BMI, the performance rights organization, saluted singer Blake Shelton and songwriters Cory Batten and Jennifer Adan at its Nashville headquarters Friday (March 13) for their recent No. 1 success with "She Wouldn't Be Gone."
It was Shelton's second No. 1 in a row, following last year's chart-topping hit, "Home."
Shelton was in high spirits when he talked to reporters before the party, especially when he spoke of his upcoming tour with George Strait.
But he was modest about his ability to recognize hit songs in advance. "Every now and then, I've gotten my hands on a great song and it's kept my career going," he said. "I can't sit here and tell you it's by design."
He said he was drawn to "She Wouldn't Be Gone" because it's a lament about things not done to hold a relationship together. "My favorite songs are about things I regret and things I've screwed up on in the past," he explained. "I just relate to that stuff so much."
The downside of the song, Shelton continued, is that it's difficult to sing, what with its torrent of words and stop-and-go rhythms. "Hell, yeah!" he exclaimed. "I wish Cory [Batten, the co-writer] was in here so I could slap him.
"Any time I perform [the song] -- like I did by myself acoustically on the Today show, as if I wasn't nervous enough already -- I try to get a deep breath so I don't run out of air. That's not one you do toward the end of the show after you've been drinking and when you're out of breath. You kind of do that one about half way through -- when you're getting warmed up and haven't blown out your voice yet."
Shelton said a side effect of his recent chart successes is that songwriters are bringing him and his producers better songs. "It's just the snowball effect," he observed. "It starts, and then it grows and grows."
The singer's new single is "I'll Just Hold On," which he describes as being "basically about a guy who's completely whipped on this girl -- and he knows it. Instead of running away from that, he just embraces it and takes it for what it is."
It was momentum from his chart achievements, Shelton speculated, that led George Strait to tap him as one of his opening acts for his tour this year.
"That's probably the biggest deal of them all for me at this point," he said. "If there's one guy out there that I would want to be like, it would be George Strait. ... I'm from Oklahoma. George Strait could run for president and get our votes."
Shelton made it clear that Strait looms a lot larger on his radar than he does on Strait's. In fact, the 6-foot-5 singer said he has spoken to Strait only twice, neither time reassuringly.
"Did I tell you what the first thing George Strait ever said to me?" he asked a reporter, and then plunged ahead with his story. "It was the first [Country Music Association] show after 9/11," he recalled, "and they decided to close the entire show with a performance of, I think, 'America, the Beautiful.'
"Every artist who was a part of the show was to be back on stage at the end and sing this song together. They had like these little bleachers that we all stood on so you could see everybody. At rehearsal, I was standing next to George Strait.
"Up to that point, I'd never been in the same room that he was. [Somebody] said, 'Blake, have you met George?' So I turned to [Strait], and here's what he said to me, 'Damn, I thought you were standing on a step.' That was it. That was my first conversation with George Strait."
Years later, after Shelton began dating Miranda Lambert, he had his second encounter with his idol. He prefaced his story by noting that people he admires often focus on the vivacious Lambert while ignoring him.
"Strait was sitting right in front of us at an awards show," he said. "As he was talking to her, he kind of looked out of the corner of his eye and saw me sitting there, and he said, 'Hey, Blake.' So I texted my mom and said, 'Strait just said hi to me.'"
Responding to a flurry of other questions, Shelton confessed that he's "turned on" by the way the Southern belles dress at the Kentucky Derby (where he'll be performing April 30), that he's given up on the prospect of acting in movies because the deals he's been offered keep falling through and that people are "coming out of the woodwork" to ask for tickets to the June 6 show in which Strait opens the new Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington, Texas.
"[My producer] Scott Hendricks is begging me for tickets to that show," Shelton beamed, "and I will figure out a way to use this to my advantage."
Of the "new generation" of country singers, Shelton cited as his favorites Lady Antebellum, Jamey Johnson and Jake Owen, whom he described as "an incredible singer."
By the time BMI's Jody Williams begin handing out awards, the crowd had grown so large, there was hardly space to move around the room.
When Williams introduced Batten and Adan to the crowd, Shelton shouted, "I love you." Then, after Williams had presented Batten a ceremonial guitar for co-writing his first No. 1 single, Shelton inquired loudly, "What about when you sing one?"
Williams noted that Adan was a graduate of the 2006 Jeffrey Steele Songwriting Boot Camp and had scored this, her first hit, within a year and a half of moving to Nashville from her native California. He added that several members of her family had flown in for the party.
Noting that "She Wouldn't Be Gone" is Shelton's fifth No. 1 song, Williams pronounced him to be "one of the most interesting artists in our format."
Bill Bennett, head of Shelton's record label, Warner Bros. Nashville, presented the singer with a gold album award, signifying retail store orders of 500,000 copies of his previous collection, Pure BS.
Bennett praised Shelton as "truly the most beloved artist on the label [and] the most sincere man I know."