“The House That Built Me” wasn’t originally written for Miranda Lambert. Several years before the song’s debut in 2010, country music songwriters Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin wrote the track with a male singer in mind. In fact, Blake Shelton was the first artist that they sent the demo.
Lambert was dating Shelton at the time, and she heard this early version of “The House That Built Me.” Her reaction to the song was immediate and visceral, which then changed the trajectory of the song’s future.
“It was beautiful,” Lambert explained about hearing the song for the first time. “I mean, I just started bawling from the second I heard it. [Shelton] was like, ‘If you have a reaction to this song like that, then you need to cut it.'”
Lambert’s reaction came from the connection she felt to the lyrics that Douglas and Shamblin had written. Growing up, Lambert and her family went through a difficult time when her parents’ private investigation company failed. The Lamberts were eventually forced out of their home.
“It’s like the persons that wrote that song were channeling into our lives at that horrible but great time in our lives,” Rick Lambert, Miranda’s father, told Today. “It was so many mixed emotions during that time because we actually lost everything we owned. We actually lost a house that we built with our own hands.”
The Lambert family eventually moved into a rental home and started rebuilding their lives as well as the home itself. That house was the house that built Miranda Lambert into the person she is today.
Momma cut out pictures of houses for years / From better homes and garden magazine / Plans were drawn and concrete poured / And nail by nail and board by board / Daddy gave life to momma’s dream, Lambert sings.
The lyrics also ring true to the details of Lambert’s life growing up in the house that built her. Lambert’s dog was buried in by the house, (And I bet you didn’t know under that live oak / My favorite dog is buried in the yard) and her bedroom was upstairs (Up those stairs in that little back bedroom / Is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar).
In addition to these verses, Douglas and Shamblin ensured that “The House That Built Me” rang with a sense of universality in chorus. “When you co-write a song, you each dig into your own heart for where you’re coming from,” Shamblin explained to The Boot about the experience. “The inspiration for me was the last ten years or so with having my own children. I often think about the neighborhood and the house that my father built that I grew up in.
“About two Novembers ago, Tom contacted me on the phone. He said, ‘Hey, let’s revisit this song.’ We finally got back together to work out some of the holes, and the song really came into focus then. People really responded to the new version,” he concluded.
“The House That Built Me” went on to sit at the number one position on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, receive a Platinum certification, and win the Best Female Country Vocal Performance Grammy Award in 2011. Safe to say, this song not only moved Lambert but country music fans everywhere.
Listen to “The House That Built Me” performed by Miranda Lambert, below.
Photo by Alexa King / RCA Records