Last year, Blake Shelton’s four-year marriage to Miranda Lambert fell apart, and the saga turned the country star into a tabloid fixture. “I had to piece my life back together,” he says. But happiness turned out to be just two chairs over on the set of The Voice. Shelton bonded with fellow coach Gwen Stefani, who was going through a divorce of her own, and the two started dating. “If you had told me that that’s who I’m gonna end up with, I would have thought you were crazy,” he says. “But she became my closest ally.”
Shelton chronicles his road back from heartache on his new album, If I’m Honest, which features a duet with Stefani, “Go Ahead and Break My Heart.” “We realized that we were both having a hard time letting our guard down,” Shelton says. “But I sent a voice memo to her, and then she sent back her verse to me. We wrote it communicating to each other. And that’s why it’s so special to the both of us.”
Shelton recently opened up to Rolling Stone about the most personal album of his 15-year career and the hard life lessons that led to the new music. He also praises Beyoncé, disses Adam Levine and explains why he won’t back down from taking a tabloid to task.
When you’re not shooting The Voice or on tour, you’re in Oklahoma. What’s your life like there?
Unless it’s raining, I’m hunting or fishing or farming. Not to sound like a cliché, like any other country singer, but I’m going crazy right now because I put about 15 acres of corn in about three weeks ago and I haven’t been back to look at it. I love growing it. Sometimes I’ll go hunting for caribou in Canada, or elk hunting. But bowhunting white-tailed deer in Oklahoma is my favorite thing. It takes me back to my childhood. There’s just so many memories and special things that have happened to me that revolve around deer season, honestly. It’s my favorite time of year.
Do you ever take Gwen hunting?
I know you know better than that. [Stefani is an animal-rights advocate.] I can just see her: “Get ’em!” That makes me laugh.
When you go out with your buddies, what do you guys talk about when you’re hunting?
Oh, God. Everything from women to politics to, “Can you believe how much of an asshole so and so is?” You know, just normal guy talk.
Any assholes in country music? Nashville doesn’t exactly seem to be a place where many feuds brew.
Only people that do interviews in y’all’s magazine. [Laughs] I don’t know what it is about Rolling Stone. People say the most asinine stuff in these interviews for some reason. I remember the last one that bubbled up was with Luke and Zac Brown. But we’re all pretty close. Since I started seeing Gwen, I realized that there’s not as many really close friendships of the artists in maybe pop and rock. With country music, I’d say 95 percent of us either live in Nashville or used to live in Nashville. We’re around each other. And because of that, yeah, there’s gonna be times when there’s an argument or somebody gets sideways and says something and it gets back to ’em. But it seems like it always works itself out.
Like your album, Beyoncé’s Lemonade deals with a relationship falling apart. Have you checked it out?
I watched the movie, and it blew me away. One lyric really hit me: “Who the fuck do you think I is?/You ain’t married to no average bitch.” Whoa! That’s not a marketing stunt. I can’t believe that’s anything other than true.
What was it like to channel the pain of your divorce through this new music?
Well it’s damn sure a shitty way to end up making what I feel like is the best I can do. When I started going through what I went through last year, the last thing on my mind was making a record. I was trying to figure out how I was going to piece my life back together. And I figured out making this record helped me get that out of my system. But as I was making the record, other developments were happening. I was spending some time with Gwen all of a sudden, and she became my closest ally, my friend, my person in my life who had my back, and I had hers. And created this bond with somebody that I never would have thought in a million years.
So that’s kind of how the album develops. It starts out with “Straight Outta Cold Beer,” it’s kind of like a continuation of a lot of my music that I’ve had in the past. And then the tape kinda slows down and it fades off like the bottom just drops out. And then all of a sudden I’m in this dark place for a long time on the record. Slowly it starts getting better and starts getting better and happier and happier until we end up with “Savior’s Shadow.”
When did you realize that you and Gwen had a connection?
We were starting The Voice last year, and I had to sit down and go, “Look, by the time this thing airs, my life will have completely changed, and we need to talk about this now because it may affect what we talk about on the show.” I just felt like there doesn’t need to be secrets. And then the same thing [happened] with Gwen. It was like, “Here’s what’s going on, this show ain’t gonna air until three months from now, so let’s get this talked about right now.”
