Blake Toasts End to Traditional Albums … and Bachelorhood
Saying Blake Shelton has had a good year is about as big of an understatement as saying he has a good sense of humor. In January, the Oklahoma-bred jokester’s hilarious ‘Hillbilly Bone’ video with Trace Adkins became a TV and internet sensation. In February, he fulfilled a career dream by headlining a sold-out show at Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium. In March, Blake debuted at No. 1 on the country album charts with ‘Hillbilly Bone,’ his first in a series of ‘Six Pak’ mini-albums. He won his first-ever ACM Award in April. In May, he won a “yes” to his proposal of marriage to longtime girlfriend Miranda Lambert. Blake scored his first CMT Award in June. And in July, his new tune, ‘All About Tonight,’ became his fastest-rising single to date.
So what does August have in store for Blake? Perhaps another visit to the country album penthouse, as he releases his second Six Pak, also titled ‘All About Tonight,’ on August 10. The Boot caught up with Blake at Nashville’s Starstruck Studios to talk about several tracks on the new project. We also play wedding planner with the groom-to-be and get some inside scoop on his big day.
The Six Pak idea was met with a bit of skepticism, but your first one was a huge success. Have you gotten to say “I told you so” to anyone?
I can’t even take credit for the Six Pak idea, so I haven’t been going around saying “I told you so” to anybody. I think the true test is gonna be the second one, because the first one had a lot of publicity around it and a lot of people were interested to see what is a six pack: Is it just six songs? Is it an EP? What is this thing? The truth is, it was successful mostly because ‘Hillbilly Bone’ was a big hit and people wanted it, so they bought whatever it was on. But this second one, I don’t have any reason to think it won’t do well also, because ‘All About Tonight’ is also another big record. I guess we’ll find out if people want to own it or not! If you’ve got the right song, people are gonna find it one way or another. I’d like to think that people are more passionate about music; if there’s something that they want, they’re gonna get it.
And you’ve now started a trend with other artists.
I think we’re just seeing albums go away, to be honest with you. People are scrambling to figure out how they can prolong the life of an album. But as long as the shelf space continues to shrink at retail, there’s just no room for them anymore … which is fine with me! I would love to be the next person in country to just release digital singles, but I think we’re probably a little ways from that.
Rhett Akins told us he wrote ‘All About Tonight’ (with co-writers Ben Hayslip and Dallas Davidson) specifically with you in mind. That has to be flattering.
[laughs] Every writer will always say, “Man, I wrote this song for you,” and then when you talk to other artists they’re like, “Man, that jackass told me the same thing!” But with Rhett, maybe he actually did write a song with me in mind, just because I cut so many of his songs. But it’s a good place to be when there’s a certain song that, even if I’m not singing it, somebody goes, “That sounds like a Blake Shelton song.” That’s when you’re finally creating that sound that is unique to one specific artist, which is what people like Travis Tritt and Garth Brooks did. So if that’s what it’s coming to, if people are writing songs specifically for me, that’s a good thing.
So was ‘Draggin’ the River’ written specifically for you and Miranda?
That song was pitched to me by [my producer] Scott Hendricks; it’s a Chris Stapleton song. I was sitting next to Miranda on my bus and I said, “Listen, what do you think about this song?” She flipped out over it. She said, “That could be a great duet.” It wasn’t written as a duet; it was just from the guy’s point of view. And she and I had made this pact that we don’t do cheesy love duets, it’s just not us. So if there was ever a song that was a perfect lyric for us and our personalities, it was ‘Dragging the River.’ I think it was meant to be for us, there’s not been a song that I know of that she and I can sing in the same key, and for whatever reason that melody was perfect, that lyric was perfect, and I’m already hearing from fans that it’s one of their favorites.
There’s some funny banter between the two of you at the end of that song.
The outtakes that we ended up using were probably the most PG [rated]. Scott Hendricks was really pushing us to throw the insults out there and take jabs at each other. On the original version of that, we were talking back and forth until the end of the song and I said, “Man this is too much. There’s stuff in there about bringing the beer and burning the parents’ house down and crap like that.” [laughs] So finally I said, “Just let her insult me at the end, and I’ll apologize about calling her dad a son of a bitch and we’ll leave it at that.”
