Blake Shelton credits "The Voice" for reigniting fire

Thu Sep 15, 2011 1:53pm EDT
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By Vernell Hackett

NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - Acting as a celebrity coach on NBC's hit talent show "The Voice" reminds Blake Shelton of his own rise from star-struck Oklahoma teenager to country music star.

Shelton came to Nashville at age 17, idolizing Travis Tritt and Paul Overstreet and imagining Nashville's famed Music Row as an impregnable fortress of towering skyscrapers.

"I figured out what makes this industry work, what makes the world turn here in Nashville, and it's record sales. It's one thing to hear yourself on radio, it's another for people to go buy your music," the 35-year-old Shelton told Reuters

New York Times' music critic Jon Caramanica recently wrote of Shelton, "Apart from perhaps Taylor Swift, he's becoming the most important and visible ambassador from Nashville to the American mainstream."

Told this, Shelton offered a quick "aw-shucks" reply. But he then gave a considered view of his career path since his 2001 single "Austin" hit No. 1 through this year's platinum-selling "Honey Bee" and five recent award nominations from the Country Music Association -- including his first nod for the top prize, entertainer of the year.

"You don't see a lot of country artists end up in pop culture, but somehow Miranda and I are there for a minute," said Shelton, referring to the tide of publicity surrounding his May wedding to fellow country star Miranda Lambert.

"When 'The Voice' comes and goes, and Miranda and I being married are not interesting to talk about anymore, country music will still be important to me. It's the reason I moved to Nashville," he said.

TV singing contest "The Voice" debuted earlier this year on NBC, and became a hit show. Shelton, a judge, was perhaps less well-known by mainstream audiences than some of his pop star counterparts such as Christina Aguilera, but over the season he endeared himself to viewers and became the program's breakout star. "The Voice" returns to TV on February 5.   Continued...