| Country queen on being a ‘very proud’ ally, crying with her gay brother at Pride and her queer-loving God
By Chris Azzopardi
In June, the queen of modern country music, Miranda Lambert, stood alongside her gay brother, Luke, his husband and her own cop-husband, Brendan McLoughlin, at WorldPride in New York City. She beamed as brightly as the rainbow-colored “PRIDE” lettering on her neon green cap. In another pic, Lambert smirked, appearing delighted as her hand proudly called attention to a fella’s shirt that read, “We should all be Mirandas,” a nod to two very gay-loved things: Lambert and _Sex and the City_. The photos, which she hashtagged “ally” and “family,” were posted to her social media feed with the caption, “Happy Pride y’all!”
Picture a name like Miranda Lambert, as pure country as country artists are in the genre’s modern era, documenting their immersive Pride adventures for all the world to see. Picture it 15 years ago. Picture it five years ago. Can’t? That’s because it wasn’t happening.
The 36-year-old Texas native is as country-bred and country-honored as they come, with 13 Country Music Association Awards and 33 Academy of Country Music Awards, more than any artist in the award show’s 54-year history. Seven solo albums in – and 10 altogether, counting the three she recorded as part of girl-group Pistol Annies – Lambert’s music still packs a sassy, emotional, freewheeling punch on her latest, Wildcard.
After releasing one of the best albums of 2016, her double-disc divorce opus The Weight of These Wings, Lambert lets her hair down on _Wildcard_, turning the page on a rough patch. With newfound hope, she sings sweetly about the “bluebird in my heart,” and with fellow country artist Maren Morris, ultimately decides it’s best they let a hitman handle the cheating man they want to murder because “the way those jumpsuits wash us out, we’re way too pretty for prison.” Since her 2005 debut album Kerosene, and much like the LGBTQ allyship that has crept into her lyrics, Lambert has let her homespun ruminations on heartbreak, booze and setting things ablaze speak for themselves.
But on a recent call, Lambert opened up about the emotional experience she shared with her brother at her first Pride, wishing she had spoken up for the LGBTQ community sooner and how leaving her small Texas town opened her mind. Also, an epiphany: the country superstar has realized that, compared to a drag queen, she’s actually got it pretty damn easy.
What was special to you about being at WorldPride?
It was the happiest day. I’ve never seen that many people in that great of a mood in one place in my life. It was so cool, and there were glitter and rainbows everywhere. It was kind of like a little fantasyland, and I got to watch the parade with the NYPD from the best view ever behind a barricade, so I felt really special doin’ that (laughs). It was just lighthearted. Everybody had wings that day and I loved it.
Had you ever been to a Pride event before WorldPride?
I’d never before. It was my first time. And in New York City! So I did it big. And it was WorldPride too (laughs), and I just went straight for it. It was like, go outside and laugh and look at people and be happy, then go drink and then go back outside and laugh and look at people be happy. Then go drink. One of those days. (Laughs.)
You also partied at the New York City gay country bar Flaming Saddles Saloon.
I love Flaming Saddles. It’s one of my favorite places. (Laughs.)
Had you thrown back a few at gay bars before Flaming Saddles?
No, that was my first real experience, and actually my hairstylist told me about it. I walked for the first time and they were doing a dance to “Only Prettier” on the bar and they didn’t know I was coming or anything (laughs). It was a coincidence and I was like, “Yes, I like this place. It’s awesome.”
You chronicled your day at Pride and Flaming Saddles on your social media, which still, in 2019, feels like a statement, especially when it’s coming from a major country artist like yourself. Why was it important to show your support for the LGBTQ community?
I didn’t even realize it was making a statement ’cause I just thought it was normal, and I guess what I mean by that is, I didn’t think it was stepping out of bounds or anything because to me it’s all the same, it doesn’t matter. And I was just there celebrating with my brother and his husband and having a great time. But if it makes somebody happy that I’m a supporter, I’m glad.
I didn’t realize it was that big of a deal, but I am glad that hopefully, that made some people’s day ’cause as I said earlier, it was one of the happiest days. Almost every single person just felt like being exactly who they were and I felt comfortable. In a city full of strangers, it was like this community bond, and I’ve never experienced anything like that.
Some people’s comments on your posts said they were no longer fans because you pledged your LGBTQ support.
