At 30 years old, Miranda Lambert is a little young to have an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. But on Friday, the Hall opens Miranda Lambert: Backstage Access, an installation displaying artifacts collected — some from right out of recently used road cases — over the last mere year and a half of the singer's stratospheric career.
"When you grow up wanting to be a country singer, the Hall of Fame is something you think about being in when you’re well into your career, so already being here now, just on my fifth album, it's crazy," Lambert — who adds the honor to a list of accolades that already includes having nine Top 10 country singles and the distinction of being the first singer to win the Academy of Country Music's Female Vocalist of the Year award five years in a row — told reporters before a reception celebrating the exhibit's unveiling at the Hall's home in Nashville.
Items on display include old set lists; tapestries the singer strung up in her backstage "vibe room"; dresses donned in videos, onstage and on red carpets; and CMA and ACM awards accompanied by their show-night envelopes. A silver-buckled, Double Saddlery belt with "Mrs. Shelton" written out in rhinestones is a standout. Printouts of tweets the singer dispatched while attending those events accompany those trophies. "Be careful what you tweet, it might become part of the Hall of Fame one day," she joked.
"It's really crazy to see it all like this," Lambert told Rolling Stone. "It's very surreal and it's a little bit emotional," she said with a dash of humility, standing between the long glass case displaying her exhibit and a blown-up image of Kris Kristofferson's handwritten lyrics to "Help Me Make It Through the Night." One day Lambert hopes to enjoy everlasting legend status the likes of ol’ Straight Arrow.
"I'd like to have a permanent spot in here," she says. “I want to keep this door open. Once this exhibit is over, I want it to open back up again at some point in my career."
The backstage item on display that holds the most sentimental value for Lambert — a stage thrust from last year's Locked & Reloaded Tour, on which sits a road-worn pink Telecaster — isn't quiet as glamorous as the sparkling, blue and black-trimmed, plunged-neckline gown she wore on the red carpet at 2013 CMA Awards or even the rhinestone-encrusted microphone and stand from the "All Kinds of Kinds" video.
"It was with me for so many nights on the road," she explains of the stadium-suited stage extension. "I still see the scuffs and the dents and all the road weariness of it, and it just brings back all those great nights of shows and memories of fans faces that I saw from standing right there — it holds a place in my heart."
Not far from where the exhibit is installed, in a display case in a lonelier stretch of the Hall — which unveiled a $100 million, 210,000-square-foot expansion in April — sits the leather Avirex Choctaw football letterman jacket Tim McGraw sported in his now 20-year-old "Indian Outlaw" video. Lambert remembers the first time she met McGraw. It was while attending her first awards show and she walked by his and Faith Hill's seats. Tim and Faith were in the front row — Lambert was not.
"Faith reached out and grabbed my arm and said, 'Hey, I'm Faith and this is Tim!'" She recalls. "I just thought, 'Wow! Faith Hill knows who I am; they know who I am!' And that was kind of [like], 'Oh, I'm a peer to these people,' or getting there at least. That's one moment that sticks out in my mind where I thought, 'I'm getting somewhere.'"
That wasn't very long ago.
"[I want] just to keep going," Lambert says, "so that I can keep touching people with my music, and keep learning to be a better performer and artist. I don’t really know where I'm headed, but I know that I'm not near done."