Blake Shelton’s Startin’ Fires Sparks New Phase of His Career

He Gets Serious About His Music and the Positive Effect of Miranda Lambert

Getting a straight answer from Blake Shelton isn’t always easy — and neither is keeping a straight face during a conversation with him. His easy-going demeanor and amusing antics are often met by bursts of laughter from those around him. In fact, during his interview with CMT.com, he insisted on wearing a child’s football helmet he found in the back of the room. “Are you lovin’ this?” he asked.

But behind Shelton’s contagious smile and carefree disposition is a man who is very serious and focused when it comes to his music and career. This year alone, he’s seen his cover of Michael Bubl√©’s pop song, “Home,” reach No. 1 on Billboard‘s country chart, toured with longtime girlfriend Miranda Lambert, and his fifth album, Startin’ Fires, was released Tuesday (Nov. 18).

Though lighthearted, Blake Shelton isn’t afraid to weigh heavily on the important issues in his life, including the new direction of his music, expressing his sensitive side through song and his relationship with Miranda Lambert.

CMT: The last time I saw you, you were gearing up for your tour with Miranda. How’s it been going since then?

Shelton: The tour overall, I think, was great. I mean, it worked as far as the business end of it. It did everything we hoped it would do. I don’t think we’ll be doing it again, though — or at least for a long time — just because it’s so hard to get everybody on the same page with each other when you have different managers and booking agents and record companies. … Everybody has different ideas and different directions they want to take with their artist, which is understandable. … So, it was fun while it lasted, and maybe in a couple of years, we’ll get back together and try to do it again. We just kind of wanted to see if it would work, and both of us were a little bit afraid of trying it on our own, so it just made sense to do it together.

Miranda and I are to the point where we’ve spent so much time together now, either way, it wasn’t that big of an adjustment for us to tour together because normally, if she has a weekend off, she comes on the road with me and vice versa. … Musically, we’re just so different, and there’s a time or two in the show where our bands were out there together and we performed together, and that was definitely odd because we [Shelton and his band] are coming from a more traditional country place, and she’s coming from a rock place. It was good, but she had to step into my world, and I had to step into hers a little bit. It was an adjustment.

Why did you choose Startin’ Fires as the title for your new album?

Startin’ Fires is the album title for one obvious reason — there’s a song on the album called ‘Good at Startin’ Fires’ — but it just seemed like the right statement for what we’re trying to do with my career right now. And I never felt confident enough to make a statement like that on an album title — not until now. I feel like I’m coming with the most momentum that I’ve ever had on a record. We ended the Pure BS album with a No. 1 song with “Home” and went straight to “She Wouldn’t Be Gone” for a single from this album. It’s just an exciting time right now, and it just seemed like the right statement to make because, I think, for the first time, everybody’s paying attention closely to what I’m doing, and I’m trying to make the most of it.

Do you feel as though your music is taking a turn?

I know my music is taking a turn. Anybody that has followed closely what I’ve been doing can see from “Home,” being as big a hit as it was, it kind of opened the door for me to try new things musically. It was a pop remake, and that kind of came out of nowhere for me. So I decided now’s the time for me to really push the envelope while people are expecting me to try some new things musically. What I think I ended up doing is kind of finding a sound that’s all my own, and there’s about four or five songs on the record that are a good indication of where I’m headed 10 years from now and what my music will sound like. “She Wouldn’t Be Gone” is one of those songs.

You have a nice balance of fun, upbeat songs on the album, as well as a mixture of several sexy songs. Are you trying to go there more as an artist?

People have figured out along the way that I’m a guy that likes to goof off, and I’m not serious all the time, but my music gives me a chance to explore that part of my personality. I’ve never really been a romantic kind of guy or anything like that, but this record goes there a lot, and I like that. I guess I’m kind of pulling from my Conway Twitty influences there.

Like “She Wouldn’t Be Gone,” many of your songs are about regret.

My favorite songs to sing have always been songs about regret. I don’t know why that is, but to me, that’s country music. It’s reality. I don’t know anybody that doesn’t have some regrets and can’t stand up and admit they made some mistakes along the way. Man, I know I have, and those are normally the things that stick with you. I mean, it’s harder to get over situations that are your fault, so I can put a lot into those types of songs. I guess that’s why I kind of gravitate towards them.

In “Bare Skin Rug,” the song you co-wrote with Miranda, you can hear the raw, outdoor elements of the fire and crickets in the background. Why did you decide to record it this way?

We were just sitting around the fire pit at my house and wrote it as a duet. We don’t have expectations of any vocal event of the year or anything like that. We weren’t trying for something like that. We were just writing a funny song together, and we decided we’d go against the grain a little bit. Instead of playing up the fact that she and I are a couple, and shipping out a song to radio and trying to capitalize on it, we kind of took the opposite direction and just let people have a glimpse of what it really is like for us. It’s just sitting around, having a beer and playing our guitars a lot of times at night, and so that’s the way we recorded it. I hope people get that when they hear it.

I hope people understand that it is what it is. We didn’t go into the studio. If you’re interested at all in us, then that song, lyrically, is our personalities, and the performance of it is what we love to do when we’re home.