Editor’s Note: CMT Hot 20 Countdown takes a look back on 10 years of incredible music with Decade, a weekly segment that features a modern country classic that made its greatest impact between 2010 and 2019. This week, Miranda Lambert talks about her 2010 single, “The House That Built Me.” CMT Hot 20 Countdown airs at 9/8c Saturday and Sunday mornings.
CMT: When you heard “House That Built Me” what struck you? What was your reaction?
ML: The first time I heard “The House That Built Me,” it was one of those “stop you in your tracks” moments. It was on a demo of 9 or 10 pitched songs. It came on and it was late at night. I was driving home from Dallas to Oklahoma — I lived in Oklahoma at the time — and it was a piano and a guy’s voice. The first line instantly struck me. I pulled over because I remember getting really emotional as the song went on and I knew it was magical.
Were you influenced by what you heard on the demo when you went in to record it? Was it at all difficult for you to put your own spin on it?
I wanted to make sure to capture the emotion of it, because the way it was delivered was so emotional on the demo. I was really wanting to keep it simple and let the song speak, instead of over-producing it.
I don’t know what this is like for you in the studio but you’re playing this back for the first time, you got what you wanted. Then what was your reaction? I think most artists can be their own worst critics. Were you immediately happy?
I was happy. I felt like I loved the song so much, I didn’t want to overthink it either. Sometimes the first couple times you deliver it, you can’t really recapture that sometimes, when you have a song like that. So I’m pretty sure we didn’t overthink it, or overdo it. It was pretty simple and broken down.
This song was written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin. What do you most appreciate about the writing of that song?
That’s one of the songs, as a writer, you’re like, “I’ll never be that good.” What I appreciate the most about it is that they took a long time to write it. I love that they went back and forth and back and forth, trying to get it perfect for a long time. It’s one of those songs that every single person thinks it’s about them and their life. I mean, how can it be that universal? It’s an emotion they captured so well. I felt like when I first heard it, that I was hearing my story and that’s how everybody feels.
Is it occasionally difficult for you to sing it onstage? Do you get caught up in the emotions sometimes?
Probably about once every three weekends I get a little emotional because people in front of you are breaking down. It means a lot to a lot of people, that song. So yeah, here and there. I’ll try not to look at people when I know they’re crying because then I’ll start crying.
Let me ask you about the video. How much of that video was real? Was that the real house was there some real film footage in there?
A lot of that is footage my mom scraped up from back in the camcorder days. She had to go through all of her VHS tapes is to get all that information together. We used a lot of my actual childhood footage and footage of our childhood home.
I think that song would have been a really good song in anybody’s hands. I think that you made it a great song. How proud are you to have been the person who brought this to everybody, and for this to be part of your career and your life?
I’m so proud to have that song. I really got lucky by finding it and I took great care — and so did [producer] Frank Liddell — of that song in the studio because I knew how special it was. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetimes. It truly is one of the few songs that is so classic and timeless. I’m lucky to have it and to sing that every night. It is a reminder to keep trying to be a better writer because it’s a perfectly crafted song.
It seems to me that 20 years from now, this may well be considered a standard, like “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Do you think it might be, if you take yourself out of the equation?
I think it’s one of those songs that could be a standard classic. It’s timeless. I just was the vehicle for it. I’m so thankful for that because anybody could have gotten a hold of that song. I got lucky.
Well, they might not have done what you did with it. All those things have to come together.
I think it found its home. I think that we’re a good match and it means so much to me. I care about it a lot. It’s a staple of my show and it’s a staple in my career.
I’m guessing that you get people at meet-and-greets all the time that want to talk about that song, and I’m guessing it’s also sometimes hard to hear.
It is. A lot of people tell me what that song meant to them and written in over the years and told us. … My guitar player Scotty was kind of like a gypsy in a family band growing up. He’s obviously still in a band, so he’s been kind of a gypsy his whole life. He said the song hit him so hard because he didn’t have that home. He wished that he had the house that built him. And I thought that was so, so sad. It’s a whole different emotion about it.
How did it hit you?
It hit me because I felt like someone like got in my head and took out my story and wrote it on paper. It was crazy how much the lyrics coincided with my own life because we grew up in an old, old farmhouse and my parents did not have a lot of money at all. My dad worked a lot, so my mom would fix it up room by room. She did all the work herself.
She finished my room first because she knew I was having a hard time with our move, moving into it, losing my friends. She collected Better Homes & Gardens magazines and she would tape pictures on the walls of what she wanted the room to eventually look like, and work until she made it happen. And so, when I heard it, I was like “How did they know?”