I feel like the people who commented negatively weren’t my followers. When people say “unfollow,” they weren’t following me, to begin with. (Laughs.) Also, I don’t understand why people have time to get on social media and be negative. I think they should get a hobby or a job, or both. So I just don’t let those affect me. But I also know that if you’re polarizing, you must have an impact. I can’t be loved by everybody. So I try to take the good and run with that.
I can tell you that as a gay country music fan who grew up with very few artists in the country community who acknowledged our community, even though you may not realize it, you did make a statement.
Well, I’m glad. And I’ll make it every day. I have no shame about that. I’m very proud of it.
Why didn’t you declare solidarity earlier in your career? Was it just that you hadn’t had the experience?
Yeah. And I didn’t declare it, you know what I mean? (Laughs.) I guess I didn’t think it would matter that much if I did or not. But I also recorded a song called “All Kinds of Kinds” that was a single and there was a person (named Thomas in the song) who was a cross-dresser, so I kind of did but I just didn’t stand on a pedestal and wave a flag. I just kind of being who I am and sang about it. I didn’t get backlash for that either, because that song is amazing and it’s about anyone being whoever they wanna be.
That’s the first time I thought you might be an ally, but still, it’s sometimes hard to know which country artists are on our side.
It kind of makes me sad that I didn’t (speak up) earlier if that’s how people feel. I just didn’t know that it was that big of a deal. But I’m glad to know that, hearing that from you.
Did having “All Kinds of Kinds” on the radio feel like LGBTQ progress was being made in country music?
To me, that was me making a huge statement but doing it through music, which is kind of how I make all my statements throughout my whole life and career. I kind of just tell everybody my truth through the lyrics, so I guess in a way “All Kinds of Kinds” was my way of stepping out and saying what I needed to say.
You sing the line, “Some point the finger and let ignorance linger.” What kind of ignorance were you referring to?
Oh, just judgy people (laughs). You know, with your community, the LB… I can’t ever say all the letters. I always mess it up. (Laughs.)
Ha! It’s LGBTQ.
LGBTQ! (Laughs.) Everybody has a judgment. I grew up in the Bible Belt in a small town in east Texas, and I grew up in church, but the second I started to sing country music I was kind of shunned for doing secular music. So, to me, that song kind of encompassed all of that: circus freaks, or what some people call “freaks.” But they were just being themselves. And then the cross-dressing congressman. And the girl that failed geometry. It was all of us. (Laughs.) To me, it was just ignorance in any way when people are small-minded and judgy.
Did you know Thomas?
No (laughs). But I want to! I also want to know Phyllis, ’cause she has all the pills.
Honestly, if you have a Thomas and a Phyllis, who else do you need, really?
Exactly. Just the circus people. We’re good.
“All Kinds of Kinds” was released in 2011. I would like to think that now Thomas might be out and proud and wouldn’t have to live with, as the song’s lyrics go, “closets full of skeletons.”
I would hope you were right. And I hope for anyone who reads this interview maybe it’ll set ’em free because I and you are talking about it freely and happily. You know, I read about this guy somewhere that he was on the corner and had a (shirt) that said “Free Dad Hugs” for anyone whose dad won’t hug them during Pride week and 700-and-something people hugged this guy. When I was reading about it, I was crying. I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever heard.
Growing up in Lindale, Texas, in a conservative, Baptist community, did you have any LGBTQ friends?
I guess I did and I didn’t, because everybody was still afraid at that time. I mean, I’m 36 now, so in that town in that time frame it was still not the best, and the few kids I did know would confide in my mom, because my mom worked in our youth group and she was a really cool mom. You could kind of tell her everything.
But they weren’t really out about it yet, except for some of the kids in drama, which was my first experience with the absolute sweetest, coolest, most creative people who were a couple of the gay guys in drama. I was kind of a band nerd and drama nerd. I didn’t make cheerleader, so I was kind of in that group, which I’m thankful for now ’cause it’s my living. I didn’t think anything of it, I guess. I didn’t judge it and I don’t judge it now. I just didn’t think it was a big deal in my mind ’cause I was raised to accept everybody.
What kind of support did you offer your brother when he came out to you?
