The Pistol Annies have stepped out with Hell on Heels, the intriguing, acoustic-leaning debut album from Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley.
During an interview at the Station Inn in Nashville, the talkative trio told CMT Insider's Terry Bumgarner about forming the band, finding inspiration in their songwriting heroes and feeling a true connection to the music -- and each other.
CMT: When did you decide to become the Pistol Annies?
Lambert: Two years ago, they had written together, and Ashley and I had been friends for a real long time. ... When we decided to have a girl band, I had never actually met Ang before we decided this, but I based it off her musical abilities -- that I would like this girl, we're going to be awesome.
Presley: They called me in the middle of the night. They had been together, writing songs, and they wrote "Beige," which is on our record. And Miranda's like, "Well, I wouldn't sing this. And Ashley's like, "Well, I wouldn't sing this. What are we gonna do with it?" And then she played Miranda [the song on] my Myspace page ... and I was like, "Are ya'll crazy? It's 2 o'clock in the morning." And Ashley's like, "Email us your record." And so I did.
Monroe: Next day, we said let's start thinking of names!
Miranda, how are you carving out the time to take on a side project just as your solo career is taking off in the way that it is right now?
Lambert: Well, it's kind of working out perfectly because we finished our record at the end of the session of me doing my new record, which comes out in November, and ours comes out in August. So we really worked the timing out, and the girls come on tour with me. I'm already out a lot, and I already have buses and production and a crew and a band, and so we just do a Pistol Annies set in the middle of my set. It kind of seemed perfect. It's a great way to build a fan base, a great way to get comfortable together onstage and it's not costing us much money on our own. I'm a little bit spoiled at this point. I don't really want to go back to a van necessarily so ...
Presley: We're real spoiled 'cause we're getting to skip that step.
Describe the woman you are singing about. Who is that woman?
Monroe: I think we're singing about a real American woman that's a housewife, that pays the bills, that raises her babies, puts food on the table. ... There's a song called "Housewife's Prayer," and the first line is, "I've been thinking about setting this house on fire." It actually paints those thoughts, and she still carries on and is still gonna make things work.
It sounds like a lot of these songs would be similar to something Loretta Lynn would be writing if she were your age.
Presley: I grew up a few minutes from where she grew up, and I'm a coal miner's daughter. And she's my biggest hero, so that's probably me slipping in. But they have Loretta Lynn in them, too.
Would you agree with that observation?
Presley: We love her, so much. Miranda's friends with her!
To me it seems like there's an old-time feel to this album. Why do you think that is?
Lambert: I think it feels old-timey because, I think, a lot of the music that we love is not new. A lot of the music we love has this honest feel. ... My biggest influence is Merle [Haggard]. And with Loretta and those songwriters, like Hank Williams, they didn't have a filter. They wrote about what they knew about -- which was their life that was hard. And I feel like because of the influence we all had with those type of songs and those type of songwriters, it felt natural to go that direction.
How much of this came from your own experience or people you know -- referring to the problems of the "real women" the songs refer to?
Presley: A lot of it came from our own experiences. "Housewife's Prayer," I came up with that idea when I was sitting on my living room couch. I had just gone through -- or was going through -- a divorce, and I was contemplating burning my house down. Because I didn't know what else to do. And I was going over, "Now, how can I do it, and the insurance company won't figure it out, and what should I do? What do I want to save?"
And then I snapped to reality, and I was like, "No, do not burn your house down." So I picked up my guitar and I wrote the first line of that song, and I shared it with these girls, and they were like, "Yes!" Then the way that the song went on, it's almost like Miranda's personality. She's like, "Yeah, a gallon of gas and the matches."
Monroe: We can be soft, and we can be fiery -- same as her solo stuff. She can play "The House That Built Me" and make you cry, and then play "Gunpowder & Lead" and make you cry in a different way.
Presley: Make you run for your life. ... In tears.
What's the best part of being in a band instead of being out on your own?
Lambert: I like a lot of things about it. I guess in this band, I'm getting to relive things I might have missed along the way. ... You're right. My career is at a really great place right now, and I feel like I'm glad that I chose this time to get to do something like this. Because when I first started, we were solo, and it's so go, go, go, you almost miss things that you should have enjoyed because you have to look at the next thing. With this project, I'm getting to get excited all over again about every little thing that's happened that's good for us. And I'm so excited about a lot of what happened with me, but I missed a lot of it in the early days because I had to stay so focused to work so hard.
Presley: For me, I think it's the friendships, because when I met these two girls, I felt like I had found family that was lost out in the world. I mean, just having the relationship where we can write together, they understand me like nobody ever has. And not that I don't love my family -- they understand me -- and my friends. It's just something about the creative process that we can share together, that it's just a different thing. And I love hanging out with them because we can drink beer, we can do our nails and then we can write a song. I feel like I found my people, you know?
Monroe: Yeah, that's what I was gonna say. It's like family. We fight with each other, and we love each other, and we're with each other, and I miss them when I'm away. And then you get to share. And then on top of being really great friends, then you get to sing. And it's like, "Oh, we can harmonize together. Oh, we can rock together, too." That's two really huge pluses.
Lambert: One of our goals is for you to ask us this question in 10 years -- and for us to have the same answer. We don't ever want to get burnt out. We want to keep it about the friendship and the music and never let any of the business or the politics or the greed get in the middle of what we have because it's too special.
What kind of reaction do you hope people will have when they hear this music?
Presley: I hope they feel how I did when I was growing up, how I felt when I heard a song I could relate to -- like songs that helped me get through things, helped me get through my divorce. ... A good song is like something you can lean on, and I hope people can lean on these songs on this record.
Monroe: We want them to cry, that's what we want.
Lambert: We want them to cry, party, scream, jump up and down. All that.