Miranda Lambert on Her New Label, Republic, Setting a Fire With ‘Wranglers,’ and Returning to Recording in Texas: ‘I Just Feel Like, Finally, I’m Home’

When people think of country superstar Miranda Lambert, one of the things that first comes to mind is pyro — not because she has that huge a penchant for setting things off on stage (though it happens), but because of lyrical connotations going back to her first platinum single, “Kerosene.” When it comes to her own career, though, things have consistently gone too well to ever need to go into burn-it-all-down mode. As she’s subtle changed approach from album to album and single to single, Lambert has been all about controlled burns.

She took a prescribed torch to one part of her career when she left her long-time label, Sony Nashville, last year, taking a year after that to announce just a few weeks ago that she’s signed a new deal with the company that is responsible for more music blockbusters than any other right now: Republic Records. Not missing any bets, she and Republic have an agreement with Big Loud specifically to work her music in the country realm — almost the inverse, it would seem, of the symbiosis already found in what Republic has done to bring Big Loud’s Morgan Wallen into the wider pop universe.

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While she’s getting a definitive fresh start on the business side, her first single for Big Loud, “Wranglers,” delivers the Lambert touch the world knows. It’s a breakup song that’s quite literally about burning britches. (Or attempting to.)

These career changes are worth putting stock in for anyone who cares about the genre, since, as Variety noted in reviewing her Stagecoach headlining set last month, “She has a strong a catalog as anyone in country music… Whoever the entertainer of the year may be at any given recent point [an award the ACMs finally granted her in 2022], Lambert has a strong claim on being country’s entertainer of the last two decades.”

Variety caught up with Lambert via phone during her latest business trip to Nashville to discuss her new affiliation with a New York-based powerhouse; the boutique label that she herself founded, Big Loud Texas; her triumphant Stagecoach festival appearance; and how, in her part of the world, tequila counts as a health food.

How would you describe your new single, “Wranglers,” in a nutshell?

I think that it’s pretty fiery. I’ve been having people text me and call me and say, “Is Revenge Miranda back?” And I’m like: She never left.

The lyrics say, “She set it all on fire, and if there’s one thing that she learned / Wranglers take forever to burn.” I’ve worn Wranglers, but never thought about how flammable they are or aren’t.

Well, it turns out they’re not very flammable at all. [Laughs.] Don’t ask me how I know.

Since it’s your first release with a new label, it seems like a single that helpfully establishes some continuity — like, this is a Miranda we know and love. But one thing that is different about it is that it’s an outside cut.

Yeah. It was important to me on this record to cut some outside songs. I love so many songwriters in this town, and admire them so much, and there’s so many great songs laying around this town that may never find a home. So it was important to me to go digging for some gems around town and be asking my friends, “Send me songs.” People are writing great songs every day and they can’t all get cut, so I really wanted to make it a point. I love writing songs and pride myself on being a songwriter. But I also think about some of the really big hits in my set list, like “The House That Built Me,” and “Little Red Wagon” and “Mama’s Broken Heart.” I didn’t write any of those, and so if I wasn’t open to outside songs, I would never have found those songs that are staples in my career.

To talk about the biggest and freshest news in your career, signing with Republic, and there also being a Big Loud connection… Of course people in the business have been in suspense, because you had declared your free agency when you announced you were leaving Sony Nashville a year ago. Did you want to let people know you really were free of Sony, making that public so early in the process of moving on?

I really wanted to take my time to findthe right family and the right time, to be honest. I mean, 20 years is a long time to be in one place. And a lot of good things happened there; my career’s been spent on one label. But sometimes it’s time to move forward and do something different. You know, I took meetings with everybody, because I also love Nashville and I love the people here and I wanted to talk through it with all of my friends that I’ve met in the business. But Republic just felt really like something fresh with new ideas and a different way of doing it. Since I’ve been doing it for now 21 years, I’m all about fresh ideas. There’s a whole other world out there now from when I first started releasing music to now.

So I just thought I could learn a lot, to be honest, from a New York-based label, and try to grow my career still and do it in different ways than I have before. And I already was partnering with Big Loud to do Big Loud Texas. And so having them as my Nashville family, along with Republic, is just like a dream. It’s two amazing teams that are working on my music, and there’s this fresh energy, and it’s just making me have more fire. I’m so ready to get music done and get it out and go to work, because this is what I do. And after (finishing up a residency in) Vegas and then leaving Sony and making a new record, it just feels like a fresh start.

