Lambert has a voice

It’s no great stretch for Miranda Lambert to empathize with the aspiring singers she’s coached recently as a guest vocal advisor on NBC’s “The Voice.”

On her way to becoming one of the brightest new additions to country music in the last decade, Lambert herself got a major career boost with her third-place finish on another TV singing competition, “Nashville Star.” “I remember that I soaked up any advice someone gave me, and especially someone who was more successful,” said Lambert, 28, who recently married “The Voice” judge Blake Shelton. “I’m careful of what I’m going to say to these people, because I know it’s going to stick with them. I can really put myself in their position -- I can really remember how nervous and scared and wide-eyed I felt.”

Her season on “Nashville Star” came in 2003; now she’s riding high in the pop music world and heading into Sunday’s Academy of Country Music Awards show with two nominations: for female vocalist (alongside Sara Evans, Martina McBride, Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood) and album of the year for her fourth effort, “Four the Record.” Her husband, Shelton, is co-hosting the ceremony with Reba McEntire.

“It’s really cool to be part of [‘The Voice’],” she said during a brief lull before a concert in Salt Lake City earlier this month. “Getting to meet and talk to the contestants -- it was kinda cool to give them my advice.”


Yet the Longview, Texas, native admits that she has “so much more to learn.”

Even as recently as 2009, when Lambert released her third album, “Revolution,” she had difficulty accepting any compliments about her abilities as a singer. Lambert thought of herself first as a songwriter and had long discounted her vocal skills.

But now with numerous ACM and Country Music Assn. female vocalist of the year awards -- as well a 2010 Grammy -- she’s started to accept the compliments. “Winning that award sure helps -- it breaks you of that feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing or I don’t deserve to be here,” she said.

The confidence boost from the awards only helped bolster her more adventuresome offshoot project, the Pistol Annies, a group she formed with sister singer-songwriters Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley. Their 2011 debut album, “Hell on Heels,” debuted at No. 1 on the country music chart when it was released last summer.


The trio specializes in the spitfire and go-for-the-jugular attitude of Lambert’s career-igniting hits “Kerosene” and “Gunpowder and Lead.” As a result it has been lumped in with the group of young, sassy female country singers labeled in some quarters as “Pentecostal rural tarts” for their sexy and brash, take-no-male-grief attitude that still finds room for spiritual commitment.

“My thought was never that this would be a side project -- we always planned to bring full force to it and do it right,” Lambert said. “We definitely used what I had built at the beginning, but we don’t need it anymore. The Pistol Annies now stand on our own.”

In addition, they can be heard on “The Hunger Games” soundtrack, which Lambert said she and her bandmates lobbied heavily to be part of. “We all read the book and loved it. Nobody asked us to do anything, we just fudged our way into it because we wanted to be part of it,” she said.

Monroe and Presley also are aboard for Lambert’s current “On Fire” tour, which will swing through Southern California next month for a stop at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in Indio, Calif.


Despite her accomplishments, Lambert has hardly gotten used to winning.

“It’s great to be nominated for the album,” she said of the nod from the CMA Awards. “That’s a huge one for me -- it always is.”