It’s a Monday, and Blake Shelton is being shouted at and pulled in several directions at once during a photo shoot for “The Voice.”
And this is an easy day. The next day he’ll be filming for close to 12 hours, then 12 hours the next as producers of the surprise NBC hit try to nail down video for the preliminary rounds of the reality singing show, which begins its second season Sunday night after the Super Bowl.
For Shelton, a native Oklahoman, this is now his life: he’s part Hollywood, part Nashville.
He won’t say it, but there’s little doubt that one of the main reasons “The Voice” was a breakout hit was because of him. He had immediate chemistry with fellow judges and musical superstars Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera.
And Shelton’s unique brand of humor resonated with viewers. His Twitter followers soared during the first season and now number more than 800,000.
In Nashville, he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry at the end of 2010. He’s the reigning Country Music Association male vocalist of the year, has multiple nominations for the Feb. 12 Grammys show and five straight No. 1 hits, is married to fellow superstar Miranda Lambert and is in the midst of a headlining tour.
It’s a lot of success for one person, and he’s afraid to think too deeply about how it’s all happened.
“It freaks me out when I think about it too much,” Shelton says when he finally makes his way to a phone.
“We’re swinging for the fence this year with the tour. You’ve got to lay it out on the line if you want to be one of those artists who get a lot of people to come out to their shows. We’ve got staging I’ve never seen before,” he says, before stopping to chuckle. “If you knew how odd it is for me to talk about this stuff ... because I’ve never cared about it before. I’m the kind of guy who likes to get out there and sing. I’m a musician, but even I’m impressed by some of the cool stuff we’ve got.”
It’s not just the staging he’s excited about. Dia Frampton, whom he mentored last season on “The Voice,” is opening for him. She finished a close second in the voting for “The Voice” winner.
“People always talk about how I coached her, but I learn as much from her as she’s learned from me,” Shelton says. “I don’t know anybody as creative and unique and off the wall as Dia Frampton. She’s always asking me, ‘Am I too weird?’ I just tell her, ‘People don’t think you’re weird, they think you’re cool.’ No one has heard music like hers.”
This is pretty much Shelton’s first full-blown headlining tour, and he’s willing to learn as he goes.
“I don’t ask other artists for too much advice. I’m afraid to do that too much because then you end up copying someone’s show. One of my pet peeves about Nashville is that it tends to be copycatted. I don’t want to do that. I’ve got to be different.”
If he were looking for advice, a good place to start would be with Levine, Green or Aguilera, each of whom he now considers a close friend, but he just laughs when asked if he ever leans on them for their opinions.
“I just lean on them at parties when I’m drinking and I need something to lean against.”
There isn’t any apparent jealousy among the four judges, even when it comes to one of Shelton’s passions — his Twitter account. Told that Levine has him beat by about 400,000 followers, Shelton doesn’t miss a beat.
“I can’t believe he doesn’t have more. Maroon 5 are worldwide stars. Even I’m secure enough to tell you that Adam is one good-looking dude. He should have more.”
It’s not unusual for Shelton to make a crack like that. Nashville has experienced his style of humor for more than a decade. Now, his Twitter following is soaring because of the often wild and possibly inappropriate stories he’ll tell. And for that, he’s unrepentant.
But Shelton’s not just a comedy act. He’s a serious musician and songwriter. When “God Gave Me You” hit the top of the charts in October, it was his fifth straight chart-topper and 10th of his career. His wife’s current single, “Over You,” is a soul-searing ballad written by Shelton and Lambert that is based on the death of his older brother, Richie, who was killed in a car accident when Shelton was 14 years old.
So whether you think of him as a comic or a poet, you still have to call him a superstar, a moniker with which he’s still trying to get comfortable.
“Ironically, it’s been 11 years after my first hit that this is all turning into what I dreamed it would be. Since it’s taken so long, it feels even more special.”
Scripps Howard News Service