Lights flash, drums slap, and sequins sparkle as a cowgirl decked out in boots and fringe steps onto the Zappos Theater stage at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, Nevada. The only thing strong enough to pierce the clamor of screaming is the iconic voice of the woman those fans all came to hear—Miranda Lambert.
As she belts the opening line of “Actin’ Up,” one of several songs on Lambert’s latest album, Palomino, excitement reverberates through the crowd who came to see Velvet Rodeo. It’s showtime.
Viva Las Vegas
For the most decorated artist in the history of the Academy of Country Music (ACM), a Vegas residency came as a natural next step. Lambert’s worldwide tours have impressed fans across the globe, and now she’s applying her expertise to a slightly different stage.
“This one took more time to prepare for because we have more production than we ever have had before,” Lambert says. “We also really spent a lot of time on the set list. Because it’s a theater setting, we are able to do a lot of things differently than we do for say a festival or outside show. More drama!”
That dramatic emphasis shows in every detail, from perfectly timed lights and stylistically diverse graphics to the carefully curated set list and Lambert’s incredible Vegas-worthy outfits.
“I’ve really enjoyed the whole process of putting together Velvet Rodeo,” Lambert reveals. “It was such a creative journey. I’m loving the shows, and Vegas is great; great weather and great food and entertainment. I’m lucky to be here and having a blast.”
Measured by Memories
Under the bright lights of a Las Vegas stage, each step in the journey to this career highlight stands out as the singer showcases music from different phases of her career. That journey began long before she was selling out arenas and headlining tours, though. For Lambert, her formation as an artist began in Texas.
“I think it was starting in the honky tonks in Texas,” she reveals. “Those years helped me learn how to play live the hard way. I found my footing as a singer/songwriter learning to read a crowded room and win over an audience.”
Since those early years, Lambert has used her skill to craft album after album and hit after hit, racking up 38 ACM awards, 14 Country Music Association awards, three GRAMMY Awards, the coveted ACM Triple Crown Award—only earned by seven artists to date—and countless other accolades. Despite the showroom of awards to her name, Lambert marks her success by memories, not trophies.
“The times I’ve gotten to sing with my heroes are the mile markers for me,” Lambert says. “Getting to share a stage with people that lead the way and helped me find my sound were important moments. For instance, I got to sing at the Kennedy Center Honors in D.C. for Merle Haggard with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, and that is one of the best memories I have.”
While she’s played revered stages across the globe, Lambert names a notable home-state venue as one of those defining moments.
“Gruene Hall was a big one for me because I grew up going there my whole life to see shows,” she shares. “Being a Texan, it’s like playing the mother church when you play there. It was a big deal for me the first time I got to headline there.”
Lone Star Roots
Long before headlining sold-out shows and bringing home awards, Lambert found passion and purpose in music. The drive to pursue a musical career and her subsequent ascension to fame in the early 2000s was a product of the solace she found in music, starting in her childhood.
“I have always loved music, my whole life,” Lambert shares. “It was a huge part of our household. When I started playing guitar at 17, I realized that writing and singing was the first thing that came naturally to me. I had struggled with sports and with school, so it felt really good to find my thing.”
Today, she continues to pay homage to her heritage, crediting her background for shaping her into the artist and woman she’s become.
“I still wanna be a cowboy when I grow up,” Lambert asserts. “Country music tells a lot of stories about real life, hard work, and truth. That’s the cowboy way. To me, it’s people doing things their own way. Living out loud and being a dreamer, Wild West style.”
Lambert’s music embodies the freedom of a gypsy soul while staying deeply rooted in the strength of her Western upbringing.
“I have always had a song about Texas or growing up in the country on every record,” Lambert reveals. “It’s important to me.”
If there’s anything Lambert has mastered during her career, it’s assembling a stellar album, and Palomino is no exception. Since dropping in April 2022, her eighth solo album from Vanner Records/RCA Nashville earned praise from notable sources like TIME, Rolling Stone, Billboard, and Stereogum—plus raving reviews from fans. For Lambert, however, the focus remains on storytelling. When listeners connect with her songs, the country superstar counts that as success.
“I hope people that listen to Palomino will find themselves, or people they have encountered, in the characters we built in the songs,” she remarks. “This album is a road trip with all kinds of fun people to meet.”
Lambert’s life on the road has provided plenty of material for stellar songwriting, and she’s learned that impacting her audience starts with finding songs that touch her own soul first.
“I think “Carousel” speaks to me the most because of the storyline,” Lambert shares. “How Elaina left behind the circus for a new life as a mom and a wife and the whole journey just moves me.”
Another deeply moving piece in Lambert’s star-studded career is her uniquely raw collection, The Marfa Tapes. Produced in collaboration with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall, the entire album consists of one-take sessions recorded on-site in Marfa, Texas, with just two microphones and two acoustic guitars.
“The Marfa Tapes is one of my favorite projects I’ve ever been a part of,” Lambert reveals. “It all happened so organically and that’s my favorite part.
“Jon, Jack and I have been friends for a long time,” she continues. “We had been going out to Marfa to write songs for about 7 years, and the last trip we realized that nothing was gonna happen with these songs if we didn’t just put them out in raw form. It was scary though, having nothing to hide behind production wise. I’m so very proud of the project and so in awe of those two guys. I will always be their biggest fan.”
The friendship between co-writers is evidenced by conversations left in the raw recordings of each track, deepened by the crackling campfire and other natural noises in the background. While the album differs from her traditional studio sound, it radiates the authenticity that has drawn fans to Lambert’s music since day one.
More Than Music
Throughout her rise to fame and continued success, Miranda Lambert has also focused on other areas she can impact her community. In addition to music, she fills her time with philanthropic pursuits like the MuttNation Foundation.
“Animals are a huge part of my life and always have been, so it only felt right that we started MuttNation Foundation,” Lambert explains. “Our mission is to lift up shelters and help with their needs, and to raise awareness for adoption. I have aways been a huge advocate for rescue, so I’m so thankful to have this platform to do some good.”
Helping animals find homes isn’t the only area where Lambert stays creatively connected to her passion. She also launched Idyllwind, a Western wear line perfect for anyone with a gypsy cowgirl soul, and Wanda June Home, a sassy cookware collection with southwestern flare.
“Idyllwind, my clothing and boot brand with Boot Barn, and Wanda June Home with Walmart are both brands based on being a strong woman and owning who you are,” Lambert says. “I try to get that message across in my music, so it’s really cool to see that the message can start with a song and really reach a wider audience though these natural brand extensions.”
When the curtain drops on another night in Vegas, Lambert leaves the stage full of gratitude for the people who’ve helped make her dreams a reality. It takes more than determination to build a successful music career.
According to Lambert, she owes her success to the fans.
“I have spent my whole adult life dedicating myself to country music and art,” she explains. “I’m so lucky that I have amazing fans that have taken this journey with me all these years and are still on board. The country music community has been so good to me.”
As she adds another major milestone to her list of accomplishments with the Velvet Rodeo residency in Las Vegas, Lambert continues to pursue greatness as she looks to the future.
“I think I will always have a fire to become a better songwriter and to push the boundaries,” Lambert reveals. “I have reached a lot of the goals that I set early on, and now it’s time to chase new dreams! As long as the industry and the fans keep accepting me and my work, I will keep pushing on.”
This article about Miranda Lambert appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Western Life Today magazine. Click here to subscribe!