"Oh shit!" echoes throughout a farm in Franklin, Tennessee, where Miranda Lambert has just finished posing for photographer Mark Seliger for a Rolling Stone cover shoot. The Texas spitfire and reclusive rebel Eric Church grace split covers of the magazine's first-ever Country Issue, which announces the debut of RollingStoneCountry.com, the brand's first site dedicated to country music.
The yells and commotion arise when one of the two horses Lambert posed with begins to buck and kick wildly after being tethered to the horse trailer following a day's work. Nearly everyone looks concerned — except for Lambert.
"She wants loose. She'll be all right. She's just going to fight it for a second," says Lambert, who owns horses on the Tishomingo, Oklahoma farm she shares with husband Blake Shelton. Earlier in the shoot, when the same horse was spooked by the cameras and lights, Lambert displayed more of her horse-whispering skills. Taking charge and backing away the crew, she talked quietly and stroked the skittish giant.
"I think they brought the horses on set today to lure me like a kid: 'If you do good, you can play with the horses when you're done,'" she says with a laugh. "It was so fun to have them here. I ride horses and I have horses and I love animals, so I definitely felt at home."
Lambert has never sounded more at home than on her dynamic new album, Platinum, out this week. Her most diverse record yet, Platinum is a dreamy mix of traditional country ("Old Shit"), punky rockers ("Little Red Wagon"), Western swing ("All That's Left") and Aretha-worthy soul ("Holding on to You"). She may have had immense commercial success with past LPs, but this one is poised to be a career album.
"I don't ever say, 'I'm going to make this record sound more country or more rock & roll.' I feel like there is a little bit of style of what I love as an artist and what I listen to on this record. There is some swing, and some rock & roll, and some real country, and everything in between. I don't think if you set out to say, 'I'm going to make it sound like this,' you'll get the result that you want. We get great producers and great musicians and we let them create their own art too," says Lambert. "Everybody is their own individual artist in that studio and putting all that together is what creates magic."
Platinum also captures Lambert at the peak of her confidence. She effortlessly time travels through the nostalgia of first single "Automatic," while her cockiness is off the charts on the title track.
"I've hit my stride as a woman, more than ever," she tells us. "I knew who I was as an artist, but really just as a woman and as a person, I've set my roots down and feel like I know who I am and what direction I'm going in in my life. I think that rings through in the record."
And being on the cover of Rolling Stone sure didn't hurt.
"I felt pumped," Lambert recalls of hearing the news. "Especially as a country artist. It's as rock & roll as you can get.
"I think as a musician, that's what you shoot for," she adds. "To be on the cover of Rolling Stone and to have that notch in your belt is something that is really important. It makes other musicians respect you."