Blake Shelton Previews a Rowdier New Album and a More Competitive New 'Voice' Season - Rolling Stone
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Blake Shelton Previews a Rowdier New Album and a More Competitive New ‘Voice’ Season

Blake Shelton

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Blake Shelton may seem like a laconic fellow, but behind that casual country ‘tude, there’s obviously a lot of drive that lets him keep three irons in the fire—namely, the imminent arrivals of a new album, a new season of The Voice, and his annual hosting stint for the Academy of Country Music Awards.

During Nashville’s Country Radio Seminar this past week, Shelton sat down with a few key programmers and DJs to preview his forthcoming album, Based on a True Story, which comes out March 26. In a conversation after the playback, he talked about some of the new record’s more provocative songs (like “I’ve Still Got a Finger”) and also how changing partners on The Voice and the ACMs might change the tenor of those gigs. We sat in on the chat and bring you some highlights, here…

On how the chemistry of The Voice has changed by subbing in two new judges:

The dynamics of the show now are different. I didn’t realize till Cee-Lo and Christina took some time off that that show is really centered around the four of us. I guess in my mind it’s always just been the machine—the overall idea of the show, the concept. But when Cee-Lo and Christina were gone, it was like I was learning how to do it all over again, and the producers were learning how to react all over again. Not that Shakira and Usher did anything wrong. It was just two different personalities, and I just didn’t realize how much the show became about those personalities…

On his chances of having his Voice team win three times in a row:

“Adam and I have always just kind of lollygagged through this thing and not taken it too seriously— just had fun with it. And man, I tell you what, we got in those blind auditions, and with Shakira and Usher, it wasn’t playtime. They were very serious and determined to win this thing. And Adam and I were like ‘Damn, all right, I see how it is now.’ They’ve been paying attention. I guess I just kind of thought they would come rolling in like we know Cee-Lo or Christina do, with gimmicks and all these things that are just fun about them. But they came in with one mission, which was to win the thing. And I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them does, because they’re putting a lot of time and effort into it…

“That was one of the things that was mentioned by Shakira and Usher in the blind auditions, when we would all be fighting over one particular artist: ‘You could go with Blake, but you know there’s no way he’ll win three times in a row. People are tired of him.’ And then I started going, damn, I’ll bet people are tired of me winning! I probably won’t win this thing three years in a row! It starts working its way nto your own mind. So they’re smart, those two. I’ve gotta hand it to ‘em. I mean, they’re losers, but they’re smart.”

On whether he’d take a hiatus from The Voice, like Christina and Cee-Lo are doing now:

“Something’s gotta give at some point. It’s like trying to hold back a river. I’ve got to get back to what I love the most, which is performing live. It’s the reason I got into this business. But I also don’t want to look back one day and go ‘Man, I wish I had tried this or that, just to see what would happen.’ And The Voice is the thing that has led me to a lot of those types of things, like a Christmas special or Reba’s show or all the different things I’ve gotten to do because of that. So I don’t want to just give it up. Because I can’t imagine me ever sitting out a season. I think I’m either gonna keep doing it or not. I don’t ever see me walking away and then coming back. That doesn’t make sense to me. I think it’s a phase, and once that chapter’s over, it’s over.”

On being a happy guy making a happy album:

“I’m very content with my life. I mean, who wouldn’t be? I’m happy, so in making the album, even with the ballads I did, I was very much [feeling] like ‘I don’t want to do a sad song, dammit.’ And [then I thought], well, you better—this is a country album, so you gotta do a couple! So there are a couple of ballads on there. But I’m just not in that frame of mind right now, and I don’t want to make that kind of music. I think that I’ve had those years where I made those type of [wistful] records, and I don’t want to now. Something will happen one of these days and it will be a part of my music again. But right now, everything’s pretty awesome…

“I just think that every song on the album, I’ve either been in those situations before or I’m going through ‘em right now. There’s songs like ‘Doing What She Likes’ and ‘Ten Times Crazier’ that are kind of where I’m at right now. There’s a song called ‘Granddaddy’s Gun’; I actually have my granddad’s gun. So when the marketing department started calling and said ‘We actually gotta print these albums, what are you gonna call it?,’ I always feel like I cop out whenever I name an album after a song on the album. I always end up looking back going, ‘Man, you wimped out there.’ And so I listened to it and finally thought, ‘Man, it kind of is my life, from start to finish.’ I thought, ‘That’s just what we’ll call it—we’ll just say it’s based on a true story.’ And normally my ideas like that don’t stick, but somehow that one got through.”

