Pistol Annies Fire One ‘Hell’ of a Shot
Earlier this year, during the taping of the Academy of Country Music’s ‘Girls’ Night Out’ television special in Las Vegas, Miranda Lambert surprised the audience by introducing them to two of her songwriting friends, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley and announcing that they would be forming a trio called Pistol Annies. Now, less than six months later, the three have released their debut CD, ‘Hell on Heels’ (out today, August 23). While on tour, Miranda has been joined by Angeleena and Ashley to give fans a taste of what this organically-grown girl group is all about. And now that their album is available, those who haven’t seen them live can experience the sweet, distinctly southern harmony and lyrics crafted with a decidedly edgy sense of humor.
The Boot sat down with Pistol Annies for an exclusive chat about everything from songwriting to squirrel gravy. We also discovered how a stripper in Kansas led them to their group name.
The combination of the three of you together obviously works very well. Why do you think that is?
Ashley: I’m from east Tennessee, Miranda’s from Texas, [Angaleena]’s from Kentucky. We all have a different kind of background in country music but we’re all from small towns; we’re all really rootsy. We know what real life is like, we were all raised similar ways.
Angaleena: And we all tell the truth.That’s the one common thread with us, being honest.
Miranda: That was obvious in all of our music individually. I knew their songs, their writing styles, and they knew mine. So we didn’t even have to discuss that part. That’s what clicked so fast. There was an understanding of that’s what this is going to be.
Ashley: We complement each other’s music.
Angaleena: Writing, that’s the fun part for us. It comes easy because that’s what we love. When I found these two girls I thought, “My gosh, I have these two friends who are understanding where I’m coming from and the whole creative process.”
Ashley: It’s writing because you want to, not because you have to.
How did you come up with the name Pistol Annies?
Miranda: We were supposed to be the Calamity Janes in the beginning. But that name was owned by a stripper in Kansas.
Angaleena: We went back and forth and back and forth. We came up with 100 different names. It went on for three days. Finally after about 100 different things Miranda, out of the blue, was like, “Pistol Annies?” And we both [said], “That’s it!” We said, “Wow, that was a hard thing to do.” She said, “Just think of how many songs titles we just thought of!” Now, half of the band names are song titles!
Do you have any particular goal in mind for this project? There are a lot of songs on the record that would fit right in with country radio, yet there are a few that would have to be censored!
Miranda: Mainstream country radio would be great, but we’re starting off trying to see how the fans react. We would love for radio to come out and see us at a show and to have relationships between Pistol Annies and radio. Right now, I’m on tour and the girls come out and we do a Pistol Annies set in the middle of my set. It’s a great way to build our fan base. I’ve already got fans coming, I’ve already got radio stations coming, I’ve already got the production paid for, I’ve already got the buses. We don’t want to get in a van necessarily, so we’re just sort of hooking them onto my tour, which is perfect.
Was the fan reaction positive right from the start?
Angaleena: In the beginning, they’d bring the three mics out and the fans would be like, “Huh?” Now they bring the mics out in the fans are going crazy, which is a great feeling. If radio embraces us, that would be amazing.
You each have a nickname. Miranda, for obvious reasons, you’re Lone Star Annie. Ashley, you’re Hippie Annie. Why is that?
Ashley: I always said I was a hillbilly hippie. I want everybody to be fine, I want everybody to be calm and love each other and the world to be bright and pretty. But I’ll do yoga while I’m watching ‘Cops’ because I’m a redneck, too. [laughs]
Miranda: [about Angaleena] Holler Annie is from a holler in Kentucky. She has the sweet side but she also has a dark side. Our dark sides are a little more prominent. I have a little bit of an edge.
Angaleena: I’m a coal miner’s daughter and I don’t really have a filter.
Speaking of having no filter, ‘Bad Example’ from the album is one that fits right in with that. So, which one of you has the ‘Honk If You’re Horny’ bumper sticker?
[In unison] We’re getting those!
Angaleena: It’s going to say “Honk if you’re horny for Pistol Annies.”
Miranda: They made me sing that part.
‘The Hunter’s Wife’ is another great one on the album that deals with a husband’s obsession with hunting. It also mentions squirrel gravy. Is that something you’ve all eaten?
Angaleena: I’ve eaten it many, many times.
Miranda: I actually killed a squirrel, and my dad made us put it in gravy and eat it. That’s hardcore.
Angaleena: Squirrel gravy is more where I’m from in the mountains. We had squirrel gravy growing up every Easter. That would be the main dish because all the men would bring all the squirrels that they had killed, and we’d make a big batch of squirrel gravy with cornbread. You just dip cornbread in it. It’s kind of like chicken and dumplings, that texture, creamy and liquid-y.
Miranda: It tastes like rat.
Angaleena: Hey, you have to eat what you can come by where I’m from!
Miranda: Where I’m from, if you kill it, you have to eat it.
Ashley: I just didn’t eat. [laughs]
On the other side of things, ‘Beige’ is probably one of the most beautiful songs about an unexpected pregnancy and a shotgun wedding that I’ve ever heard.
Angaleena: These two girls wrote that before that they met me. Which is funny, because I got knocked up …
Ashley: Before she got married. [To Angaleena] We wrote that the night we called you. We were at Miranda’s house in Oklahoma. Miranda walked in the living room and said, ‘Beige!’ I said, “What’s beige?” She said, “The song is about beige because she’s wearing beige down the aisle. I’m going to go make a drink. Have the first line done by the time I get back.” [laughs]
Miranda: That’s one of the songs that sparked this. I wouldn’t sing that song by myself [points to the other two]. It’s not her, it’s not her by herself. But it’s such a cool, honest girl song.
Angaleena: And I do have a song called ‘Knocked Up,’ so we’re right on the same page.
What would you say is the musical philosophy of this group?
Miranda: There’s really two things we are about: being honest and being strong in your womanhood. It’s kind of the theme of what we are individually and what we are together. [Points to Angaleena] She has the degree, you should ask her.
What is your degree in?
Do you psychoanalyze these two?
Why do you think I’m sitting here? I’m Psychoanalyze Annie. I didn’t get here on talent alone. [All laugh]
Do the three of you always get along this well?
Ashley: No. [All laugh] We fight but 10 minutes later, we cry and hug and it’s over. It’s like sisters.
Is there anything typical that you fight about?
Ashley: Usually, it’s because one of us has PMS.
Miranda: Or all of us at the same time, which is really pleasant for the band and crew.