Q&A: Pistol Annies On Three-Way Songwriting Sessions, Organic Groups, And Reeling In Elvis Fans


Much of what you need to know about the Pistol Annies is encapsulated in this delightful couplet from their song "Lemon Drop": "I owe two dozen quarters to a washing machine before these clothes will ever really shine/ But I got me a man that just don't care if his little darling's got underwear."

Other things you should know about the sweet-and-sour trio: 1. Its members are the country superstar Miranda Lambert and two of her Nashville singer-songwriter pals, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley. 2. The band's debut, Hell on Heels, is out this week. 3. It's great. We corralled the ladies in a Beverly Hills hotel room Monday afternoon for a chat.

Most people didn't know about the Pistol Annies before you performed on CBS's Girls' Night Out special in April. Four months later, there's an album. Such haste!

Ashley Monroe: We'd just been writing songs, then there was a chance to go into the studio, so we were like, "What are our six favorite?" Then we had another chance to cut four more at the end of one of Miranda's sessions for her new album.

Angaleena Presley: We never sat down and said, "Okay, let's write for the record." We just had all these songs and were like, "Badass—let's put 'em out." Our record was done before we signed our record deal.

Hell on Heels sounds like it was more fun than work to make.

Monroe: It was. We were particular about how the songs sounded, but sometimes when records are made, you go in like, "What about this note? Are you singing the right harmony?" This wasn't like that. We love singing the songs together so much that we just wanted to go in and do it like when we're sitting here on the couch.

Presley: Nothing was thought through. Our first performance ever as a band was literally on national television. Until then it had just been us sitting in a room with our guitar. And we were like, "Hey, let's just show it everybody!"

Monroe: With the Judds and Reba [McEntire] and Carrie Underwood in the front row.

Miranda Lambert: We kind of went from zero to a hundred.

What was the initial bond between the three of you?

Monroe: Liquor.

Presley: Honest music.

Lambert: Admiration for each other's talent.

How'd you get from there to "Let's write some tunes together"?

Monroe: Me and Miranda had written before, when we first met. Angaleena and I had been set up by our publishers to write in Nashville.

You went on a blind date.

Presley: We did, and we fell in love.

Lambert: Then Ashley introduced me and Angaleena.

Presley: And now it's a love triangle.

What's it like to get together with a stranger to write a song?

Monroe: Sometimes you just sit there and talk.

Presley: For me there's no middle ground. You feel it right at the beginning and you write a great song because you have chemistry, or it's like getting a root canal. You're just sitting there like, "Why did I do this for my life?" It takes a lot out of you.

Monroe: I've left bad writing sessions crying.

Lambert: We've never had a day like that—at all. I was doing a production meeting the other day and I came back on the bus and the girls were like, "Don't be mad—we wrote a song." I was like, "Assholes! I'm trying to make our stage look better and you're writing without me!"

Presley: We tried to hold it in, but we couldn't stop ourselves.

A three-way songwriting session isn't too many cooks in the kitchen?

Lambert: Not for us—we've got a big kitchen.

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