From “Austin,” Blake Shelton Predicts Boom for Country Music

Blake Shelton thinks his newfound success is a harbinger for all of country music. “It’s about to bust wide open,” he predicted to the crowd gathered at Warner Bros. Records’ Nashville headquarters Wednesday (Aug. 29) to help him celebrate his first No. 1 single, “Austin.”

In spite of the fact that “Austin” charted the same month — this past April — that Giant Records, Shelton’s original label, closed, the song not only swept on to the No. 1 spot under Warner Bros.’ guidance but also has lodged there for five straight weeks.

Warner Bros. president Jim Ed Norman, in his opening remarks, praised the Giant Records’ staff, most of whom attended the party, for their “creative vision, wisdom and tenacity” in spotting Shelton’s talent and nourishing his career.

While it is common for an artist to acknowledge that his or her success has resulted from a team effort, Shelton appeared to genuinely believe he is riding the wave of something larger than himself. He likened what is happening in country music now to the late ’80s and early ’90s when he was still a kid “watching CMT” and seeing such fresh talents as Travis Tritt and Alan Jackson emerge.

Today, Shelton noted, a new crop of artists is in bloom, one that “not only has hits on the radio but is selling records.” As examples, he cited Cyndi Thomson, Trick Pony and Chris Cagle .

Shelton thanked the celebrants for all they had done for him personally. “I’ve been kicking around town for seven years,” he said, “and just about everybody here has let me use their phone or make a tape copy.”

Warner Bros.’ senior vice president of A&R, Paige Levy, presented Bugs Bunny awards to Shelton’s producer, Bobby Braddock; “Austin” songwriters David Kent and Kirsti Manna; and publisher Jana Talbot. Levy then singled out for recognition Debbie Zavitson, the former head of A&R for Giant, who took “Austin” to Shelton after another artist had passed on the song.

A thoroughly modern country tune, “Austin” chronicles a romantic reconciliation via messages left on an answering machine.

Lon Helton, country editor for Radio & Records, told the festive crowd that “for the last five weeks, the most-heard song in America has been ‘Austin.’”

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.