MUSIC NEW YORK - Miranda Lambert is putting the finishing touches on her sophomore album and continues to write new music on the road. Her debut CD, "Kerosene," continues to generate heat for the young singer-songwriter. Since its release in March 2005, "Kerosene" has sold more than 700,000 copies behind songs like "Me and Charlie Talking" and her recent single, "New Strings." She's also been nominated for several awards, including CMA's Horizon Award, and the photogenic star even landed in the pages of Blender -- a magazine not known for profiling country singers. For the 22-year-old Texan -- a past finalist on USA's "Nashville Star" -- her rise has been slow, but steady and strong. Part of her success lies in her constant touring -- she's spent part of last year with superstars like George Strait and Keith Urban. Lambert spoke with The Associated Press recently about what's she's learned on the road over the past year: You've been steadily touring for a while now. How have you grown as an artist? I learned a lot about my audience and about myself as a performer, what I like to do live. My band is absolutely awesome. I think I've just grown up a little bit as far as how my career goes, and what works and what doesn't. So what works and what doesn't? Our live show has gotten really high energy, it's really energetic. It's a really fun show. I just realized, we're there to entertain people, and that's what I need to do. And I've learned about band members ... Right now we have such a great group of people that just get along great, and that helps a lot. When you live with someone on the bus, for four days a week, you really have to get along (laughs). As your fame has grown, how has your connection to the audience changed? I used to play for 200 people and now I'm selling out places that hold 16,000 people. It's a big change, and it's so cool to see people out there screaming the words to songs that I wrote. It just really reassures me that what I'm doing is working, and it really boosts my confidence, as far as on stage as a performer and a writer. When the lights dim and the show is over, what do you do? A lot of times we watch the headliner, but we just hang out on our bus, have a beer, and just hang out with each other. Sometimes the band will go out, a couple of single guys, they'll hit the bars, but it's hard after playing a small town to go out in that same town and have any fun at all, so I pretty much hang out on the bus. Do you have any special ritual to get prepared for the show? We don't have one. We just hang out (laughs). We don't have like a special warm up or anything. Sometimes we watch a show called "The Last Waltz," it's like a documentary. We watch that a lot, we watch live DVDs of artists. But pretty much, that's it. Do you ever feel like you have to win over a crowd when you are the opening act? It depends on who you're playing with. With Keith Urban, they were yelling and really excited about me. I didn't feel it was a lot of work. With George Strait, I don't think it was necessarily my audience. It was like an older audience, and more of a country audience, and our show's kind of rock, so I felt like I had to win them over, but I think we did a pretty good job of it. "Nashville Star" recently wrapped up its season. Did you watch at all? I haven't had time to keep up with it faithfully, but I did have friends on there. Casey Rivers, who got second place, I grew up with him. ... We sang all through school together, he was a year older than me. I told him, 'You don't have to win.' I'm a perfect example of that. I think second place, that's the best thing that could happen to him.
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