That’s how we even found out what was going on. And we just started to develop a friendship after that. And it took awhile, because it’s chaos. But just over time, seeing each other a lot at work, it just kind of developed into that.
You wrote more for this album than any other. But songwriting has never seemed like a huge priority for you.
I’m not the biggest fan of my own writing. I’m really hard on it, for two reasons. I think when you’re an artist in my position, I have the opportunity to get my hands on some of the greatest songs written, because I know all these incredible writers in Nashville. How foolish would it be not to take advantage of that? We’re talking about some of the best writers in the world. I want to make the best album I can humanly, possibly make. Why wouldn’t I take advantage of that? I don’t need a part in the publishing. I just want my record to be good.
What rock music did you love growing up?
Ted Nugent and Bob Seger. When I got older, I got into Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC. I saw some GN’R footage from Coachella. Axl sounds as good as ever. If I went to the concert where he’s singing for AC/DC, I’d probably have a seizure.
You’re still a country dude at heart, but you also live in L.A. You recently attacked a Twitter troll who accused you of “going Hollywood.”
Some people are just so stupid. If I’ve gone Hollywood, then AC/DC has gone country. It’s that stupid of a statement. I feel like I’m doing this guy a favor by pointing it out to him.
Do you ever worry about being seen as a television personality rather than as an artist?
My job at The Voice is to represent country music. I take that very seriously. So many hit songs have been launched from this show, and so many songs have been discovered. It’s bringing music into 13 million people’s living rooms. There’s nothing but fuckin’ awesomeness that comes out of that. That said, I wish to God the show was taped in Nashville. I’d be 200 times happier.
What have you learned about your Voice co-host Adam Levine over the years?
Adam is a 14-year-old boy trapped in a 30-whatever-he-is body. And that includes his attention span. This week, he’s all fired up about houses he might buy: “Hey, dude, look at this one, check this one out.” It’s just like, “Oh my God, man. I know you’re not going to buy any of these.” When he gets on something, you need to take a Tylenol and get ready, because that’s what you’re gonna hear about for the next month. Before this, it was golf.
You’ve gotten into a few scrapes on Twitter. What does your drafts folder look like?
More than ever, I’ve been hitting “delete” before I send out a tweet. I’m just tired of the drama that comes with it, the absolute crybaby reaction you get from how politically correct the world is now. You just second guess everything: “I’ll upset this bunch.” It just sucks the life out of the world for me. Everybody needs to take a chill pill.
Trump makes a big argument that political correctness has gotten out of hand.
I feel like it has. The best way to deal with that, I think, is just sometimes to keep my mouth shut.
What are your thoughts about the election?
The only thing that I’m going to tell you is I’m going to be real sad when it’s over with, because this is literally one of the most addictive, entertaining things I have seen in my life. It’s amazing what we’re seeing right now.
It seems like you, Miranda and Gwen are on the cover of every tabloid these days. What’s that like?
It used to upset me, but it turns out it just pays really well. They can’t let go of anything I do. I literally was followed to work today. It must mean my career is doing pretty well, because my personal life’s not that exciting. I’m almost 40 years old. I don’t do that much. I’m kind of a slug. But they damn sure want pictures of it.
A slug? But you’re also famous for partying. What’s your key to throwing a good one?
I really don’t throw a lot of parties, though it damn sure looks that way if you listen to the media. But you just gotta have great music: classic stuff everybody knows that you don’t gotta think too hard about. And I’m not talking about any of that dance-club music.
I take it you’re not an EDM fan.
I don’t even know who that is.
You recently sued In Touch magazine for a story about your drinking.
Well, at some point you gotta draw the line. I would say that 98 percent of this stuff you see in tabloids is a complete fabrication. Sometimes they get my name right, but that’s about it. But when they print something that I feel like could be damaging either on a professional or personal level, then enough is enough. With the lawsuit that I have going on right now, I’m not backing off of it. Because with that level of a lie, I don’t want one kid to walk by that magazine rack and see that and have it affect who I am in their mind.
I also have professional reasons. I can’t allow somebody to print something like that about me. That could affect my job. I felt like they crossed a line, and now they know they did. Because we’re moving forward with that. And that’s a good thing for me.