Shelton brings his ‘Voice’ to Youngstown
Some only know Blake Shelton from his television gig trading barbs with Adam Levine as a judge on NBC’s “The Voice.”
But Shelton landed that gig by being one of the most successful country artists of the 21st century, and that’s the role he’ll be playing Saturday when he headlines the third Y Live concert at Stambaugh Stadium.
“Austin,” the lead single from Blake Shelton’s self-titled 2001 debut, topped the country charts, and it’s become a familiar position for the singer. He’s had more than 25 songs top either the Billboard country singles or country airplay chart, including “Some Beach,” “Home,” “She Wouldn’t Be Gone,” “Hillbilly Bone,” “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking,” “Honey Bee,” “God Gave Me You,” “Sure Be Cool if You Did,” “Boys Round Here,” “Sangria” and “I’ll Name the Dogs.”
He’s had similar success on “The Voice,” with six of the singers he mentored winning the singing competition.
Shelton agreed to answer some questions by email in advance of Y Live.
Ticket: It’s been nearly two years since the release of your last album, “Texoma Shore.” How far along are you on your next release?
Shelton: Well, obviously “God’s Country” is one of the first songs from the new batch, and one I’m so proud of and thankful for. I’m especially thankful to the songwriters who trusted me with it. We also just released “Hell Right,” which reunited me with my buddy Trace Adkins. I’ve said it a few times, I’m just putting out songs that feel good to me right now, and it’s been working great — but I’m sure the label will make me put out an album one of these days!
Ticket: With your success, I’m sure songwriters are sending you their “A” material for consideration. What’s your process for picking what to record and has it changed over the years?
Shelton: My producer, Scott Hendricks, is not only an amazing producer, but he also knows a great song when he hears one. He’ll send me a handful of songs and there are times he’ll say, “You have to listen to this one first.” That’s what happened with “God’s Country” and “Hell Right.” We basically recorded them each within a week (of) hearing them. The main thing that’s changed about my process — when we hear a good song, we cut it right away.
Ticket: You’ve co-written at least one song on most of your albums. Is songwriting something you enjoy, and how do you decide if one of your songs should make the record over the submissions of outside songwriters?
Shelton: The best song wins! I’m not insistent that I have a song I wrote on my albums, but it has worked out that (way) on the last few records I’ve had at least one cut. I’ll usually get an idea and text a songwriter friend and say, “Hey, what do you think about this?” That’s how the process begins.
Ticket: At this point in your career, you could fill an entire setlist with No. 1 country hits and not have room for all of them. How do you structure your show to appease the fans that want to hear the hits and also play new material or less obvious choices?
Shelton: The show is pretty hit-filled. I make sure we do my debut single, “Austin,” and we’re obviously doing “God’s Country,” so we’ve got the bookends and just fill in between. My fans are pretty vocal about what they want to hear. If I haven’t sung a song yet that they want, they let me know it.
Ticket: This may seem like a foolish question for someone who’s had as many hits as you have, but is there a song in your catalog that you feel didn’t got the attention it deserved, either a single that didn’t chart as high as you expected or an album track that the label decided not to push as a single?
Shelton: One thing that I like about this new process of releasing songs as we record them is that all songs get the attention they deserve. On “Bringing Back The Sunshine” there was a song called “Just South of Heaven” that I loved, and I wish we had the chance to get to it — we just ran out of time.
Ticket: I know you can’t reveal any spoilers, but what can fans expect from the upcoming season of “The Voice”?
Shelton: It’s obviously great to have Gwen (Stefani) back on the show, and John Legend is just such a steady adviser. Everybody adores Kelly Clarkson — man, she sure does talk a lot, though — that hasn’t changed. It always amazes me the talent that keeps coming back season after season, and I feel like I’ve got a really competitive group of people on board. I can’t wait to add another winning season to my resume.
Ticket: Your Youngstown concert is at the home of the Youngstown State University Penguins. Are you a college football fan, and who do you root for?
Shelton: I like football. I’ve always got sports on in the bus or in my trailer at “The Voice” or when I’m at home. My favorite pro team is the Arizona Cardinals.