When you and Miranda write together, is it an even playing field or is one of you more of the boss?
She’s the writer, but she leans on me for guitar stuff. That’s how it’ll start, me just sitting around playing some kind of a new guitar thing I’ve come up with, or she’ll come up with a title and I’ll try to come up with something that works with what she said. Then she’ll start singing a melody. But 70 percent of those songs we write together I’ll give her most of the credit, because she’s definitely the powerhouse writer between the two of us.
What’s more likely: you serenading Miranda at your wedding or vice versa?
If there’s gonna be any singing to each other, it’ll be in a fun way, maybe at the reception. But one thing we agree on, we want the wedding to be quick, 10 minutes … 15 at the most. We’ll be ready to go out and celebrate and have fun with our friends and family, so all the music will happen at the after-party.
All eyes are on which designer Miranda will choose for her dress, so we’ll let you take the fashion spotlight for a change. What will you be wearing when you say “I do”?
She told me she wants me to be comfortable. She said, “I want you to wear your blue jeans and boots, and we’ll find you a cool jacket,” which shocked the hell out of me! I figured she’d want me to get really dressed up, but she wants me and all my guys to just be comfortable.
Speaking of fashion, can you honestly tell us what a Manolo Blahnik is … since you name drop it in ‘Got a Little Country’?
No, in fact, I don’t know! See, I thought it was called ‘Minono Blandick’ … How do you say it? Its not Milano Blanick? It’s too late now, it’s on the record that way. We really don’t give a crap, just to be honest with you. I’m probably not gonna be endorsed any time soon by Manolo Blahnik purses or shoes, so we didn’t really care that we screwed up the name of the company.
Miranda and Hillary Scott (Lady Antebellum) have co-writing credits on ‘Suffocating,’ which is a very emotional song on your new album. Did you ask them to write for you or was it more of a surprise gift?
I didn’t even know they had written a song together! Miranda had been on the road with Lady Antebellum, and she flew out to one of my shows. She said, “I’m excited. I wrote this song, listen to it … I think it’s a guy song.” I listened to it and said, “Don’t pitch it to anybody! I wanna cut this thing, and lets bring in Hillary to do the harmony for the recording.” So we did, and the only other voice on the track is Hillary singing harmony. I think we sound pretty good together. So when [Lady A singer] Charles [Kelley] pisses off the other two, I should be a candidate for the new lead singer of Lady Antebellum. I already have the beard going, too, and I’m tall.
Of the songs you chose for this new Six Pak, is there one particular lyric that, when you heard it for the first time, you had to stop and rewind to listen to it again?
Well there’s two lines in ‘Who Are You When I’m Not Looking.’ I love the line about “sliding down the hallway in her socks” and then “do you paint your toes ’cause you bite your nails?” I’m a huge Joe Nichols fan, and he put this song out an album called ‘Real Things.’ I was excited for Joe when I heard it, thinking “that will easily be Joe Nichols’ career song.” I was even more excited when they got out of that album and they never released it as a single, because then I was like, “Now that’s gonna be my career single.”
Every song you’ve released since 2007 has made the Top Ten. Do you feel like the pressure is on to keep topping yourself?
For the first time, I actually don’t feel any pressure right now. I think if you had asked me three years ago, “Do you feel pressure about ‘Home’ coming out?” … and I did. We were constantly trying to dig out of a hole or make a comeback or try to prove to radio that you all do need to be playing my records. And not to sound cocky, but the last few singles going so well kinda makes you take a deep breath and go, “OK, I know things are going well enough that they’re at least gonna give this next one a shot.” And I think once they give it a shot, it’ll do well for the station. When I hear other artists talk, they talk about “How come radio’s not playing my song?” Well, you have to look at it under a microscope and know that each station is just trying to do what’s right for their market, and it’s scary for a radio station to add a song that they don’t know how well it’s gonna do for them. I have always felt good enough about my music — that it’s broader, it works across the board and now, with some momentum, everybody’s at least gonna give it a shot. And once they do, it should do well for them because there’s nothing in there about me hating my hometown or something like that! [laughs]