The Country Boy Who Lived It
Shelton has experienced immense success over the years as he not only employs his singing skills, but his business talents as well. With a new vodka brand, and a chain of restaurants underway, he’s got a lot on his plate for the new year! However, getting to where he is now was no easy feat, as he encountered ridicule, heartbreak, and challenge.
In the small town of Ada, Oklahoma, a young talent was born. Growing up in the countryside meant that Shelton was a natural at telling stories through his music. He found his passion in singing and songwriting very early on and knew that that’s what he was destined to pursue. After playing at a few bars in his hometown, he decided to take a leap and move to Nashville, Tennessee at the early age of 17. He began to accept small jobs here and there to support himself, such as moving furniture, while he worked simultaneously on his craft. It wasn’t long before a mutual connection helped Shelton to get signed by Giant Records, and in 2001, he had his first hit with “Austin.” It reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and Shelton was ecstatic at its reception. That same year he released his debut album, Blake Shelton, through Warner Bros. Records, as they had bought out Giant Records. The other singles off of the album, “Ol’ Red” and “All Over Me” also did well on the charts, and the album was certified platinum by the RIAA.
He went on to receive even more good praise with his second album, The Dreamer (2003), which was certified gold by the RIAA. He was awarded his second #1 single with “The Baby,” which spent three weeks at the top position of the Billboard country charts. The album itself peaked at #8 on the Billboard 200. As time went on, Shelton’s next three albums did considerably well, but he still hadn’t seen superstardom or recognition in the way that he had always imagined. It was time to step it up. In an effort to shake things up a bit, Shelton cut his mullet off (Despite his hesitancy to), changed his style of dress, found a new producer, and latched onto his biggest break yet: NBC’s The Voice. In 2011, when he debuted as a coach on the show, it became obvious that this was going to change the course of his career. It gave him visibility and influence in his position as a coach in one of those big, red chairs, and people began to take notice. His next album, Red River Blue (2011), became his first album to peak at #1 on the Billboard 200. His constant appearance on the show created a personality beyond the singer that fans began to love as they took notice of his self-deprecating humor, and hilarious, friendly jabs at costar and judge, Adam Levine.
“I made some of the most important relationships in my life by being a part of that show,” Shelton says about his The Voice costars, “It’s so foreign to see anything that’s genuine on television these days. That’s why I think so much attention is focused on Adam and I… I just think the world of that dude.”
Close friendships and #1 albums weren’t all that came out of his appearance on the popular show. Over the next couple of years, awards were also part of the benefits that Shelton was able to reap. Red River Blue was nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Album, as well as his performance of “Honey Bee” for Best Country Solo Performance in 2012. He has won a total of five Academy of Country Music Awards, including “Male Vocalist of the Year” and “Song of the Year” in 2011 and 2012, respectively. More recently, he took home an ACM for “Best Video of the Year” in 2016, and a Billboard music award for “Top Country Artist” in 2017. However, with all of this success comes some bumps in the road, which Shelton certainly faced.
In 2015, Blake was dealing with a rough chapter in his life. After being married to country singer Miranda Lambert for four years, the couple had announced their divorce. Fans had deemed the couple “the king and queen of country,” and they were highly public with their relationship. Thus, the end of their relationship was just as public. Shelton, experiencing heartache and stress due to the tabloid coverage of his divorce, fell into a bit of a slump. “I was at rock bottom, in the middle of hell,” the country star admits.
He began to find his way out of the hole through music, writing song after song for his most revealing, personal album to date: If I’m Honest. Prior to the album, Shelton had done mostly uplifting, funny songs, which matched his edgy, jester personality, and his self-pronounced “redneck” image. He has always sung these tongue-in-cheek songs well, and they do make an appearance on If I’m Honest, but the majority of the album gave way to a new side of Shelton: vulnerability. “When you have a broken heart — at least, when I do — you got to get it out of your system,” he says about the album’s content. It’s safe to say his fans loved this new side of him, as the work went on to debut at #3 on the Billboard 200 when it was released in May of 2016. Another interesting factor about the album? It hints at his then-new relationship with singer Gwen Stefani!
On the duet track, “Go Ahead and Break my Heart,” a notable shift arises in the album’s tone, as the track allows for lighter and happier content. Stefani and Shelton belt out their hearts on the song as they sing about being scared to enter a new relationship after leaving an old one, making it quite obvious to the world about where their relationship stands. The two had met on The Voice, where they were both judges during seasons 7, 9, and 12. Initially, they didn’t express interest in each other upon first meeting, but after Shelton revealed his divorce to the cast of the show, Stefani found herself able to relate. She approached him privately after he made the announcement and disclosed that she too was in the process of divorcing her then husband, Bush singer Gavin Rossdale. The couple had been together for some twenty years, and with three kids together; she found solace in Shelton as he understood her anguish. “That’s kind of how our friendship and bond started, that day…Next thing I know, I wake up and she’s all I care about, and I’m wondering if she feels the same about me,” Shelton gushes. It wasn’t long before their romance was confirmed, and today they’re still going strong!
Despite that bump in the road, Shelton remains positive and is happier than ever as he conquers new goals. Playing on his famous love of his favorite cocktail (a diet Sprite and vodka), Blake decided to create his own vodka brand in 2016. Smithworks Vodka is made and manufactured in the U.S., with corn from Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, and water from Lake Fort Smith. Right now it’s available in mostly middle America states, but is available to order online.
The year after, in 2017, Shelton decided to tackle another business venture: the restaurant business. By teaming with Ryman Hospitality Properties, Shelton developed a restaurant and bar named Ole Red, after the name of one of his first hits. The first restaurant opened in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, right next to his hometown of Ada, and for the second opening, he got strategic. The country music capital of the world was his best pick, right in homey Nashville, Tennessee. The restaurant chain focuses on good food, country music, and fun cocktails like “Tishomingo Sunset,” or “Cumberland Punch.” A fourth location near us here in South Florida will open in Orlando in 2020!
It was also that same year that he released his latest album, Texoma Shore, where it debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200, making it his 11th Top 10 album; an incredible feat! The record also hit #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums as fans streamed it consistently. With all of this success comes a confident glow, and People magazine were the first to notice as they crowned Shelton 2017’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” He flashed a megawatt smile on the cover of People with the brag worthy headline on every newsstand.
Now as we continue to stroll into 2019, Shelton has already hit the ground running. He will be the host of the 50th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s 1968 “Comeback Special” on NBC. On February 17th, the “Elvis All-Star Tribute Special” will air, with Shelton as the face of it! In addition to paying tribute to an American icon, Shelton will also pay tribute to his friends on his Friends & Heroes Tour! He will parade all across the U.S., with his first show on February 14th in Oklahoma. The Bellamy Brothers, Lauren Alaina, Trace Adkins, and John Anderson will all join him as he sings and dances on stage. On March 9th, he’ll be hitting up the BB&T Center right here in SoFlo, so make sure you grab your tickets to catch him singing about those “hillbilly bones!”
By Selene Rivera