Blake Shelton is definitely “Doin’ What She Likes,” if we can refer to the collective country music listenership as a big ole she. He’s currently tied with Brad Paisley for the longest streak of consecutive No. 1 country singles, with 10… and he’s poised to break that record if “Doin’ What She Likes,” currently sitting at No. 8 on Billboard’s country airplay chart, continues its inevitable trajectory and becomes his 11th chart topper in a row.
“You almost feel guilty sometimes,” says Shelton. (And if you believe that, you’ll believe Pure B.S., to cite one of his album titles.) “But it’s easy to get over that when I think about back in the day where I was just struggling to get something on the radio.” Now, his problem is finding time in-between tapings of The Voice to fly back into Nashville for No. 1 parties, like the one this week that celebrated his two most recent toppers, “Boys ‘Round Here” and “Mine Would Be You.”
While he was stopping by his management’s offices for the celebration, Shelton took time out to answer questions about his new single, how he and wife Miranda Lambert counsel one another, and his returning stint as co-host of the Academy of Country Music Awards with Luke Bryan on April 6.
I mentioned that I thought the opening comedy at last year’s ACMs was kinder and gentler than it had been in previous years, and I wondered if that was because Bryan — who was cohosting with Shelton for the first time, in place of Reba McEntire — was less comfortable with throwing out edgy barbs at fellow stars than Shelton is.
“I kind of thought the same thing last year,” Shelton said. “I don’t know if it was by design, or if as comedians we all sucked last year. I don’t think it was on purpose. And I don’t really know how Luke is about directing comments to somebody in the audience. He might shy away from that. So I’m sure if we do end up going there, that it’ll be me. And if there’s anybody he needs to direct a joke towards, it’s gotta be Zac Brown. But I saw them make up at the CMAs, so maybe that’s gone away, too. Maybe I’ll have to step in and throw a zinger in on Zac on behalf of Luke.”
On a different TV front, he talked about difficult it can be to get the powers-that-be behind The Voice to sign off on classic country songs for the contestants.
“In Danielle (Bradbury)’s case, it was like, this girl is capable of singing probably anything we throw at her,” he said. “She could get up there and do Barbra Streisand or something and nail it. But the truth is she had a special connection with country music and a sound from an era that we don’t hear that much anymore on the radio. And so I had to fight with the network a lot, because you’ve got to understand, these people in L.A. and New York don’t know who Patty Loveless is, which is probably shocking to us in this room. But you’ve got to go in and fight for Pam Tillis songs and stuff, because they’re going, ‘Who’s that? They’re not big.’ ‘Yes they are! I promise you if you let middle America hear this, they’ll freak out.’
“I think it’s real easy to overthink each artist as far as what their path should be. And I’ve been guilty of it at times, too, to try to create something that is this big shocking thing that an artist does on a show. I think you can screw up that way — screw up their chances and your chance of winning. You’ve just got to figure out what somebody’s good at and just be relentless when it comes to s their time to perform and never waver. If they’re gonna go down, I think it’s gonna happen no matter what. And I think the more people get to know who those artists are, they’re gonna gravitate toward the ones they liked as people as much as they like them as vocalists… So a lot is figuring out who these artists are and then driving it home and never wavering. And then sometimes you’ll dig yourself a hole that you can’t get out of, but at least you stood for something.” We’ll see whether he can take his own advice when the new season starts Monday night.
Back on the pure music front, Shelton explained the appeal of “Doin’ What She Likes,” which is almost a slightly metrosexual answer song to Paisley’s “I’m Still a Guy.”
“It’s a way to still be manly in the lyric but also be whipped at the same time,” he said. “If you say, ‘Yeah, I make bubble baths and light candles and stuff… I like doing the stuff she likes,’ you kind of get away with being a wuss in that lyric. We should all take a lesson from that lyric, I guess. Just don’t burn the house down like I did in the video.”
When a DJ asked how he and Lambert influence each other’s professional decision-making, Shelton suggested that those can be dangerous waters.
“Depending on the mood either one of us is in, (advice) could either be a bad thing to offer up to each other or a good thing.,” Shelton said. “If it’s a moment where I’m frustrated about something that’s going on in my career or a decision I gotta make and I’m trying to figure it out for myself and she wants to chime in at that moment, (I’ll go) ‘I can figure this out!’ And then there are times where I just really need some help: What would you do here? She normally gives me pretty solid advice. Miranda thinks with her heart, and I need that sometimes in my life. I think that’s something that I haven’t been that good at; I try to think a little more strategically sometimes, with not enough heart in there. That’s what she’s been real good at since I met her, interjecting that into my life and into my decisions.”
On the other hand, he added, it’s been disastrous “every time I’ve ever helped her when she’s like ‘What single do you think we should put out next?’ This goes back to her very first album. I said, ‘Man, “New Strings,” that’s so much bigger than “Kerosene.” That’s gonna be the song. And I think that song ended up going to 30 or something.” (No. 25, to be exact.) “It didn’t do very good. And she’s like ‘Oh, thanks, you got any other advice?’ I think the next one (I picked) might have been ‘Dead Flowers’ off of her next album, which she nicknamed ‘Dead Single.’” (That one peaked at No. 37.) “When it came time for this (upcoming) album, there’s another song on there that she’s got that I was saying, ‘If you don’t put this out, you’re crazy. I wouldn’t put out “Automatic.”’ Of course it’s her fastest rising single of her career.”