Republic is the most successful label in the business right now, so there’s the matter of, who wouldn’t wanna be associated with that…


But was there anything you found especially appealing beyond obviously their huge record of success?

Honestly, Monte [Lipman, Republic’s founder-CEO] and the people, they’re super cool… We met at a bar in New York when I was doing some other work. And I’m sort of an honorary New Yorker because I married a New Yorker, so I’ve grown to love that city and love the people from it. We just hit it off. We spent like two and a half hours, the first time we met, really talking about music, and [talking with] someone that’s that passionate about music and what they do, it’s really inspiring. I’m all about relationships, and gut feelings, and people. When I had that initial conversation with Monte and Jim Roppo [Republic’s president-COO], I just loved what they had to say and I believed them. And I felt like they’re not just record executives; they’re not just the biggest label in the world. They actually really give a shit. And it’s awesome to see, because that’s not always the case. Sometimes it feels like it’s just a business. But with them, it felt about the music, about all their artists. And their whole team — I mean, they brought in 35 people to meet with me when I flew up there, people from every department. And then Big Loud was like, “We’re on board if you’re on board.” And I just felt really safe and inspired.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 05: Miranda Lambert attends the 65th GRAMMY Awards on February 05, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
Miranda Lambert attends the 65th GRAMMY Awards on February 5, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.

Republic’s very gradual move into country has been kind of an interesting thing to watch, because it’s mostly been through the Big Loud relationship. They signed Shania Twain before you, but Republic as a label hasn’t really been out there saying “We’re directly signing country artists” before now. And even Shania is kind of, in some ways, more of a pop artist.

She is. Well, she’s kind of in her own category.

So, you’re their first major country signing who’s really been dedicated to that market specifically. Everything that has happened with their affiliation with Morgan obviously had to have piqued their interest.

Yeah. And you know, I’m not one of those artists that it’s always an easy road with. You know, I really put the art first, and sometimes that takes a little longer. And they were willing to go down that path with me and keep it about the music. And I also appreciated that, because I see the passion and I see the excitement of them wanting to be in the country world, and I love being part of the ground floor of that.

What can you say about album plans and when that might be? And each one of your albums has such a strong identity. So, is there an identity for this album you can explain … and/or a release date?

I don’t think I can tell that yet. But I made this record in Texas, and it meant the world to me. I had not made a record in Texas since I was 18, my independent album. So I went there with Jon Randall, who’s my partner at Big Loud Texas and my songwriting buddy and one of my best friends in the world, and he co-produced it with me. I just felt like finally, I’m home. I feel like that on the label; I feel like that recording it in Texas. And this music really reflects what made me the artist that I am. I feel like it’s pretty honky-tonk, which I’m very excited about. Lots of steel guitar on there.

Funny you should mention that, because one thing I really noticed about your Stagecoach set was, there was a lot of steel guitar on songs I didn’t even remember ever having steel on them before.

It’s my favorite instrument, as you can tell. And also one of my favorite guys in the world plays steel in my band, Spencer (Cullum). So I often just give him the rope and say, “Go for it.”

So with album plans…

Hoping for fall — that’s when we’re shooting for. The sooner the better, for me. I’m excited and ready, and that’s why I’m doing my call with you in the car (between meetings in Nashville).

I’ve got a meeting today for the Big Loud Texas label side of it, which is also really fun. I’m loving getting to learn that side of it and really kind of step into the role of being an artist (advocating) for the artist. Because I’ve been through pretty much all of it, so I can understand the phases and what goes on in an artist’s brain; I’m just there to help and it’s been really cool.

Anything you would say about releases that are coming through your label?

Well, I don’t have any names I can say yet, but we’ve got some really cool things up our sleeve, and Dylan Gossett is our flagship artist and he’s killing it out there. I’m real thrilled to watch his star rise, and it happened really fast and I’m so thrilled that it’s part of what we’re building. I mean, our label is about a legacy of the outlaw movement that came from Texas that inspired all of us — not just country music, even. You know, Willie inspired everybody, I’m pretty sure. So I just feel like Jon and I want to keep that legacy going, and we’re glad to be a tiny part of it.

Can you talk about headlining Stagecoach, and how bringing Reba on for a surprise coda to your set came about?

