Miranda Lambert’s Roadside Bars & Pink Guitars Tour: ‘A Bunch Of Badass Women Rolling Down The Road Playing Music, Drinking Beer, Having Fun, Enjoying Fans’

Annies, Get Your Guns!
John Shearer / Getty Images / Country Music Association
– Annies, Get Your Guns!
Ashley Monroe, Angaleena Presley, and Miranda Lambert of the Pistol Annies are part of Lambert’s all-women Roadside Bars & Pink Guitars Tour, which kicks off at the CMA Festival in June. Here performing at the CMA Awards at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 14, 2018.

“I’m inspired by all these girls, especially the young girls; they keep my fire going. You see it in their eyes, and it just gets me going,” Miranda Lambert says of the rotating, all-girl lineup for the third incarnation of her Roadside Bars & Pink Guitars Tour. “Everybody has their own swagger and their own style, so this is going to be a night of some really badass music.”

Lambert’s not kidding. With alt/roots-rocker Elle King and Maren Morris, fresh from her own smaller all-girl tour, swapping the middle slot, the 27-time Academy of Country Music Award winner will rotate newcomers Caylee Hammack, Tenille Townes (see Hotstar on page 20) and Ashley McBryde as openers on the 42-city tour. Plus, Pistol Annies, Lambert’s harder country/bluegrass/Texas girl gang with Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley, appears on all shows.
“When she saw the list of support, she’s like, ‘I’d love to do all of them!’” WME Nashville co-head Joey Lee remembers, chuckling. “When we send her support, it’s who we think fits musically with what she’s doing. But no one is sitting down with the radio charts and the Spotify numbers, the social media impressions. It’s about music.”
As ShopKeeper Management founder Marion Kraft says of the tour’s origins, “She came to me, and said, ‘I want a group of badass artists…’ Not even women, just people who could mix it up. But when we saw the list of who was available, and they weren’t all available at the same time, but they all had openings, we realized we could do this rotating lineup.”
Considering Lambert was one of the rare country artists to be asked to participate in Lillith Fair, she recognizes the changing cast of characters not only reflects the fellowship and the power of the music, but sends a larger message about the power of women artists. Joking that she “got my ass handed to me every night by Heart and Mary J. Blige,” she cites the community and spirit that emerges from the convergence of a rocker (King), a pop star (Morris) and an alt-leaning writer (McBryde).
“We didn’t set out to have an all-female tour,” Lambert explains. “But when we looked at this line-up, here’s a bunch of badass girls rolling down the road, playing music, drinking beer, having fun and enjoying the fans. Every single one of them knows who she is; they’re all out making the music that comes from that.”
Whether it’s North Dakota’s Fargodome, Orlando’s Amway Center, Louisiana’s Cajundome or Saint Paul’s Xcel Energy Center, the women on Roadside Bars & Pink Guitars are primed to rock hard – no matter where their roots draw from.
“She’s Chrissie Hynde with Southern charm,” Kraft admits. “If you look at the ‘80s or ‘90s, Miranda would be a rocker. She plays Sturgis, which is a motorcycle gathering … Miranda Lambert concerts are like two-hour anthems: people come together, and they kind of rally. It’s a lot of life and sadness, stories, and losses and wins! She says, ‘I want you to feel all the feels,’ and they do, because her life is in all that music.

“In the world we’re living in, people are looking for anything that’s authentic and real. At a Miranda show, 80% of the audience is filled with screaming women, right as radio is saying, ‘Women don’t want to listen to women.’ No, they want to sing along at the top of their lungs.”
“I don’t understand what that phrase (women don’t want to listen to women) means, or where it came from,” Lambert muses. “It makes no sense. Only we can understand each other, understand the issues and stuff that happens to women, because it is different.”

Laughing, Lee – who’s advised Lambert since she was a teen playing Texas bars – concurs, “She’s authentic. She’s real. She sings and speaks about what the person buying that ticket thinks and experiences. She’s selling life, she’s not selling fairy tales. It’s real life, and people buy into it because people know the difference. It’s why they gravitated to her in the beginning, and why they keep coming back.”
Lambert’s authenticity stems in part from living it. Starting as a kid in Texas, she played bars. Eventually Lee convinced Glen Smith to give her a shot at the Texas State Fair, where she earned a whopping $10,000 to underwrite her little mobile home tours. A stint on the USA Network’s short-lived “Nashville Star” talent search, where she didn’t win but caused a stir, put her on the path to where she is now.

That scrappy start fuels Lambert’s desire to bring new girls to the forefront. “At 17, I started for real with a bar gig, a house gig – not for the faint of heart. It’s not pleasant at times, the nasty comments, the not getting paid, clanking beer bottles, the club owners who put you in uncomfortable positions … being given a foot of stage when you’re opening, making the best of it. 

