PEOPLE caught up with coaches Kelly Clarkson and Shelton ahead of the season premiere of The Voice Monday night — and Shelton says “it feels normal” and “exciting” to have his longtime girlfriend on the coaches’ panel, even though it’s “strange” to not to have the Maroon 5 frontman on this season.
“It kinda helps with the weirdness of Adam not being here,” Shelton says. “To be honest it’s strange to not have him here.”
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“He’s never not been here, you know,” he adds. “And it’s just that guy that’s just over there constantly just makin’ you want to strangle him. And now he’s gone and it sucks, to be honest with you. But havin’ Gwen back, for me, makes it a lot more fun.”
Shelton, who says he’s been on the show “for a hundred years,” joked about why Levine left the show.
“But Kelly is the reason,” he starts.
“I am not the reason,” Clarkson interrupts, laughing.
“But they put you in his chair and that’s kinda like the symbolism,” Shelton replies.
“I think they put me in his chair because you dislike me as much,” Clarkson laughs. “So, I think they’re like, maybe if we put her there, he’ll be as hard on her as he was on him.”
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Shelton and Stefani met on the show back in 2014. Shelton said last month that he’s happy about his girlfriend’s return not only because of their relationship, but she’s a Voice veteran.
“She’s familiar with it and gets it,” he said, “and that made me feel better because that show is a complicated thing. When you’re a coach on there … and at the same time, you’re also supposed to be entertaining the audience at home, it’s kind of a juggling act.”
“Having her there, selfishly for me, made me happy, and I think it kind of saved the show with Adam going away,” Shelton added, “because there’s no way around it: It sucks not having Adam there. I mean, he’s just a major part of that show and,” he added playfully, “my favorite person to kick in the nuts.”
Season 17 of The Voice premieres Monday, Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. on NBC.