Despite an overloaded schedule, Blake Shelton could be found in a chipper mood at a No. 1 party in Nashville on Thursday afternoon (April 29) for “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking.” Prior to celebrating in the BMI building with the writers of the song — John Wiggins and Earl Bud Lee — Shelton amiably chatted with a room full of reporters about his latest chart-topper, the buzz on “Honey Bee” and the immediate impact of The Voice, a new NBC show that features him as a vocal coach.
The roundtable discussion began with a reporter asking if Shelton was getting comfortable in the top spot, now that he’s been there eight times. In his signature deadpan manner, Shelton replied, “I’m just more comfortable up there, so that’s where I like to put my songs.”
Yet, after everybody had a good laugh, Shelton expressed disbelief at his career momentum.
“No, I’m not comfortable. I don’t care how you put that. I can’t get comfortable with singles going to No. 1 because I’m afraid if I ever do, that will be the end of it,” he said. “Every single that I pick and put out there, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, people are going to hate this one. …’ And especially with ‘Who Are You When I’m Not Looking,’ I remember I was on a conference call right before we released the single, and I said, ‘I’ve been having nightmares. We can’t put this song out. The track is too sparse. People are going to think [the lyric that says] ‘Do you paint your toes because you bite your nails?’ means that this girl’s sticking her foot in her mouth and chewing on her toes.”
He continued, “I had all these things I was thinking about and I was talking myself out of it. I do that almost every time. But I think that’s a good thing, though, because every time I put out a single, it makes me look at a song from every angle. Finally between the record company and everybody else involved, they said, ‘Blake, you just need to relax. This is a great song and you recorded it for a reason.’ Thank God I surround myself with people I trust.”
As part of his role on The Voice, Shelton must build the strongest team possible to win — and he emphasized that even as an established artist, that aspect remains crucial in his career.
“It’s easy, probably, coming to Nashville and all the stars line up and the right guy records the right song at the right moment and it becomes a huge hit. But if you don’t have that team around you that can help you make the right decisions and a team that is passionate and will fight with each other. … I can’t tell you how many times my managers have been on the phone with the record company arguing about something because it matters to them. Or the booking agency is arguing about something because it matters.”
Shelton added that he “was that guy, at first, when I hit town. The right stupid kid from Oklahoma got the right song and it was a great big hit. But I just kind of floated around Nashville for the next six or seven years, having success now and then, but definitely not kicking the door in, by any stretch of the imagination. And finally, making the right decision, management-wise and — something that I had no control over and just got lucky — some key changes at Warner Bros., and the next thing you know, I’ve got that team around me. And look at the difference it’s made in as little as two years. I think the hardest thing to do is revive somebody’s career in Nashville and make it seem new. And that’s what’s happening to me right now. It’s odd, but it’s awesome.”
Shelton is in the midst of working on his new album, which is expected in July. Because he has been sequestered in the studio, he remarked that he hasn’t heard too much commentary about The Voice. However, it appears that’s about to change.
“Last night was the first night that I’ve been in Nashville by myself, in my truck. I’ve been in the studio all week working and I’ve been in a hole and haven’t seen a lot of people,” he said. “Last night I went to the Exxon over here across the highway at one o’clock in the morning after I got out of the studio. I walked in there and grabbed a bag of Cheez-Its or something and I put them on the counter. And I guess just because it’s country music, my following has mostly been white people. There was a cute black girl running the cash register and she looked at me and … She didn’t scream but it was like, ‘Hey!!’ And I was like, ‘Hey.’ And she said, ‘Are you the guy from that show?!’ And I was like, ‘Yeah. You’re damn right I am!’” he recalled with a laugh.
“It was so odd to me because it shows you the power of television. She even told me, ‘Man, I don’t listen to country music at all but that’s a cool show and you’re funny on it. Will you take a picture with me?’ It’s amazing the impact that thing has already had.”
Shelton has filmed seven or eight episodes of The Voice, and the show will go live this summer. Thus, he said he can’t predict a winner or even a front-runner. However, he did laugh about the “tree-huggers” in L.A. who won’t appreciate his squirrel-hunting at his rental house.
Of course, before The Voice resumes filming, Shelton will marry Miranda Lambert on May 14 in Texas, with his buddy Neal McCoy performing at the reception. He’s also preparing to tour with Brad Paisley this summer. And if things continue at full-throttle, he may have another No. 1 on the way with the cute single, “Honey Bee.”
He told the reporters, “One of the problems with singles these days is how long they take to go up the chart. I had a little more confidence with ‘Honey Bee’ because I knew we were going to get a chance to debut it on the ACM Awards. It was part of the agreement I had with co-hosting. I thought, ‘Man, that’ll be a good shot. Maybe it will get up the chart a little bit faster. Maybe it won’t take 10 weeks before it debuts and another 70 for it to go up the chart.’”
He continued, “But the one thing that we all agreed on was that ‘Honey Bee’ wouldn’t be the type of song that would sell all that well. And I think it sold like 140,000 downloads the first week. It just shows you that you never know. It turns out that this is the fastest climber and the best-selling single that I’ve ever had. But I think a lot of that has to do with finally getting to that point where you’ve earned a little bit of muscle in Nashville or in the music industry — when you can finally start leveraging that and using it to your advantage. And in this case, it was getting to debut the song on the ACM Awards. It damn sure didn’t hurt, you know.”