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COUNTRY SUPERSTAR MIRANDA LAMBERT IS ALMOST AS FEARLESS AS SHE IS FIERCE.


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Not much scares country star Miranda Lambert. One reason: She has guns. Lots of guns. An avid hunter, she even has a pair of pistols tattooed on her left arm. Mess with her at your peril.

THAT SAID, SHE DOES GET STAGE FRIGHT. Not when she’s performing for fans — she’s been doing that for years now, since well before she even began touring in support of her three albums, all of which have debuted at or reached number one. No, where she gets a wee bit nervous is performing for her peers at award shows, like she’ll do June 9 at the CMT Music Awards in Nashville. Actually, “wee bit” may be understating it.

“It scares the crap out of me,” admits Lambert, 26. “Every time I perform for that crowd, I can barely make it out there. It’s crazy that I’m mentioned with the people I look up to and that I get to sing for them.”

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Modest as she is, Lambert’s success isn’t surprising given that her background is as textbook country as one could craft. She grew up in the tiny East Texas town of Lindale, where Farm to Market roads 16 and 849 meet. Her mother and father ran a detective agency by day and played country music for her on the weekends, weaning the youngster on old-school masters like Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris and Jerry Jeff Walker. When she decided to give singing a go herself at the age of 16, her dad made a CD of her music, and she began touring the Texas circuit, honing her spitfire, tough-girl appeal.

Her break came, as so many now do, on a reality show: In 2003, she came in third on the NBC show Nashville Star, which landed her a record deal. Two years later, she released her debut album, Kerosene. The title track, with its Steve Earle–esque guitar riffs and lyrics about a scorned lover burning down her unfaithful man’s house, established her reputation as a firebrand songstress and a woman not to be messed with — an image she only furthered on her follow-up album, 2007’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

“That tough-girl image is part of who I am, but it isn’t all of who I am,” says Lambert, whose Grammy-nominated latest disc, Revolution, recently won two Academy of Country Music awards, including Album of the Year, and earned Lambert the ACM award for top female vocalist of the year. “It’s cliché to say, ‘My favorite album is the last one I wrote,’ but in this case, it is a more complete picture of who I am.”

On Revolution, Lambert maintains her resolve on tracks like “White Liar,” in which she skips the pyrotechnics and instead tells her fictional philandering boyfriend that he’s not the only one playing that game. But she shows off a softer side as well with a handful of gorgeous ballads, three of which were co-authored by her fiance, fellow country star Blake Shelton. All in all, the album reflects a musical maturity that’s come with age and experience.

“I’m still a small-town East Texas girl, but I’ve grown up a lot too,” Lambert says. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot from the people I’ve toured with, from the people in my life, from my peers.”

Those peers will be the very ones she’ll be performing for this month at the CMT Music Awards. And while the thought may have her shaking in her well-worn boots, there’s no doubt that she’ll still hit the stage with guns — er, guitar — blazing.

WATCH MIRANDA PERFORM LIVE AT THE CMT MUSIC AWARDS, AIRING WEDNESDAY, JUNE 9 AT 8 P.M. ET ON CMT.