Eight of our favorite musicians and performers were invited to pay tribute to the female role models who have influenced them both personally and professionally. Miranda Lambert looks to Emmylou Harris as her main role model for what it means to have a long, meaningful career. The renowned singer is not only one of the country star’s biggest songwriting influences.
Emmylou, John Prine, Guy Clark, David Allan Coe, and the entire era were all introduced to me by my father. You’re old enough to notice this emotion of “Why do I feel so warm inside?” when you first hear that voice as a child.
I grew up listening to Emmy, but I hadn’t heard of her until I really got into music and began to consider making it my career. I knew every phrase by heart, but until I really got into songwriting around the age of 16 or 17, they didn’t truly impact me the same way. The first song was probably Delbert McClinton’s “Two More Bottles of Wine,” in my opinion. Since I had gone through this time of wondering “How do I be a badass and still be feminine?” I had heard the male version, but it hit me more strongly with the woman singing. All of that emanated from Emmy. In a gorgeous song like “Boulder to Birmingham,” her performance simply rips your heart out. I thought, “This chick is here to party and not take s**t,” but then I heard “Two More Bottles of Wine.” The same goes for me.
What I adore about Emmylou is that she owns everything she does with such grace and heart that I never know which songs she composed and which ones she didn’t. At the age of 18, “Easy From Here On” was another song that I thought would change my life. Because the phrase from that song, “Don’t worry about me, I got a wild card up my sleeve,” hit me so hard, I got a large wild card tattoo of a queen of hearts on my right arm. I asked, “Can we simply do an ode to that,” as we were writing my song “Bluebird” (2019). That song’s feeling was the same as the emotion expressed in “Easy From Here On.”
Yet, I’m not sure whether we’ve ever written a song like that without mentioning Emmy. Writing “I’ll Be Lovin’ You” for [2022’s] Palomino with Luke Dick and Emmylou’s former bandmate Jon Randall, we included a reference to “Roses in the Snow” since, of course, we had been discussing Emmylou.
I’ve been wanting to cover “Red Dirt Girl” since 2000, but I’ve never had the guts. One of those songs just stopped me, that one. When I was seventeen, my mother and I were driving around radio stations passing out my CD and attempting to grab people’s attention in the Loretta Lynn fashion. While we were traveling to El Paso or another location, “Red Dirt Girl” started playing, and my mother immediately pulled over. It was the most amazing, lovely tale I had ever heard. I then looked up the author, who was obviously just her. That immediately raised the bar for my songwriting. I felt like I wasn’t doing it correctly. Whatever it is, I’m after it. 23 years later, I’m still doing that.
I have always maintained that I want a career like Emmy’s because it is a profession that never ends. Each of her 26 albums is unique, and they are all different. Emmy has a certain amount of independence because she can perform whenever and with whomever she chooses, can choose the songs she wants to cover, and can choose the songs she wants to write. It’s incredibly motivating to see.
It’s helpful to be reminded of the moment you began to stoke the fire you first sensed at age 17. Due to the fact that my pastime is also my profession and vice versa, we occasionally lose our cool. Yet listening to Emmylou makes me rekindle that flame.