On her first trip to New York in 2005, Miranda Lambert tried to quietly soak it all in.
She stood off to the side at the swanky Stone Rose lounge in Manhattan's Time Warner Center while hordes of invited media surrounded country superstars Keith Urban and Lee Ann Womack, looking for comments about their Country Music Association Awards nominations. Lambert was a nominee, too, for the CMA Horizon Award, but she was also content to be out of the spotlight. It gave Lambert, then 21, a chance to think about where she was going to shop.
What a difference a few years makes.
Lambert is now one of music's biggest stars, thanks to an amazing 2011, when she won her first Grammy and saw her hit "The House That Built Me" named song of the year, released two No. 1 country albums and, oh yeah, married country superstar Blake Shelton.
"I'm so excited," says Lambert, calling from a tour stop in LaCrosse, Wis. "I love New York. I always get such a warm reception there."
She'll supply the heat
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Lambert laughs when asked if she's referring to her first New York performance, an incendiary version of "Kerosene" at Madison Square Garden during the Country Music Association Awards in 2005. She quickly adds that there won't be any pyrotechnics at the upcoming Izod Center show or on the current tour.
"People always ask about that," Lambert says. "The tour is called 'On Fire,' but I figured I'm pretty fiery without actual explosives -- and that's a lot of money in insurance -- so I decided I'll just be fiery on my own."
It's one of the many changes Lambert has gone through in recent years. Her new album, "Four the Record," features a new point of view, focusing less on the hell-raising from "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" and the clever sass from "Revolution" and more on appreciating her new surroundings.
"I think 'Four the Record' has a little bit of everything on it," Lambert says. "But I am at a different place in my life. I mean, how do you follow 'Revolution'? "
After all, "Revolution" was Lambert's breakthrough to the upper reaches of critical and commercial success. "From the end of 2010 through 2011, she had one of the best years any country artist has ever had with four hit singles from 'Revolution,' " says Phathead, program director of My Country WJVC 96.1 FM in Ronkonkoma. "She's definitely a player."
Lambert's current single, "Over You," a ballad she co-wrote with Shelton about the death of his older brother, best shows the growth she has seen for the new album.
"I'm so proud I wrote a song like this," she says. "Obviously, it's about something that's very close to our family, but I think everyone can really relate to it. Everyone has suffered some sort of loss. It's universal in that way. I never thought I could write a song like that."
Lambert says singing the emotional song on tour will be a different problem all together. "I sang it in front of a crowd for the first time yesterday, and I had to stop concentrating so hard on the words because it was really getting to me," she says. "It was opening night, and we were all shaky and nervous and I was very emotional. But I think that's what will be different on this tour. I want a different connection with the audience, a deeper emotional relationship with my fans. It's like we're having a conversation throughout the show."
(What also may have been on Lambert's mind was the declining health of her father-in-law, Dick Shelton, who died Tuesday, leading her to reschedule several shows on her tour last week so she could return home to Oklahoma.)
Acting and 'Voice'
Lambert is looking to try some other new things this year, as well.
She will make her acting debut on the Feb. 8 episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." "I never wanted to be an actress and I'm still not sure I do," she says. "But that is my favorite show and it was so cool to be a part of it." She also will join the cast of "The Voice," as one of the mentors on Shelton's team, along with Kelly Clarkson.
"It's such a great show," Lambert says. "And I was a really bad backseat coach the first season, telling Blake, 'This would be good,' or 'This could work.' I'm so thrilled to be a part of it now."
However, Lambert says the new role she will focus on most in 2012 is being a wife. Though she and Shelton got married in May, she says they only spent seven days together between their wedding and October, due to their busy schedules.
"We don't want to be one of those couples that can count the number of days we spend together," she says. "That's why I'm taking some time off. We're still newlyweds, and we want to enjoy that and not live in the spotlight. I just want to live in my small town and be a regular person."
Of course, Lambert says she plans to make the most of the time onstage leading up to her time off in the fall.
"I really, really enjoy every moment on the stage," she says. "We just have fun. We get up there and we let all our troubles go out the window for an hour and a half and just have a blast. We love when the crowd does the same thing."
For the record, Lambert's four records
BY GLENN GAMBOA, email@example.com
With her latest album, "Four the Record," Miranda Lambert became the first artist ever to have her first four releases all debut at No. 1 on the country charts.
Here's a look at how:
KEROSENE (2005) -- After making an impression on the countrified "American Idol" series "Nashville Star," Lambert (she finished third) was immediately signed to Epic Nashville Records for her debut. The leadoff single, "Me and Charlie Talking," helped push the album to debut at the top spot.
CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (2007) -- The success of "Kerosene" lit a fire under country fans, as well as the Nashville establishment, landing her a Grammy nomination for "Kerosene." That buzz, as well as the raucous title track, helped her grab her second country No. 1 and first Top 10 pop album.
REVOLUTION (2009) -- Her reputation as a hit maker and a powerful performer already established, Lambert launched the rollout to "Revolution" months in advance, with a memorable version of the first single, "Dead Flowers," at the Academy of Country Music Awards. Her profile also was raised by a massive ad campaign for the Cotton Inc. marketing group that featured her singing its jingle, "The Fabric of Our Lives."
FOUR THE RECORD (2011) -- After the success of "Revolution," Lambert started racking up high-profile awards, including a song of the year Grammy nomination for "The House That Built Me," and album of the year honors for "Revolution" from both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association. That made "Four the Record" one of the year's most-anticipated albums, especially after Lambert released the debut from her side project, the Pistol Annies. Not only did it hit No. 1 on the country charts, it arrived at No. 3 on the pop charts, her best pop showing yet.
WHO Miranda Lambert
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28, Izod Center, 50 State Rte. 120, East Rutherford, N.J.
INFO $25.75-$49.75; 201-935-3900, ticketmaster.com