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“I feel settled."
“I feel settled." / Robert Sebree/USA WEEKEND

Don’t miss your country favorites — including the Pistol Annies — at the CMT Music Awards on June 6 at 8 p.m. ET.

Vote for the USA WEEKEND Breakthrough Video at CMT.com.


For more on the USA WEEKEND Breakthrough Video of the Year Award and the 2012 nominees — including Presley and Monroe from Pistol Annies — visit whosnews.usaweekend.com.

Wine, Woman and Songs:

“My mom and dad have a winery -- Red 55 Winery – in my hometown,” says Lambert. “They name wines after my songs, and they pretty much do all the work. I just taste-test.”

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There’s no vibe in The Vibe Room until Miranda Lambert bounds in, fresh from a sound check for her concert at Fresno’s Save Mart Center. Suddenly the five colorful tapestries hanging from the ceiling sway and the dozen glowing candles flicker.

“I wanted to make it feel like home,” country music’s newest star says of the basement-turned-makeshift-greenroom. Glancing at the personal touches, you can almost imagine you’re at the farm in Tishomingo, Okla., where Lambert lives with her husband of one year, fellow country singer and The Voice vocal coach Blake Shelton.

“Marriage has changed me in a good way,” Lambert says, plopping down cross-legged on a sofa, wearing denim shorts, close-fitting Johnny Cash black T-shirt and Toms shoes. “I feel settled. I used to be a crazy girl with this rocking career. Now I’m a wife and have to make sure I take care of a husband. But,” she adds emphatically, “I would never just stay home.”

Lambert, 28, has worked hard to transform herself from struggling high school student to Grammy winner. At the CMT Music Awards June 6, she is nominated for two awards for her solo work, and two — including USA WEEKEND’s Breakthrough Video of the Year — with the Pistol Annies.

“Whenever someone says something nice about the Pistol Annies, I light up,” says Lambert, who created the trio with her two writing partners, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley. Their debut album, Hell on Heels, arrived last summer, and a second is in the works. She has big hopes: “I’d love to have the Pistol Annies be Dixie Chicks big.”

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Nothing seems impossible for the hard-working Texan, except growing taller than 5-foot-4. She has even tried her hand at acting, earning critical praise for her role as a rape victim on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. “I never wanted to act,” Lambert says, “but I love the show and wanted the experience. I was nervous because my character was opposite my personality.”

In real life Lambert would have pulled out her pistol and changed the dynamic. “I have a little Katniss in me,” she says, comparing herself to the heroine in The Hunger Games. “I’m strong-willed, and I don’t like the word ‘no.’ I think I’d do all right in those games. I have survival skills.”

She talks tough, but the singer is not all sharp edges. “Some people just see the rough side of me,” she says. “They think I’m fiery and that’s all. Yes, I do cuss like a sailor and have a tattoo. But I’m also a small-town girl who grew up in a Christian home on a farm. I cry, I love pink, and I’m a normal size.”

The tattoo — two entwined revolvers with angel wings — takes up much of her left forearm. “I got it when I was 22 on tour with George Strait,” Lambert says. “It’s the first thing I ever did without asking my parents. My dad didn’t speak to me for a week.”

In Lindale, Lambert was a shy girl with learning problems. “I was a cheerleader but had to stay extra to learn the dances,” she says. “I was a little bit slower to learn things.

“When I picked up the guitar, it came so naturally. That’s where my drive started. I didn’t want to go to college, so I told myself, ‘I’ve got to make this work or I’ll be working at the grocery store.’”

Her father is a former Dallas cop and sometime country singer who started a detective agency with his wife. When Lambert was a teen, her parents opened their home to battered women, and she started hearing firsthand about people’s troubles. “It made me mad that husbands abused their wives and wives ruined their families by having affairs with 20-year-olds,” she says.

“When I was 17, my dad taught me three chords, and I started writing music right then, but what could I write about? I hadn’t seen anything.” But she had heard a lot.

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She sang at clubs and entered contests. When she came in third on Nashville Star in 2003, she was on her way.

Listeners won’t hear much happiness in her four top-selling albums, including the latest, Four the Record. “Cheating, drinking, heartbreak, love and love gone bad — that’s what I saw and that’s what’s universal,” Lambert says. “I love heartbreak songs. I love to listen to the angst.

“Just because I’m happy overall doesn’t mean I’m happy every day. My bad days inspire me, but I write on my good days when I’m in a good mood.”

As she talks, fans are outside the arena screaming her name. Inside, but not in view, is Shelton, who joined her for this leg of the tour. “We’ve really been married for four months because of the time we’ve spent apart,” she says.

“We text a lot. Our marriage works because we have other stuff going on. I’ve learned that if you’re someone’s world or someone’s your world, eventually it will explode.”

Theirs is a relationship of contrasts. “Blake is really laid-back and goes with the flow,” she says. “I’m intense and need to plan.

“He’s taught me to not take myself so seriously. I would never laugh, and I had no sense of humor. I had to work all the time. He made me have fun. I think I’ve taught him how to really love. I don’t think he ever did before our relationship.”

The couple dated for six years before walking down the aisle. “Blake was married when I met him,” Lambert says. “I went through his divorce with him, trying to be a shoulder. Breaking up, getting back together, spending two months apart — that’s hard. I hope I don’t ever have to have my heart broken bad again.”

A baby is not in the plans — yet. “I’m still selfish and want to be with my husband,” she says. “I don’t want to give anything up. When I’m 30 we’ll sit down and have a conversation.”

Until then she’s focusing on her goals. “I want to win album of the year,” she says. “I’d love to write song of the year and the song in a movie, not just a random song on a soundtrack.”

Most of all Lambert wants to avoid getting “jaded and weird. If I act like a diva, my mom will bust my [butt].”

She laughs, and then she’s off to find her husband.

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