11 Years Ago: The Pistol Annies Release Their Debut Album
Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley may never have become the Pistol Annies if not for a late-night phone call. Lambert and Monroe were in the middle of a writing weekend-slash-campout in 2009 when Monroe asked Lambert if she knew Presley. Lambert didn't, so ...
“The next thing you know, 2 o'clock in the morning, they're calling me, and Ashley's like, ‘Get up, get up, you have to send me and Miranda your record.' And I was like, ‘Miranda who, Ashley?'" Presley recalled to the Oklahoman in 2011.
Lambert was impressed, and she, Monroe and Presley began hanging out. They wrote some songs, sang together informally and, in 2011 made their official debut as the Pistol Annies (though their original idea for a name was the Calamity Janes). After a performance during an Academy of Country Music television special that April, the trio released their first album, Hell on Heels, on Aug. 23, 2011 — 10 years ago today.
"There's really two things we are about: being honest and being strong in your womanhood," Lambert told The Boot at the time. "It's kind of the theme of what we are individually and what we are together."
Appropriately enough, given their roots as a trio, there's only one guest co-writer on Hell on Heels: Blake Shelton, then newly married to Lambert, co-wrote the album's final song, "Family Feud" with Lambert, Monroe and Presley. The other nine tracks were each written by at least one of the three women: one is a Lambert solo write, two are credited solely to Presley, two are Lambert and Monroe co-writes, and the remaining four came from the trio all together.
"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," Monroe noted in 2011. Added Presley, "And we all tell the truth. That's the one common thread with us, being honest."
As the Pistol Annies, Lambert, Monroe and Presley each adopted nicknames: Lambert became Lonestar Annie, Monroe was dubbed Hippie Annie, and Presley went by Holler Annie. It would be another three years before Presley would release her debut album, 2014's American Middle Class, but Monroe had released one solo album (2009's Satisfied) and one solo EP, and Lambert was several albums into her career; in fact, she'd release a new solo record, Four the Record, in November of 2011.
Released via Columbia Nashville, Hell on Heels debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, and landed, impressively, at No. 5 on the all-genre Billboard 200. It's been certified gold, while its title track is certified platinum. The project and its songs also netted the trio a 2011 American Country Awards New Artist of the Year nomination, and three nods at the 2012 CMT Music Awards.
The Pistol Annies followed Hell on Heels with 2013's Annie Up, but then canceled a tour planned for the year without explanation. Rumors of a breakup began swirling, but all three artists denied the reports of tension among them; in fact, the Annies got a reputation for showing up at Lambert's concerts throughout the years, and often hinted that new music could be coming soon.
The trio made good on that promise in November of 2018, when they released their third album, Interstate Gospel. In 2021, the trio returned with their first holiday-themed record, Hell of a Holiday.
5 Things We Learned About the Pistol Annies at Their 2018 Reunion Show