Country siren Miranda Lambert – a Texas singer-songwriter who gives considerable kick to the contemporary Nashville sound – may be the genre’s most unlikely popular success.
But there she is with 1 1/2 million copies of her two albums sold despite the fact that none of her singles reached the Billboard country chart’s Top 10, based on radio airplay, until three weeks ago.
“I’m thrilled,” Lambert admits, “to break that curse.”
The hit song, “Gunpowder & Lead,” is vintage Lambert. It’s gutsy, rocking and unlike much of what mainstream country radio plays. Still, she belongs in country music – and her second album, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” includes some hardcore tunes.
In concert, Lambert, just 24, is electrifying. It’s a credit to officials at the Dodge County Fair in Beaver Dam, who took a chance to book her – and now have one of country’s hottest acts headlining on Thursday night.
Despite her youth, Lambert began her career at 17. She finished third several years ago on a cable TV outlet’s version of “American Idol” called “Nashville Star.” Her debut album, “Kerosene,” took more than a year to sell one million copies. Now “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is following the similar slow but steady path.
Lambert’s biggest career boost occurred last spring when “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” won the Academy of Country Music’s award for Best Album.
“I was totally shocked. Very, very surprised,” Lambert says. “It’s changed the way I perceive myself and the way people perceive me. I think it helped me get a Top 10 single. It made me not need to prove myself anymore. The industry gets me and likes my music.”
She has aggressively earned fans through near-constant touring, including opening-act stints for Toby Keith, George Strait and Keith Urban.
“We jump around, act crazy and rock out and love it when the crowd does the same,” she says. “It’s 90 minutes to have a good time.”
The song “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (she’s the tune’s subject and co-writer) receives overwhelming response at concerts and was performed on a nationally televised awards show more than one year ago. But radio programmers didn’t like it. Her record label pulled it quickly and pushed the more listener-friendly “Famous in a Small Town.”
Two weeks ago, Lambert received two mentions in a New York Times profile of the band Sugarland. Singer Jennifer Nettles, one-half of country’s fastest rising act, told the Times, “Luckily, country music is coming to a place where the songwriter is being heralded again. Look at Miranda Lambert or Dierks Bentley.”
Lambert had not seen the article yet.
“That’s a nice compliment,” she says. “Songwriting is a huge priority for me.”
And Lambert’s personal life is also going well. Her boyfriend is country hunk and hitmaker Blake Shelton.
“I’m on his tour bus now,” Lambert says. “If you hear noise in the background, that’s him talking to his buddies. We both have a day off. We hold each other up and push each other and have a great relationship.”