In the short term, the result of Lambert's big night at the CMAs was an increase in sales: "Revolution" moved from No. 12 to No. 6 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart in the week following the CMAs, moving 29,000 units and up 137% from the week before. Her previous albums also jumped 50% or better in sales, and her digital song sales for the week were 93,000, up 136% from the previous week. Overall, Lambert has sold more than 5 million digital tracks.
But in the bigger picture, nights like these make stars. The combination of a knockout performance; winning big awards over such stars as Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum; and watching her betrothed also win big exponentially raised Lambert's profile and made the pair country's newly crowned power couple in the process.
Suddenly, on that CMA Awards night, all the promise of this Texas-born singer/songwriter who cut her teeth in roughhewn bars as a teenager and turned heads as a tough-as-nails firebrand on her first album, 2005's "Kerosene," was fulfilled.
"Everybody had said to me, 'This is your year,' and I was thinking, 'I hope you're right. I don't really know what that means,' "she says. "But 2010 has changed my world a lot. I turned 27. I have been playing music for a living for 10 years, and all of a sudden I can physically feel this jump in levels. Before, I had this slow, steady build, which is completely fine with me because I want to be here forever. But all of a sudden it kicked into gear. Ten years of work is showing up right now, and it's kind of crazy."
Miranda Lambert Makes History with 9 CMA Award Nominations
She may be rock'n'roll noisy, but few would question Lambert's country pedigree. "Loretta Lynn told me to my face, 'You're countrier than I am,' and I thought, 'This is coming from a woman who rhymes 'hard' with 'tired.'"
Lambert has been kicking up dust for a while. She finished third on the 2003 season of "Nashville Star," signed to Epic, then "Kerosene" came out of the box at No. 1 on the country chart and went on to sell 1 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Her follow-up, "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," on which she made the move to Columbia, sold 929,000 units in the States and yielded her first top 10 hit, "Gunpowder & Lead."
Lambert signed with Dixie Chicks manager Simon Renshaw in 2003, with Marion Kraft handling her day-to-day responsibilities. "It was a lot of grunt work, and we developed a relationship," Kraft says. When Kraft left Renshaw's firm in 2009 to form her own Shopkeeper Management, Lambert came along.
"Who knows if I would have been as good a manager with someone else, because she makes you be good," Kraft says. "You don't have a choice with her. You're not allowed to be wishy-washy, because she's so upfront and center. She was never willing to conform to what she thought the world wanted her to be."
It seems like everything fell into place with Lambert's third album, "Revolution," released in September 2009 and, like her previous efforts, produced by Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke. "Revolution" included "The House That Built Me," a nostalgic ballad extolling the country-music verities of hearth and hard work that showcased Lambert's tender side.
Miranda Lambert Passes "Revolution" On to Her Heroes
"House" became Lambert's first Hot Country Songs chart-topper in June and was universally loved by both fans and Music Row. In a Billboard spotlight earlier this year on four developing Nashville songwriters, "The House That Built Me" was their unanimous choice as the current song they wish they'd written.
But the treasures on "Revolution" are many, including Lambert's own "White Liar," the caustic "Only Prettier" and melancholy "Dead Flowers," as well as inspired covers of Fred Eaglesmith's "Time to Get a Gun" and the aforementioned Prine song.
Lambert has crafted a style perfectly in tune with a trend toward a less-sanitized, rougher-edged sound in contemporary country exemplified byJamey Johnson, Dierks Bentley and Jason Aldean. Lambert believes "Revolution" is the most representative album so far of who she wants to be as an artist.
"I feel like I'll always keep moving forward, and I'll change, not only as a woman but as an artist," she says. "But 'Revolution' represented exactly who I was at 26 years old, who I had become. It was one of those records where, for the first time, I could say, in all truth, 'I want to hand this record to my heroes. I feel confident enough about it.' "
Asked who those heroes might be, Lambert replies, "Well, I did physically hand it to Patty Loveless. She looked at me like I was crazy. We're actually friends now. Merle Haggard, I know he had the record. John Prine; it's scary to cut John Prine's song and I hoped he would love it, and he did. That makes me feel validated as an artist."
