Blake Shelton is one of country music's most recognizable mainstream crossover stars -- but that wasn't always so. In the latest installment of our From the Vault series, we take a look back at an interview Shelton gave The Boot in 2008, upon the release of his 'Startin' Fires' album.

Back in those days, the singer was dating and working with, but not married to, Miranda Lambert, and while he was a well-known country star, he was mostly unknown outside of the genre. In the following interview, Shelton -- who crossed over into mainstream superstardom in no small part thanks to his weekly coaching gig on NBC's hit reality singing competition 'The Voice' -- admits that he doesn't care for reality TV.

He also talks about being "off the radar" -- ironic in light of the fact that he's now the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year, whose Ten Times Crazier Tour is one of the hottest attractions of 2013.

This interview was first published on Dec. 2, 2008 by The Boot Staff.

What's the craziest gift a fan has given you?

We were playing a fair, and a few people were handing me stuffed animals and flowers, but one person handed me a paper sack. So I took all the stuff back to the bus. I put the sack in my lap and opened it, and a live iguana jumped out of the sack and onto my shirt. I screamed like a little girl! I think it took a year off my life -- it scared the crap out of me.

Did you learn anything new about Miranda from touring with her?

She’s real hard on her live performances and how the audience reacts to her. There were a couple of times where she’d stop the concert in the middle of a song, and she’d tell the audience, "If that’s the best you got, why did you even come to this concert? Y’all need to stand up and act like you like music!" And then people would look at each other like, "Yeah, what the hell are we doing sitting down?"

What ran through your mind when you heard you were one of 'People' magazine’s sexiest men?

I didn’t really understand what the deal was. So I said some stupid stuff! Then I found out it was a big deal … so I don’t think they know me very well! But my favorite thing about it is that I know my mom, who cuts hair in Ada, Okla., will cut that page out of the magazine and tape it to her mirror and point it out to everybody who comes to the shop.

What celebrity would you not want to be right now?

I would not want to be Richard Simmons … right now or anytime. He seems like a nice guy, but if I had to dress like that? That would absolutely suck.

Do people still flip you off when you sing ‘Some Beach?'

Every night when we get to the line about flipping me the bird in ‘Some Beach,’ I see 15-20 people flipping me off in the audience. It’s funny when there’s someone new on stage -- if we’ve hired a new band member -- I turn around to see the look on their face when I get the bird. They always look panicked like, "Oh my gosh, they hate us!" And we all laugh, because we get flipped off every night!

What’s the best tour prank ever played on you?

Brad Paisley took one of those stick-up air fresheners and took the stuff that smells good out of it and put raw chicken in it. He stuck that under the table on my bus, and for two weeks, you couldn’t get onto the bus without throwing up. That’s how long it took us to find it.

Who is a newer country artist you admire?

Keith Anderson is one of my favorite artists right now for several reasons. He doesn’t sound like anybody else on the radio, and he’s a badass songwriter. He’s had a No. 1 hit with Big & Rich; written for Gretchen Wilson; plus his own hits. He’s so talented but doesn’t seem to get a lot of credit.

If you had to be on a reality TV show, which would you be on?

I hate reality shows. But if I had to be on one, I’d have to say ‘Realtree Road Trips’ on the Outdoor Channel.

Who’s tougher on you -- yourself or your critics?

My critics are pretty tough. I’ve never been one of the music industry’s pets. I’ve always been one of those guys who’s a little bit off the radar in Nashville. But that’s OK. That’s why my career has lasted as long as it has, because people forget I’m around! [Laughs.]

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken with your career?

The single choices. I remember telling the head of Warner Brothers that if they’d just make a video for ‘Ol’ Red’ … and if it didn’t work, they could drop me from the label. I talked him into it, which was a big risk at the time because this was in 2001 when there really weren’t any songs about going to jail, killing somebody … or dogs! It could’ve easily backfired. If we hadn’t made that video, people wouldn’t have gotten the song.

What’s your theory on how to succeed in country music?

The worst thing you can try to do in this business is try to fit in. If you try to fit in, you don’t stand out. And if you don’t stand out, you’re a nobody. So I’ve always tried to do things different, and that’s probably the reason I haven’t broken out and become one of those superstars, but I also think it’s the same reason that I haven’t gone away in all that time.

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