Blake Shelton plays a captivating role in his made-in-prison music video, “Ol’ Red.” Incarcerated at the former Tennessee State Prison in Nashville, Shelton sheds his cowboy hat, dresses in inmate garb and sports a scraggly beard.
“What’s really sad is that this is about three-week’s worth of growth,” kidded Shelton as he rubbed his chin during a break in the two-day video shoot. “I ran into Cyndi Thomson the other day, and she told me she thought it looked pretty good. If Cyndi Thomson likes it, I’d have to say it’s going to stay.”
Under the guidance of director Peter Zavadil, Shelton lets down his locks for the confining part, which wasn’t easy, considering he was shooting one of the scenes in the prison’s old Death Row section.
“They’ve actually found a dead cat in the room where the electric chair was, so that can’t be good,” Shelton laughed. “There’s ghosts in there, and I’m not gonna go in there by myself because I’m scared.”
The Ada, Okla., native escaped into his recent acting stint after drinking a couple of beers on his bus.
“I’m comfortable with acting. I don’t think I’m that good at it,” he explained. “I just relax and remember this is fun — and it’s not gonna be fun to watch if everybody is robotic. That’s the advice I have for any country singers aspiring to be actors –- drink two beers.”
Shelton shares the small screen with a captive cast that includes NASCAR driver Elliott Sadler, members of his band and his record producer, Bobby Braddock, who portrays the singer’s psychotic cellmate.
“After a few days working in the studio he calls me Satan anyway,” Braddock joked.
In the “Ol’ Red” narrative, written by Mark Sherrill, Don Goodman and James “Bo” Bohan, a man is sentenced to 99 years on a Georgia prison farm for an unnamed crime; he turns to a hound dog named Ol’ Red to bail him out. Shelton’s character sparks a love connection between his canine friend and a cousin’s blue tick hound during evening furloughs south of the prison gate. So, when the moment arrives for the conniving convict to make his getaway north, his four-legged friend is otherwise preoccupied and cannot be persuaded to pursue the escapee.
Shelton stopped dead in his tracks when the late Hoyt Axton played the song for him about eight years ago.
“I about fell on the floor when I heard the song,” Shelton recalled. “It was my favorite song in the world, instantly.”
He held on to the song until he secured his record deal, and now “Ol Red” has become the most requested song at Shelton’s shows.
“Everybody loves the song,” he said. “It’s a miniature movie every time you hear it.”
“Ol’ Red” sits at No. 22 on the July 6 Billboard country singles chart. It is the third single from Shelton’s self-titled debut album, which also includes the multi-week No. 1 hit “Austin.”
“I was prepared for it to be slow in the beginning, and it wasn’t,” Shelton said. “Once we put ‘Austin’ out, it took off. I’m just now starting to get a grip on it. I’m really settling into what I do, and I’m real comfortable with it, and man, I hope to be doing this 20 years from now.”