When CeeLo Green mentioned his exit from "The Voice" on Ellen DeGeneres's show, he wasn't faking the spontaneity of the announcement. At least some of his fellow judges were caught unawares, including Blake Shelton.
"He said that?" Shelton responded, when asked about it at a small radio roundtable in Nashville Wednesday afternoon. The country star had just gotten off a plane with his wife, Miranda Lambert, and no one had alerted them to the news yet. But his reaction was more mildly surprised than shocked, and he made it clear he'd seen it coming.
"I can understand," Shelton said. "Even though I hate hearing that — I'm hearing it right now for the first time — I campaigned a lot with CeeLo to stay. I knew what the network was doing with the changing coaches in and out, but… in the back of my mind, I guess I hoped that CeeLo would be back. I remember toward the end of that last season, he and I were both out of the competition, and so we'd sit there and drink every night on the show. And I'd go over and talk to him: 'Are you coming back? What are you going to do?'
"CeeLo is a guy that's got so much going on in his mind, and so much creativity, that a lifetime's probably not enough to explore everything that he wants to try to do. And he probably feels like he's done his time on a reality show and he's ready to go do a puppet show, or whatever he's got in mind next. Maybe stripper puppets or something. There's no telling with that guy. So I'm not surprised that he moves on. It makes me sad, though."
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Along with Adam Levine, Shelton is one of the two judges who either elected and/or was asked to stay on the show every season while the other two slots rotate. In the past, he's griped about the network's decision to ramp up "The Voice" to more than one season a year. But he now seems at peace with how the scheduling has allowed him to pursue his not-incidental music career, which he came to promote at the annual Country Music Seminar conference this week.
"I think to have the year mapped out in sections has helped me probably more than anything, because we know we're gonna be taping a season of the show at the beginning of the year, and then again at the end of the year. So that leaves the summer for a tour, and they never really cross paths. I remember that first season we did, when I was on tour with Brad Paisley, I said, 'Man, if this is what it takes to get to the next level, then I quit. I can't do all of this at once. There's probably artists that can, but I'm not one of 'em. I'd rather just pick one and do it.' But now, the way we've been lucky enough to have it set up this way, it helps. And it really helps me with the show to not even think about what I've got to do when I get there. Because the way I work anyway is I think about something five minutes before I go do it, and then go do it."
Shelton is making music with another of his "Voice" co-judges, Shakira. They recently cut a duet for her upcoming album and he's "been getting emails from her every day" from the studio about how the mix is going.
"Last year was her and Usher's first season on the show, and it came time for the coaches to do these performances together," Shelton recalled. "And Shakira has in recent times gotten interested in country music, so she wanted me to perform a song with her. I said, 'That's fine. Whatever you want to sing, just let me know.' Because I don't know if she's talking Florida Georgia Line country or Alison Krauss country. I can probably exist in any of that, so I said, 'You figure out what [brand of country] you're comfortable doing and we'll do that together.' She loves Lady Antebellum, so we ended up doing 'Need You Now.' And she told me that night that she had so much fun, 'I want to write a country song.'...She mentioned [wanting to write] with Miranda; they never did, but the wheels were turning.
"When she came back to start filming this season, she told me she'd written this song with [hit Nashville songwriters] Hillary Lindsey and Mark Wright. She sent it over and said, 'Would you be interested in singing on this thing with me?' I listened to the song, and it was amazing. I immediately wrote back and I said, 'Man, you wrote the song that's the style you like,' which is that kind of midtempo, driving thing that Lady A does. She definitely made it Shakira, though. So I was honored that she asked me to come and sing on it. I'll tell you, Shakira is not a hands-off artist in the studio. She'll come in and rent an entire studio — not like one studio, but the whole building. And she'll have a mix going in this room, background singers going in this room, she'll have me singing on our song in this room, and she just goes around [between them]. That's how she works, and she thrives in that kind of environment. I would probably pass out."