Blake Shelton is celebrating the release of If I'm Honest today by spinning hits by some of the musical heroes who influenced the new album. The country star has teamed with Pandora for a custom Mixtape that features artists from Keith Whitley and Johnny Cash to Zac Brown Band and the Dixie Chicks.
Shelton's If I'm Honest, his 10th studio album, features the singer's own name in the writing credits more so than any other of his LPs. Even songs penned by outside writers hit close to home, with storylines reflecting the singer's recent divorce from Miranda Lambert and new relationship with Gwen Stefani.
"When my fans hear this new album for the first time, they're gonna realize that it's been a crazy, crazy past 12 or 13 months for me," he tells Pandora. "If you had told me a year ago the changes that would have happened in my life, I would have called you a liar. And the surprise element, the ups and the downs, they're all in this record. That's why I'm calling it If I’m Honest, because I'm just telling it how I see it."
And Shelton doesn't hold back. There's a scathing breakup song called "She's Got a Way With Words," a song about a barroom rebound romance called "Came Here to Forget," and on the other end of the spectrum one of the most poignant, spiritual songs of his career, "Savior's Shadow," about faith getting him through the hard times.
Shelton shares stories behind some of those wildly personal tunes below, including what he says is "the most important song I've ever written."
"Came Here to Forget"
"Came Here to Forget” is a song that I absolutely fell in love with the first time I heard it. Craig Wiseman and Deric Ruttan actually wrote the song, and I didn’t realize it but Craig was kind of given the task to write a song for me about what had happened to me in my personal life, and when I first started seeing Gwen. It's all in there. Really, the only difference is we didn't actually meet up at a bar. That would have been kinda hard to keep that on the down low.
I got a call last year from a big time movie producer in Hollywood named John Cohen. He had a movie that he wanted to talk to me about and it ended up being the Angry Birds movie. He wanted me to sing a song in the movie and play a small character, and I told him I would but I would like to have a stab at actually writing the song for the movie. He said, "Whatever you wanna do, man, that's good with me.” So I called my old friend Jessi Alexander and we actually wrote this song over voice memos, sending them back and forth to each other through text messages on our phone. It took us about a week to write the song, and we went in and demoed it and sent it to John Cohen, and he flipped out. He put it in the movie and it became one of my favorite songs on the record, so I decided not only is it going to be on that soundtrack but I want it for my album, too.
"It Ain't Easy"
"It Ain't Easy" is one of my favorite songs on the record because it feels like it comes from a different time and a difference place. It's got elements of maybe some of those old Muscle Shoals recordings, but with a current edge to it. And it's just a good feel-good song.
"Savior’s Shadow" is a song that I actually woke up one morning and had been dreaming the song. At some point during the night I woke up and, like we all do, we start thinking what we were dreaming about. I started thinking, "Oh my God, what was that song that I was dreaming?" And I was only able to remember a little bit of it, and I wrote it down and recorded it. And then a few months later, I revisited that verse that I had written and I wrote the second verse and then I felt a little bit stuck with it, so I called my friends Jessi Alexander and Jon Randall and asked them if they would help me out. And it was just maybe 24 hours later, they had written the chorus to the song, which I think makes the song. It's got to be the most important song for me personally that I’ve ever written.
"Straight Outta Cold Beer"
"Straight Outta Cold Beer" is nothing more than just country insanity. Basically it’s just about having a throwdown out in the woods — that’s what we used to do in high school. I can’t honestly sit here and say that I do it much anymore, I’m getting too old, but it’s fun for me to sing about those times and the crazy stuff that I used to do, and the crazy stuff that I know somewhere, as we speak right now, kids are doing somewhere in somebody's field. I know you're tearing it up out there.
Listen to Blake Shelton's Pandora Mixtape here.