This is my fifth time to play it — I headlined it three times — but I think it’s really grown as a brand. And country is taking off in a great direction right now, and I know country music has had spurts where it’s not been as popular and then it gets a surge. And so I’m glad the surge is happening now and I’m still in it, you know what I mean? But I also felt pressure for Stagecoach. I wanted to deliver. I thought to myself, who (could be a guest)…  My husband was asking me, “Who’s your dream, on your wishlist?” And I’m like, “Well, Reba is number one.” He was like, “Well, then just ask her.” So I did., and she said yes, and it was awesome. Reba and I haven’t got to do much together in the past, but obviously she’s a hero. She’s such a pro and she’s so sweet, and we had a blast together and I feel like it felt really right.

INDIO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 27: (FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY) (L-R) Miranda Lambert and Reba McEntire perform at the T-Mobile Mane Stage during the 2024 Stagecoach Festival at Empire Polo Club on April 27, 2024 in Indio, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Stagecoach)
Miranda Lambert and Reba McEntire perform at the T-Mobile Mane Stage during the 2024 Stagecoach Festival at Empire Polo Club on April 27, 2024 in Indio, California.

A co-headlining tour someday would be a big deal, if you were both willing and able.

Sending that out into the universe. I love that idea.

Are you happy to be done with your Vegas residency, or are there parts you’d like to hold onto?

It’s bittersweet. I felt like it was one of those things where it’s time, all of a sudden. We loved it so much and we had a blast, but then it felt like, all right, it’s time to go back on the road now and do our normal things. But it definitely is an adjustment. Vegas is pretty cushy. You’re in one spot, and that’s just not how it’s been for 20 years. So we really enjoyed having downtime and time to be a person, versus living on the road.

We haven’t announced our tour yet, but we’re routing it right now [for next year]. It’s good because we’re playing a lot of shows this year, but we’re kind of easing back into the road, so it’s not like a super-shock. Because Vegas, like I said, spoils you a little bit. But I’m excited to go back on the road and to support this record. There’s something magical about going to these small towns and finding the people that are just like you that relate to your music and being in their environment. There is something that keeps us doing it. I mean, we stay in this business until we physically can’t, and I think that’s the draw, is the fans.

You’ve had a lot of endeavors on the entrepreneurial level — the Wanda June Home collection, the Idyllwind clothing and boot line, and being the first female star to open a branded bar on Lower Broad in Nashville, Casa Rosa. Do you always want to keep a corner of your mind dedicated to business opportunities and where to expand your brand that way?

Yes. I think that’s a natural progression. And I’ve learned a lot; we’ve made mistakes along the way, and then we’ve had some great ideas. Across the board, I feel like we stick to our gut and stick to what is really authentic to me. Because that’s what I’ve done in the music and that’s what leads this whole thing, because none of that would happen without the music working. So that’s what I put most of my energy into. But I also feel like I want to be an inspiration to other women, and the success in the music business I’ve worked really hard for has led me to be able to do these other things. And also, it’s a bigger plan than me. Because I probably can’t tour forever, like, physically, or maybe would not want to at some point in my life. And so building these things around what the music has built feels like the right thing to do to keep my brand and my legacy going as an artist.

This isn’t an entrepreneurial effort per se, but you have an endorsement now with Lone River, which is something you haven’t done much of. Why that was appealing. It’s easy to imagine some reasons: based in Texas; run by a woman [founder Katie Beal Brown].

She had me at both of those things. But it’s also like, I ride horses. That’s my recharge for my downtime. I spend a lot of time in West Texas, writing songs out in Marfa, which is where Katie’s from. And so I just feel like a lot of things aligned and just felt very authentic. You know, we’ve been making homemade ranch water for a long time, just with tequila and lime and soda. And then invented this really cool drink. It’s very convenient: a cocktail in a can. I’m like, sign me up! The less work, the better. But yeah, that partnership just felt very natural to me, because I live the lifestyle that that brand is endorsing, you know?

I admit that I got thrown off because, being from California, I saw “ranch water” and I thought, “That seems like a very clean living sort of thing for Miranda to put her brand to.” And then I figured out what probably everybody else knows — or certainly everyone in around Texas would know: that ranch water does not actually mean water.

I mean, it’s healthy. They say tequila is the best drink you can drink if you want to be healthy. So we’re onto something.

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