On the new album’s first single, “Sure Be Cool If You Did”:

“It’s got a lot of the elements that you try and include on an album, all in one song: It’s kind of manic, it’s a little bit mischievous, it’s got a cool groove to it, it’s happy, it’s in a bar… It’s just about a guy picking up a girl. It’s easy to listen to and not have to think about that hard. And the production of that song is what I was the most excited about, because it’s kind of an indication of where I’m going musically. It’s got a loop in it, and it’s got some snaps and some samples and different sounds like that that people I don’t think would have ever expected to hear from me. But when I turn on the radio, I hear these records that Luke and Carrie and Jason are doing, and I’m going, ‘Man, I want in on some of that.’ So I wanted to incorporate some of the things that they’re doing on my album, too. Jealous.”

On “Boys Round Here” probably being the album’s next single:

“I don’t know what the official word is, but I do get a say-so, I think, so I’m hoping ‘Boys Round Here’ could be the next single. I love that song. To me that is the best way to put into a song my personality and the kind of people that I hang out with. That is, the guys back in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, and in every town around this country… [On the line ‘don’t take no s—‘], we do have a radio edit where we use the word ‘lip’—‘don’t take no lip.’… I also love that for once I got to pull from my Jerry Reed influence on that one and kind of do some talking in it. Jason Aldean is actually probably a really good rapper; I do more of the Jerry Reed-type rapping. Recitation. Or as Ashley Monroe said yesterday, ‘resuscitation’—and never understood what she said wrong, and we all laughed at her.”

On another rowdy new song, “Still Got a Finger,” that probably won’t be a single:

“To me, ‘I’ve Still Got a Finger,’ that’s kind of like the new version of ‘Take This Job and Shove It.’ It’s just a little edgier with the language, probably, and that’s the only difference. I just love the idea, because nobody ever really does that, but we all wish we could. It’s fun to hear that song and sing it and go ‘Yeah, you son of a bitch! Kiss my ass!’ Even though you never do it, because you just can’t, it’s fun to sing about stuff like that when you’re mad and in that mood. It just kind of makes you feel calmer.”

On playing Reba’s brother on her Malibu Country series recently:

“Sitcoms, I always figured that would be an easy gig, but man, it is not. The only drawback about playing the part of her brother is that eventually I know that phone’s gonna ring again and they’re gonna be like ;Man, we need you for another one.’… But what a cool experience, to see how she does that, and work with Lily Tomlin—oh my gosh. It was amazing to see that world and see how they work. It’s a lot of goofing off. But you’ve got to be a good goofer to do it right, and they’ve got the right ones. Hopefully I don’t mess the show up too bad.”

On hosting the ACMs April 7 with Luke Bryan subbing for Reba:

“People have asked me, is the show gonna be good without Reba? My answer is, no, it won’t be as good without Reba. But we’re gonna do the best we can. The problem with Luke and I is that Reba was the rock. She was the one that held it all together. She’s such a complete host. She can be funny and professional and on time and look good. And between me and Luke, I don’t know who the hell’s gonna be the rock. I guess it’s supposed to be me, and that’s kind of scary. But we just spent the day filming some commercials and promotion, and he’s really good with the camera and timing and teleprompter, and there’s still just enough Luke in there that it’s a lot of fun too. I think as we get closer, he’ll start to open up and see that this is something he’s gonna have fun with.”

On the prospects of future duets with Adam Levine or Cee-Lo:

“I don’t know as much about doing something with Adam. He and I have a mutual respect for what we do, and I think we know it doesn’t really work together. That might be why we’ve become such buddies, because it’s always been like, ‘Hey, man, you are a rock star, how do you do that,’ and he’s the same way with me with country. He always tries to imitate me. I won’t say we won’t ever do it, because as soon as I [say we won’t], we will. But it hasn’t been something we’ve ever talked about, which is fine. We’re just friends…

“But with Cee-Lo and I, we’re still talking about it right now. There’s a song we’re supposed to record together. Cee-Lo’s one of those guys that he’ll write a song on the spot [whereas] I have to think about stuff for weeks, months, sometimes a year. He’s brilliant, he’s a genius, and lyrically it’s just unbelievable. I went into the studio with him at one point—and I had been drinking, I will say. We were gonna record this song, and I was like ‘Well, where’s the lyrics at?’ He said, ‘Whatever you want to say, say it.’ And I go ‘I’ve never done it that way!’ He’s like ‘Yeah, you’ll be fine.’ There’s no telling what came out of my mouth. Clearly it wasn’t what he was expecting, either, because the song has never been out. And we’ve since talked again; he’s like ‘Man, we are going to do this song.’ So eventually we’re going to.”


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