It's hard to imagine Blake Shelton ever being caught off-guard ... but he sure was in January, when Grand Ole Opry manager Steve Buchanan asked him over lunch his thoughts about the Opry and if he'd be interested in joining someday. Blake's immediate response was that he didn't think there was any artist more interested or knowledgeable about the history of country music than himself. But then he said he wasn't sure he would fit in with them.

"I said, 'As I stand back and look at it as a fan, it seems to me more of a family-oriented type show,'" Blake tells CMT. "There are not as many polarizing artists like myself that are members. I don't know if that's by design. And if it's by design, then I probably shouldn't be a member of the Opry."

Pressing his point, Buchanan reassured the singer of his rightful place on the main stage of country music as a relevant artist today, regardless of his personal views.

"He said, 'The Opry is just a showcase for popular country artists,'" Blake continues, thinking back to that conversation. "[He said] we don't care what your stance is. That's not our business. Our business is to showcase country music, and you're a part of it now.'"

Seven months later, Blake is thinking about that conversation more than ever.

"After he beat me over the head with that, now all I can think about is hopefully being a member of the Grand Ole Opry one day ... because it really would mean a lot to me!"

Blake's first appearance on the Opry in May 2001 as a newcomer to Nashville is forever seared in his heart -- albeit a bit fuzzy in his mind, due to understandable nerves.

"I sang 'Austin' and ... that's all I remember," Blake says of the auspicious occasion. "I remember thinking, 'Man, this is my shot.' The song might have been in the 50s [on the country chart] at that point. It had been out for maybe two weeks. I just remember thinking, 'Here it is, here's my song.' There's no telling what else I did -- probably threw up."

Blake is scheduled to perform on the Opry stage on Aug. 17 and Aug. 20. Over the years, he's stood in that hallowed circle about 20 times, fulfilling what he considers a time-honored obligation of being a country singer.

"I always thought, 'Well, you play the Grand Ole Opry on weekends and then you make albums in the middle of the week. Then I learned that it's something that you either want to do or you don't want to do. But if you do want to do it, it's a lot of responsibility.

"It's a big thing if a country artist, especially a popular touring artist, takes off a weekend to be at the Grand Ole Opry," Blake continues. "People don't realize you don't make any money doing that. I think there is a union fee that you go eat dinner with that night, but that's not why people support it. People support it for the history of country music."