- ABOUT US
Despite a red-hot career, Blake Shelton is still a down-home Oklahoman at heart. Says his father, Dick Shelton, "Blake is just Blake. When he's around us, he's as common as anybody can be. We lose track, really, of just how big he's become."
Photo by MICHAEL DESMOND/NBC
The reining Country Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year makes his home near Lake Texoma while juggling a grueling schedule, a new marriage, and his most recent star turn on reality TV. Welcome to 2011, the year that unleashed Blake Shelton on the world.
By Dyrinda Tyson
Blake Shelton enjoys wandering outside on the rare mornings he’s home to drop a line and see if the fish are biting. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they aren’t. And then he might pull out his phone and tweet about it. More than half a million people follow him on Twitter, where he shares a steady stream of jokes, pictures, shout-outs, and general observations.
“It’s fun because I can instantly have contact with my fans and talk to them and argue with them and laugh with them,” he says. “That’s the relationship I wanted to create with my fan base. I don’t want to be standoffish or fake.”
Some say he’s the real deal—occasionally too real. He shrugs it off.
“I guarantee you that if Hank Williams Senior or Waylon Jennings or even Hank Junior would’ve had Twitter at my stage of the game, they would’ve loved it, too,” Shelton says. “They were just themselves. They didn’t make any apologies for that.”
Neither does Shelton. He occasionally smooths feathers ruffled by his off-the-cuff remarks, but he wears his redneck cred proudly. Barbed wire and deer tracks circle his forearm in tattoo form, and his boots manage to stay just this side of too shiny. He’s lent his initials to his fan club, the BSers. But, like his home state, there’s more to Blake Shelton than rugged charm. In short, he may well reflect the face of contemporary country music.
A steady stream of artists has made the trek from Sooner country to Nashville over the decades—Gene Autry, Roger Miller, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood—Oklahomans each claiming a stake in country music’s storied Mecca.
Shelton is following that well-worn path, but the steps along it are all his own. Halfway across the country, in a land some deem “La-La,” a native son is finding a new audience and a privileged position in Oklahoma’s country music pantheon.
“You make me look smart,” Shelton drawls one night to a Team Blake protégé on NBC’s The Voice, the blockbuster amateur singing competition that has made him the worst-kept secret outside country music circles. Even alongside other big show-biz names—i.e. Christina Aguilera—Shelton holds his own.
Belting out a decidedly un-Blakelike pop tune with his team of singers, and at six-foot-five towering over them as they dance, Shelton looks at ease. The song in question is Maroon 5’s “This Love,” which brings the band’s singer and fellow Voice coach Adam Levine to his feet, clapping.
“Excellent song choice,” Levine says, the roaring audience almost drowning him out.
Shelton celebrated his thirty-fifth birthday and tenth year as a recording artist in 2011. The process of shepherding Team Blake through The Voice brought an epiphany.
“I’ve realized after ten years that I do know a lot of stuff, whether I like it or not,” he says, laughing. “I have turned into a wise old music pro man.”
Months before Shelton’s Red River Blue album saw daylight in mid-July, its first single, “Honey Bee,” had already hit gold, selling half a million digital copies by Memorial Day weekend and later topping the country charts. Meanwhile, The Voice—which concluded in late June with Dia Frampton, whom Shelton mentored, the runner-up by a very slim margin—pulled in numbers so strong that NBC soon lined up Shelton, Levine, and fellow coaches Aguilera and Cee Lo Green for a second season.
The show’s strong numbers, 12.2 million viewers in June, prompted the network to add an extra results show to the first season’s slate and schedule not only a summer tour for the contestants but a second-season premiere to air after Super Bowl XLVI in February 2012.
“I always felt if the TV cameras discovered Blake, they would fall in love with him,” says Nashville songwriter Bobby Braddock, Shelton’s first producer. “He’s so funny. He’s got a great personality for TV.”
Shelton cuts an impressive figure on stage and on camera, and his height advantage is only part of the equation. His curly mop of hair has been cut shorter over the years, but the piercing blue gaze remains unchanged. That gaze can be intense or mirthful, and the camera loves it either way.