As a judge on NBC’s The Voice, Blake Shelton stands tall as an ambassador for country music. And now that he’s been crowned the CMA entertainer of the year, he’s set his sights on global domination.
“As a country guy and as an industry, we have to keep pushing — and not just musically. We have to push the boundaries personality-wise,” he told reporters backstage after the CMA Awards on Thursday night (Nov. 1). “We’re the same as everybody else, and just because we’re the popular music of the U.S. doesn’t mean we can’t be global and be bigger than just Nashville. We’re always going to be country. We should be proud of that and take ownership of that and keep kicking and screaming until the world hears us.”
After also winning his third consecutive male vocalist of the year award and sharing song of the year honors with wife Miranda Lambert for their co-writing venture on her hit, “Over You,” Shelton made his way to the backstage pressroom. With reporters taking turns with questions, Shelton chatted about his shiny new hardware, his pivotal hit “Hillbilly Bone” and how he’s becoming one of those guys he’s always looked up to.
Where will you put these new awards?
Shelton: We’ve got some shelves that we put stuff on, but I guarantee you this. Of all those awards, and even tonight, we are proud of every single one of these things. That song of the year award … Miranda is a songwriter first and foremost. I don’t know if she’s said that. She’s said it to me a hundred times. She’s a songwriter first. And for me as a songwriter, that is as personal as I can get also. So the song of the year award, it will have its own shelf. It will have spotlights on it and an alarm and everything. Trip wires. There will be landmines if you walk towards it. All that stuff. It’s a real big deal.
Since “Hillbilly Bone” became a hit, you’ve gone through this career reboot. Can you talk about what has led to that, other than Miranda’s presence?
I don’t think you can say “other than Miranda’s presence” because if my aunt had balls, she’d be my uncle, you know? I mean, you can’t say that. (laughs) I mean, Miranda’s presence is as important as the fact that I ever moved to Nashville.
But I know what you’re saying. Recording “Hillbilly Bone” and having Trace Adkins be on that record with me was definitely a turning point in my career. We were talking about that today, believe it or not. I went and sat in Narvel [Blackstock]’s office with me, Narvel and Brandon [Blackstock, Shelton’s manager and Narvel’s son]. We were having one of those moments where we were toasting, “Oh, my gosh, CMAs! We’re up for some stuff and things are going good. Remember when we were doing the six paks [EP music releases] and we thought that was going to be the wave of the future?” That was dumb — it wasn’t — but we thought it was going to be a big deal then. But the bottom line is we were still making records that we believed in at that time. No matter if there were six songs or 12 songs, they were all songs that we thought were important. And “Hillbilly Bone” was the one we wanted to step forward with.
And I think it was the revival of my career, you know what I mean? I think I was existing up until that point. But that was me finally stepping out. Me finally being the guy to the public that everybody behind the scenes knew. And me going, “You know what? I’m this guy. I’ve got to be this guy on my records and to the public.” And here I am talking about it, talking about it in a good way, rather than, “Oh, man, that was dumb!”
Does this make you want to keep dreaming bigger and see how much bigger it can all get?
Absolutely, because I didn’t see this coming. … I would think if you were looking towards this entertainer award you would think, “Man, I’m peaking right now. I need to be getting this right now.” I didn’t think about that tonight. I was thinking, “There’s Taylor Swift, right there. I mean, really? This is pretty dumb that there’s really anybody else even nominated.”
But having said that, I didn’t really think about it. But I’ve got so much more I want to do. In fact, I’m still trying to figure out how to even schedule all the things that I want to do because country music is still on the forefront for me. But because of my other job with The Voice, I get pulled away from touring. But that’s about it. I still make records and I still tour as much as I can, but country music is still my job. That is still what I do and what I want to do, where I came from and where I’m going.
And I challenge any son of a bitch in this room right now to a country music quiz right now. This is not a joke to me. This is my heart. This is my soul. I know who the founders of country music were. And I know who took it to the next step. And I know who pushed the boundaries in the 1970s and who pushed them in the 1980s. This is a big deal. Country music is my life. I understand it. I’ve studied it. It’s what I live and breathe.
To be male vocalist of the year is the biggest deal in the world to me. Entertainer of the year is a bigger deal to me. But is it leaving me wondering what’s next? Hell, no! Hell, no! It’s making me go, “Oh, my gosh, I’m starting to become one of those guys that I’ve read about and I’ve studied and I’ve understood and I’ve worshiped. What do I do with this?” And it’s very important to me what I do with this. That’s why a vehicle like The Voice is such a big deal because it’s on my shoulders how everybody in this room and everybody in that other room is represented.