Asked how the label can maximize a big night like the one Lambert had at the CMAs, Sony Music Nashville chief Gary Overton says, "I'm sure I'm supposed to have a great marketing answer for you, but when you have a network TV show and so much of it was about her, her fans pretty much know. Our biggest thing is to make sure we have enough product in the stores, because it's flying off the shelves."
From a management standpoint, Kraft says her job, now more than ever, "is saying 'no' to the wrong things and not getting overwhelmed by everything coming at us. My job is to cherry-pick things that will continue to highlight who she is as an artist and not put her everywhere. We need to stay consistent."
What Lambert will do is play the Grammy Award nominations event on Dec. 1 live on CBS, a high-profile gathering featuring Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Bruno Mars. Hopes are that Lambert will reel in a Grammy nom or two and perhaps be asked to perform on the 53rd Grammy Awards show in Los Angeles on Feb. 13.
IT'S MIRANDA'S WORLD
If she does perform on the Grammys, there's really no telling what Lambert might play. And, by the way, her picking the Prine cover over her latest single on the CMAs was fine with Overton. "She asked me if I was OK with it, and maybe I wasn't being a good CEO of a label, but I'm like, 'Yeah, let's do it.' What matters is a great Miranda moment for the people in the crowd, as well as the millions watching," he says.
In his short tenure as head of Sony Nashville, Overton has learned a lot about Lambert, not the least of which is to trust her musical instincts.
"There are temptations to do more 'radio-friendly' things and she'll say, 'That's not why I do what I do.' She wants songs of substance, whether it's a song she's written or an incredible song like 'The House That Built Me,' " he says. "You could play her a song that would probably be a hit for 10 people on Music Row and she might say, 'That's definitely a hit, but that's really not a song I would do.' She knows that difference."
When it comes to covering other writers' songs, "it's got to hit me the right way, something like, 'Oh, my gosh, I wish I had written that myself,' " Lambert says. "When I heard 'The House That Built Me,' it came at me like a freight train. I'd never had a reaction like that to a song before-one I'd written or anybody else's."
As a songwriter, Lambert says inspiration can come from anywhere, or sometimes not at all. "Every day is different as a writer for me," she says. "I can hear something that somebody says and it can hit me in such a way that I'm like, 'Oh, my gosh, that's a line,' " she says. "Or I can get in these moods where my brain just won't turn on."
Lambert adds that "being tormented is great for songwriting," but she's not tormented these days. These are indeed good times for Lambert, who's planning for a May wedding with Shelton.
Being in a relationship with another country star has its advantages and challenges, Lambert says. "The good outweighs the bad," she observes. "The bad is being apart, and also we have way different music tastes, Blake and I. We don't listen to the same kind of music, and we don't record the same kind of music. But that's also kind of good in a way, because we each do our own thing and neither one of us tries to change the other."
And the best part? "When the red carpet and awards show were over, we went home and we're normal," Lambert says. "I made cookies and Blake burned a brush pile."
Lambert says fans' perceptions of her are probably pretty close to reality, though, which for some might be a little scary. "You hear songs like 'Kerosene' or 'Gunpowder & Lead,' you think, 'This girl's going to kick my ass if I say something wrong,' " Overton says. "But she's one of the sweetest women I've ever met in my life. Blake Shelton is a lucky dog."
As "Revolution" receives its post-CMA boost, all involved believe there's still life left in the album. "It's not like you have the three singles and it's three-and-out. It's one of those albums you really want to listen to all the way through," says Overton, who notes that he won't push for a quick follow-up. "She's not in that cookie-cutter mode. When she's comfortable, she'll start writing."
Still, Overton has a best-case scenario. "What I would like timing-wise? Another single would probably take us to August, so if the new album was ready, we could probably have a fourth-quarter  album, which would be perfect for me, and the timing would be great for the marketplace." Kraft says a more likely timeline would be to start recording in September and then shoot for a first-quarter 2012 release.
Ultimately, all agree it's Lambert's call. Her ambitions as an artist are, as would be expected, straightforward. "I want to be true to real music and what I love," she says. "I want for my heroes to hear my records and love them, because that's where it all starts, where you get your inspiration."