By Jeffrey B. Remz, March 2005
A family friend called Lambert's mom, telling her about the competition, but Miranda Lambert wasn't interested. "No I'm not doing to that," she says. "I'm not doing that at all. I didn't want to be a part of a reality show."
Of course, Lambert did participate, twice. She first competed in Dallas, but didn't make the top 30 out of 250 participants. Lambert sang Shania Twain's "Still the One," not exactly the kind of song one would expect out of her pipes.
"I don't know what I was thinking," she says. "That's totally not my style. That wasn't for me."
Next stop was Houston. She won. "It was a better atmosphere, and I had a better attitude about it."
"I came to my senses and tried 'Crazy.' That's more my style, and I nailed it." She also sang a few songs she wrote from her indie album, "Lyin' Here" and "Somebody Else."
Lambert eventually went to Nashville with the show, of course, and came in third.
Lambert is thankful for the exposure. "It definitely gave me a huge career (boost). It might have been three more years (without it). Especially with all the new females. Right now, I wouldn't have had a chance in hell. It basically gave me a nine-week audition for every record company person."
"I thought even if I don't win this, I'm going to capitalize on the exposure I've gotten. Luckily I didn't have to do that."
Tracy Gershon, a Nashville Star judge for two seasons and senior director of A&R at Sony Nashville (the talent scout for the company), says she clearly remembers Lambert from the get go.
"It's so funny because I saw her with so many people, but she's the one I remember hands down. I really do. Me and (fellow judges writer) Robert (Oermann) and (singer) Charlie (Robison) looked at each other and said, 'wow.' You can't explain it. She just came out, and she had a great look, great sparkle and a great voice. She was so confident. She just had this little sass to her. I was calling back (to Sony) and reporting back about what I was finding, and I remember thinking I'm going to sign this girl no matter what."
And like Lambert, Gershon says she was ultimately glad Lambert didn't win from a professional standpoint.
"We always joke about it - we're glad she didn't win," says Gershon. "She wouldn't have time to make the record she would have made. She wouldn't have been able to write the songs she wrote and the time she needed even though she had a handful of good songs. Sometimes when you get a record deal, that's a good incentive to write some more songs."
In contrast, Gershon says she considered Jewell, already in his early 40s, to be ready for what would occur.
Although Sony was interested in signing Lambert, that wasn't a done deal. Lambert's parents interviewed Sony officials, according to Gershon.
"The great thing is we talked about music and our influences and making record like that. It was a reverse interview. It was 'what are you (Sony) all about? How do you see me?'"
A regime change occurred at Sony at about the time talks were heating up, and when that occurs, who knows if the new powers that be would be interested? Label head John Grady and top executive Mark Wright had never seen Lambert.
"So, I took her to Texas," Gershon says. "That was the first time I'd seen her live also. She even whispered to me 'you're going to see something different that you've never seen on the show'. That was a done deal the minute they saw her."
Another benefit of Nashville Star was that Lambert gained a friend in fellow contestant Travis Howard, who now lives in Los Angeles, and is more into the Dwight Yoakam edgy type of country. "We just hit it off in some strange way...out of all the people that there were," says Howard from LA. "There were Nashville people (there). "Nobody understands life the way that Miranda did. We seemed to bond on that basis. We had a little bit of cynicism about life. We stood back and saw things for what they were compared to what the starry eyed singers did."
"I thought she was the best thing on the whole show," says Howard, who acknowledged, "we hated each other when we first met each other. She thought I was an asshole man." That all changed when they sat around playing each other's songs.
In fact, Lambert wrote the twangy "What About Georgia" about Howard, a response song to Howard's "Train Wreck," a not too complimentary song written about Lambert.
They apparently clicked because Howard wrote "Bring Me Down" and "Mama, I'm Alright" with Lambert for the album.
Lambert admits that the long wait in releasing an album has not been so easy. "I've been a little antsy, but I know it takes time. I want to do it right. I'm only 21. It's not like I'm on my last leg."
"I'm a little of everything," concludes Lambert in talking about her album. "I'm nervous, excited, apprehensive...Charlie's not as high on the charts as I'd like it to be. Hopefully it'll be a little higher. I don't have to sell 20,000 albums the first week. It's okay if it takes time. I realize that doesn't happen overnight."