Even though his heart is in traditional country, Blake Shelton is experimenting with a new way of getting his music out sooner. He recently released a six-song album, Hillbilly Bone, with a second six-song volume to follow in late summer.
The Oklahoma native followed up the promotion of the new album on Thursday night (March 18) by headlining his first concert at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. His friend and duet partner, Trace Adkins, even showed up at the show to help him sing “Hillbilly Bone,” which currently sits at No. 1 on Billboard’s country songs chart.
During a visit to CMT, Shelton chatted about his new music, old hits, countless demos, Nashville hangovers and even girlfriend Miranda Lambert’s dog. (The cute little pup inspired one of the new tunes, “Delilah.”) In the spirit of the newly-configured album his label is calling a “Six Pak,” here are six questions he answered. The other six will be featured in the second part of the interview running Monday (March 23) on CMT.com.
CMT: In the press materials, you said that “Kiss My Country Ass” is the starting point of who you want to be as an artist. Was that a joke, or is that serious?
Shelton: No, that’s serious. I don’t think it’s a starting point for me as an artist, but I think it is the centerpiece. … I’ve always been the guy in “Kiss My Country Ass.” I’ve just never come out and said it and laid it all out there like that. I think over the last year, especially with Twitter, people have really caught onto my personality and what I stand for. I’m pretty open to anybody’s lifestyle and what they’re into. I think I’m more open than what most people would ever imagine. I just take offense to when somebody attacks my lifestyle. To me, that’s what that song is about. If you don’t like what I do, then leave me alone — or kiss my ass. That’s basically what it’s saying.
Because you’re in country music, do some envision you as being stupid?
No, I think they’re surprised to find out that I am stupid. (laughs) They hear records like “The Baby,” “Austin” and “Home” — some of these more love-type songs that I’ve had — and they’ve had me envisioned as … I don’t know what they had me envisioned as. But then they find out that I like to hunt and drink beer and party and that I need to work on my language a little bit. When they find out that side of me, it’s very abrasive to them. … I used the word ’abrasive.’ Maybe I’m not so stupid.
“Almost Alright” seems like it was written just for you. How hard is it to find a clever song that doesn’t wear thin the second time you hear it?
That’s the hardest thing about making a record — finding those songs that you instantly love that you don’t instantly get tired of. That’s usually what happens. I was just lucky this time around with “Hillbilly Bone” and “Almost Alright.” For whatever reason, [songwriter] Craig Wiseman has taken an interest in me as a singer. He’s been very active in getting songs to me as quickly as he can, which is awesome because he’s arguably one of the most talented writers in Nashville. He has a way of listening to an artist and understanding an artist. Not that he sits down and writes songs just for me, but he has a way of writing a song and catering it to a specific person. I don’t know if he did that with me or not, but it sure seems like I got a handful of songs from him all of a sudden that were exactly my personality — and sarcastic — that I would definitely be happy to say and never have a problem saying.
You’ve said Trace Adkins is one of your heroes. Why is that?
I first moved to Nashville in 1994, and once you work your way into the community, you find out what’s going on with the record industry. I remember Trace Adkins was the first name that I ever heard that was like, “Hey, this guy just got a record deal.” I followed him very closely through the years before I ever got my opportunity to make a record. I felt like I had a lot invested in his career emotionally, just watching him. Obviously, I was a fan of his music. I mean he’s a true country artist. Once I got my opportunity to start having songs out on the radio and things like that in 2001, Trace was one of the guys I was excited to finally meet. I sound like a freak fan or something, but he was everything that I had imagined him to be — his personality, his sense of humor, everything about him. He’s just that guy. … He’s always been one of my favorite artists and someone I’ve looked up to as a person. There’s nothing about him that I don’t think is cool. I would never say this stuff to his face, but I just think he’s a bad-ass guy.
What was Miranda’s reaction when she heard “Delilah”?
Miranda’s first reaction was to weasel her way onto the song as a writer. She heard the song just a few hours after I wrote it. I wrote it very quickly one day about the fact that her dog was ignoring me when I was supposed to be babysitting it. Obviously, it’s her favorite song on the record, and I think it’s her favorite song that I’ve ever written. I’ve joked before that if her dog is in the highway and I’m right there next to it and a semi is coming, I know who she’s going to save. It’s going to be her dog. She loves the song, but I’m the only writer on it.
I think you need to write more songs.
Thank you. I grew up listening to 1980s country music, mostly. Early ’90s. That time period was my favorite. I think when I write, you can really hear that come out in the songs.