. But the overall picture the album leaves you with is a little more sombre and mature.
“I’m one of those fortunate few, few, few artists that get to do what I want to do, make the album I want to make, with nobody telling me what it should sound like or what songs I should cut, and the best part about it is, people actually buy it,” Lambert said.
Most emerging country stars would have spent time building their brand after such a career leap.
She and new husband Blake Shelton appeared on the cover of Us Weekly after their wedding, the peak of the carnival atmosphere that surrounded the two over the last 18 months.
With Shelton’s turn on The Voice, their visibility had never been higher, and the opportunities never more lucrative.
Lambert did the unexpected, though. Instead of chasing tour sponsors and endorsement deals, she’s turned down most offers.
Instead of trying to recreate those hit songs from her last album, she sought new writing partners and even considered a higher than usual percentage of songs from outside writers.
She also formed a band on the side, Pistol Annies, something of a maverick move in a town where such things are considered wastes of energy at best and brand killers at worst.
With no radio airplay and little marketing, Pistol Annies’ debut album Hell on Heels hit No. 1 on the Billboard country albums chart.
All of these things are unusual moves — and part of the plan that Lambert has put together with her manager, Marion Kraft.
“The interesting part about it is we think of expanding, not in a financial way, but we’re thinking of expanding in a creative way where I feel like we are inspired by what we’re doing and she gets better because she keeps re-inspiring herself,” Kraft said.