ARTS & ENTERTAINMENTMUSIC

Miranda Lambert's life has gone 'Platinum,' and she's grateful

EntertainmentKentucky DerbyCarrie UnderwoodLuke Bryan

Miranda Lambert can point to all sorts of things she has now that she didn't have a decade ago when she launched her career in country music.

The singer and songwriter has racked up a string of four hit albums, six No. 1 chart hits, a Grammy Award, 18 Academy of Country Music trophies and seven from the Country Music Assn.

On the home front, she's married to a hunky country singer, "The Voice" coach Blake Shelton. She also owns two Pink Pistol merchandise stores, is getting ready to open a bed-and-breakfast in Tishomingo, Okla., where she and Shelton live, and has enthusiastically championed the MuttNation animal shelter near Nashville.

But as she sat on the sofa in the Hollywood office of her publicist recently to talk about the release of her fifth album, "Platinum" (out now), it sounded as though the one thing she's built up in greater quantity than anything she possessed 10 years ago is gratitude.

"I'm so happy to be here and to have this spot," said Lambert, a native Texan. "I know more at 30 years old what it means than I did at 20. I appreciate it more now than I did then. Now I know how much work it is, how much time away from home it takes and how much pressure comes with it."

Lambert may have thrown her Stetson in the ring by way of the long-shot reality-TV singing competition route — she placed third in the 2003 inaugural season of "Nashville Star," country's answer to "American Idol" — but she's clearly interested in the long haul, not the quick rise and fall.

"I'm just getting started," said Lambert, who turned 30 in November. "George Strait's had a career — well, he's had a career longer than I've been alive! So I've got a long way to go.

With "Platinum," which already has produced a hit in the lead single "Automatic" and has the makings of another in short order with "Somethin' Bad," her "Thelma and Louise"-inspired duet with her country superstar pal Carrie Underwood, Lambert has grown up in many respects.

A number of the songs zero in on change, a topic that's not at the forefront of the party-hearty ethic in so many contemporary country hits, especially those in the bro-country world of Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line and others.

But it's not simply change, either, that Lambert is singing about, but change that results in personal growth and maturity, qualities that emerge in the pursuit of honest self-evaluation, something that makes her stand out from the 2014 country crowd.

"Even just talking to my friends — I was out at the [Kentucky] Derby this weekend, and people were showing baby pictures, and dog pictures — 'Look at my puppies!' They were talking about Obamacare, or whatever," she said. "It's not 'What concert are you gonna go see?' anymore, it's 'Baby started eating cereal!' It changes, but it's fun. It's a good thing."

For Lambert, it's also all worthy fodder to explore in song, either the eight she wrote or co-wrote or the other eight she and album co-producer Frank Liddell chose from other writers.

"I guess it's a personal album," she said. "But don't people want to hear that? I'm sure that if I'm going through something, other people are too. Maybe not in exactly the same way, but just regular old problems everybody else has."

Well, not entirely.

In "Priscilla," written by Nicolle Galyon, Natalie Hemby and Jimmy Robbins, Lambert sings of identifying with Elvis Presley's wife, the song's refrain lamenting that "It's a difficult thing being queen of the King."

Not every country fan can necessarily relate to that life-at-the-top conundrum, but Lambert brings a humanity to the subject that plays off her very public marriage to Shelton, which has made them easy targets for the tabloids during the eight years since they started dating.

"'Priscilla' is addressing the tabloids," she said. "That's the truth, you can't hide it, so I might as well address it — in a fun way. The one thing I've always done on my records is just be who I am and not skirt around the issues. ... [Now] the issues are just a little more prominent than they've ever been because I'm at a new level, I guess."

The headlines she and Shelton have been part of, such as claims that he's cheating, they're divorcing or she's pregnant, "used to be an annoyance, now it's just literally funny.

"It's so outlandish that nobody believes it anyway. At first it was 'How can they say that? It's not the truth!' But it's so frequent and it contradicts itself," she said. "One magazine will say I'm 'Happy and healthy and better than ever!' And there's another one that says, 'Alone and pregnant and divorced.' It took some adjusting. We're just country singers — what are we doing in the tabloids?"

With a new album dropping, a summer tour getting under way — she'll reach Southern California for an Aug. 10 date at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine — two retail stores, the B&B, the animal shelter, it's not surprising to hear her say, "I need some humdrum time.

"My 20s were spent like … well, that's what they're for: You work hard and play hard. I was never home, I was on the road for 10 straight years. It was great, but I'm figuring out now how to have less chaos.

"I'm working on balancing things, making time for life," she said. "Sometimes you have to force yourself to have a life and not work too much — figuring out what you want to miss and what you don't want to miss. I missed a lot of weddings and a lot of birthday parties and a lot of births of friends' kids.

"I'd rather have a life and these relationships," she said, "because when all this is over, I don't want to be up there like 'Well, I was really successful, but where are all my friends?' They're not here because you weren't there. That's important to me too. Part of being good at what you do is having a life too. What are you going to sing about and write about if you don't live?"

randy.lewis@latimes.com

Twitter: @RandyLewis2

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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