I support him 100 percent in whatever he does. He is a brilliant individual and the most amazing person, and just so genuine. Growing up in the same household, we’re way different. He has no accent, he doesn’t really like country music (laughs). But he did call me and tell me he loved this record, which meant a lot coming from him. We grew up in the same house, but we grew up differently because I’m still pretty much a country girl at heart, and he lives in Austin and he’s way cooler than me.
What was it like to share the Pride experience with him?
It was so special, and when he was giving me permission to post about it, we both cried because it was such a big moment. I see now, talking about it, why it’s a big moment for other people: because it was a big moment for us too. So I’m just glad that he was OK with that, and we could share that moment and be supportive of each other no matter what we’re doing or who we are.
Your song “Heart Like Mine” makes me think your God is one who loves everybody, including the LGBTQ community. Is that true?
One-hundred percent. You know, I think that “Heart Like Mine” is another good example, just like “All Kinds of Kinds,” that says, “I am who I am.” We’re all flawed in some way, but I don’t think your sexuality is one of those things you should be judged by ever. You know, Catholics drink wine and I always thought that was cool, ’cause Baptists don’t. It’s like, Jesus did, y’all! It’s in the Bible!
I just think you should be who you are and try to be a good person in whatever that means for you. I think the negative people and the people that are like, “Believe like me,” or, “Your vote doesn’t count,” I don’t understand that mentality. Especially being in this business and being around all kinds of different people, it’s really even opened my eyes more. I’m so thankful for that because I love the town I grew up in – they are so supportive of me and always have been – but it definitely is good to get out and see other views.
How has being a part of the music business opened your mind?
I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in small-town mentality if you want to, but I know a lot of people in my hometown and in small towns across America that are just as open as anybody and just as supportive of any lifestyle you choose. I guess it’s just up to the person to be willing to push their boundaries.
To promote your newest album, you’ve been posting shirtless photos of your husband on Instagram.
Yeah, you’re welcome. (Laughs.)
Ha! Yes, thank you. What’s hotter, though, is a straight, married man who’s comfortable enough with his sexuality that he can go to a Gay Pride parade. Are you drawn to men who share the same diverse and open-minded views that you do?
I think I am now more than ever because of my brother and because of all the things that we’ve been through together. It just kind of opened my mind even more. And Brendan, when I met him and started Googling him, of course – who’s not going to? You can google anybody these days – his video had gone viral for dancing at Pride and he knew he was probably going to get in trouble for it, but he did it anyway. That makes me love him even more because he’s just that person.
I’ve put some thought into a “Way Too Pretty For Prison” video, and what about casting a Miranda and Maren drag queen?
I would love that! I think that is amazing. In fact, during Pride week I went to a club, which I don’t go to clubs anymore (laughs). I didn’t think I ever did go to clubs, but I was like, “I’m all in, I’m doing the whole bit,” and I met Sabel (Scities) and she’s amazing. She’s from Austin and (laughs) she had on the heaviest earrings and had to wear a fishing line to hold them on because there were so many rhinestones on them. The earnings were amazing, and I was like, “How are you keeping them on, ’cause they’re clip-ons?” and she was like, “I have fishing wire in my weave” and I was like, “What?!” It was crazy.
And I mean, just the makeup! I think I have it bad to get ready for shows – this shit is legit. (Laughs.) I mean, so much effort and so cool, and I feel like I got an inside track into what all goes into the drag and I think it’s amazing. I have much more appreciation now (for drag queens) than I ever did before. So yes, I’m gonna work on your concept. I think Taylor (Swift) kind of stole that, but we could just go ahead and go on her heels. (Laughs.)
Looking back on your videography, you’ve served some real looks. Where would you recommend a drag queen turn for some inspiration?
I would say “Mama’s Broken Heart” has some pretty good inspiration. It’s just all too much!
To end: What does it mean to you knowing that as a visible ally now, you’re making young small-town LGBTQ country fans, maybe even ones in your hometown of Lindale, feel like they’re OK?
It means a lot that you kind of opened my eyes to that, to be honest. And that we talked about it, because I just kind of maybe didn’t make a big enough deal about it because I didn’t realize it would make an impact. But I do have a platform and I try to use it for the better. I save dogs, and if this is what I use my platform for, just to push something positive if this can be added to that, then I’m all about it, I’m all in. And now I realize that I need to be a little more present and vocal at times when I need to be, so thanks for that.