Tour Poster For Roadside Bars & Pink Guitars
– Tour Poster For Roadside Bars & Pink Guitars
“So I’m very protective of the music, and I’m very protective of the newer girls! If these are my little soldiers, then I’m going to fight to give them a place that makes sense, to let the people coming know I love their music – and they need to hear these women.”
“She wants to groom her competition,” Kraft affirms. “She wants these young women to grow into established female artists who can headline, who can take music forward. She loves Carrie and what she does. They want the competition, the format and the genre to really embrace all kinds of women’s voices.”
“We’re all kinds,” Lambert enthuses. “Blondes, brunettes, redheads, big and little – and that’s just this tour. But, you know, we’re all fighters, fighting for what we love. You don’t stop because it’s hard, I think you get together and fight harder.”
Coming from Lambert, known for take-action hits “Gunpowder & Lead,” “Kerosene” and “Little Red Wagon,” that’s not idle talk. Lee confirms, “Miranda has always had a space for young females who may not have radio. Ashley Monroe, Clare Dunn, RaeLynn have all been out. We gave Aubrie Sellers 30 dates with Old Dominion, put her and Lucie Silvas and Sunny Sweeney on the Living Like Hippies Tour. She put Brandy Clark on an entire Canadian tour.”
Lee cites tour promoter Brian O’Connell’s willingness to embrace Lambert’s vision. In a world of country-in-amphitheaters, something Lambert explored last summer with Little Big Town, Live Nation head of country music O’Connell recognizes the brash 35-year-old’s musical vision is what draws fans.
“It wasn’t natural in the beginning, but there was a trust built,” Lee remembers. “The dollars and cents are one thing, but he really wanted to know her and understand. Over the conversations in dressing rooms, on the bus, after shows, he came to really get her vision. Now if budgets are set and the support exceeds what it is, he’s never come back and said, ‘No, no, we can’t do that,’ because he understands this is more than just people coming to see the hits.”
On the hits, or the radio problem, depending on who you talk to, Kraft is philosophical. “Radio is always great, and we’d love them to play every song. But Miranda doesn’t make music to be on the radio, she’s telling stories – and creating music that’s something more than a calculation for airplay. It’s her life, or life as she’s seen it.
“When ‘More Like Her’ came to radio, it died in the 30s,” her manager continues. “But when she played it for 9,000-10,000 people, you could’ve heard a pin drop – except when they were singing along. Because that song, that raw heartbreak, you can’t just make that up.”
As Lambert confirms, “My top earning song – ‘Gunpowder & Lead’ – went to No. 7. ‘Little Red Wagon’ died in the teens. A hit is not a number, it’s when the crowd sings every word back to you. And that’s the thing…. We’re just asking to be heard, that’s not that much. 
“It’s just being heard in real (dayparts) – that’s all it takes. Because if people really hear it, they know; they remember and respond. We’d love to have that radio play, because it helps a ton. And if you get on board with the new artists, especially for the young girls listening, you give that (music) to a lot of passionate women looking for their own lives (on the radio).”
As a woman who listens to a lot of women artists, she knows the power of identification. Whether it was Patty Loveless or LeAnn Rimes, Allison Moorer or Emmylou Harris, Lambert had plenty of women to inspire her, light the way and shape her sense of how a woman’s life in songs, studio and the road could be built.
Her real life has inspired loyalty, being true and transparent. Fearless, she acknowledges, “I’ve struggled with weight ups and downs; I’ve put my life in my songs – and I’ve never counted on my hair, my make-up and my boobs to get me over. I’ve always used my guitar. A guitar and a real stubborn head will get you a long, long way.”
“She’s a strong person, not just a strong woman,” says Lee. “That makes a difference. When you see her, she’s got a self-power thing, more a stand-up-for-your-life than anything else. She’s very much a ‘love yourself even if stuff isn’t so hot, because you’re still pretty damned good’ kind of deal. People need that.”
“I look for the dads or the husbands, who came with their girls,” Lambert confesses. “Because there are a lot of men out there who love the message, or they just want someone they love to have a really good time. You’ll see’em in meet & greet, the wife walking a little bit tilted ahead, and he’s behind, just letting her have her night.
“When I sing ‘Automatic,’ I really try to make eye contact with them. There’s something about that song, and what it says that puts people in their life, especially the men. They have so much to relate to, because who doesn’t want to be part of a ball of fire? The emotional, moody, crazy part is part of being with a woman who excites you. You’d be surprised, all the boys with their great big beers singing every word of ‘Hell On Heels.’”
Not that Lambert’s looking to preach. She’s a singer, a guitar player, a songwriter. To her, she’s playing music for people, hoping it will do for them what music did for her.
“I’m actually exhausted from all the conversation,” Lambert says of the radio roadblocks. “I’m sick of it, and I figured, ‘Why don’t we just go do something?’ Put the music on the road, give it to the people – and hopefully, they hear what they need in these songs. 
“If the side effect is we can’t be ignored anymore, great. If it doesn’t work, that’s OK, too.  We’re still gonna be out there, making great music, rocking the fans and having fun.”