[12 November 2008]
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
Johnny and June.
George and Tammy.
Tim and Faith.
Garth and Trisha.
Blake and Miranda?
Taking a page from the country music power-couple playbook, Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton have embarked on a joint tour that’s being billed as a “seamless” experience.
Both artists are in slightly different stages of their careers: Lambert is still touring in support of 2007’s critically adored “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” which landed the 24-year-old Texas native Album of the Year honors at the 2008 Academy of Country Music Awards. Oklahoma native Shelton is preparing to release “Startin’ Fires” on Nov. 18, his fifth studio album and the follow-up to 2007’s “Pure BS.” The 32-year-old singer/songwriter’s career got quite the boost last year from an unlikely artistic choice, a cover of Michael Buble’s “Home,” which, coincidentally, features backing vocals from Lambert.
We snagged both stars (separately, alas) for a little she said/he said about the current tour and each other. Lambert checked in from Phoenix while Shelton rang from Waterloo, Iowa.
On “Bare Skin Rug,” his collaboration with Lambert: “What’s funny about it, man, you’ll never believe - I had to kick and fight and cuss and was pretty much told by the record companies that the stupidest thing I could do was put that on an album. You can’t believe what I went through to get it on (“Startin’ Fires”). (Album producer) Scott Hendricks put a couple microphones in front of us at his farm ... lit a campfire, and there were crickets…. We just played it one time and recorded it.”
On his relationship with Lambert: “It’s never been strange to me. Neither one of us was dating…. We met in the public eye, so I don’t know Miranda Lambert that’s not famous (laughs). So it’s always been that way with she and I. It’s always been, when we go out to eat or something, we have to think, ‘OK, is this going to be a problem tonight?’ It’s one thing if just one of us goes, but it’s another when there’s two of you. You can’t step in and go, ‘OK, everybody, leave her alone.’ Because then I’m the jerk.”
On the tour: “We kind of had talked about it for a while, (and) finally one day, we were sitting at the house and went, ‘You know, we’re still talking about this. Let’s just do it, and there’s really no reason not to.’ It’s more of a battle of the bands, I feel like - you never know who opens or closes. I think what makes the show cool - I don’t think there would be anything unique about her doing a show or me doing a show, but (there is) the fact that we have this relationship and we’re able to do some things musically that no one else could probably get away with. We sing a lot together onstage. When she’s doing her hits, she does her hits and I’m not out there ruining it or anything.”
On their career prospects: “People tend to compare us to Tim (McGraw) and Faith (Hill) a lot more - which I wish (laughs). That would be awesome - I’d do that tour one time and retire. She and I are so different from any of those other couples because we’re really not trying to be that. It just so happens that we want to be together here this fall while we’re touring. We’re not going to make a duets album and we’re not ever going to do things like that. We’re just going to take it easy.”
On the tour: “There’s not a time where somebody opens or somebody closes. It changes every night. There’s constant music - one or the other of us is always onstage…. I think (Blake and I) just talked about it and decided that it’d be cool if we did something a little different. It’s not something that just everybody can go out and do; us being a couple makes it a lot more interesting than if it was just two people out on tour. So far, it’s worked out really well.”
On their first true collaboration, “Bare Skin Rug,” a track from “Startin’ Fires”: “It’s the first time really that we’ve collaborated - I mean, I sang on his song ‘Home,’ but that was more of a background-vocal thing. This is a duet that we wrote ourselves, sitting around a campfire, and that’s exactly how we recorded it. It’s very hillbilly (laughs) - it’s definitely different. Everybody probably expected us to come out with a big love song, but this is the opposite.”
On her relationship with Shelton: “We have kind of an antagonistic relationship but not in a bad way - in a fun way (laughs). We make everything a competition; we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
On her follow-up to “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”: “I’ve been writing for it a lot lately, and I’m going to go into the studio ... in the wintertime a little bit and finish the record. I’m real excited, but I do feel a little pressure because ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ won ACM Album of the Year and got critical acclaim. I try not to think about it, but you can’t really help it at some point (laughs). I’m not really sure what the next record’s going to be like, but so far, it’s along the same vein as the other two, which, I guess, is working so far, so I’ll stick with it.”