Country artist Blake Shelton’s not above mixing a little business and personal life when it comes to finding a potential music superstar on “The Voice.” In fact, he’s asked his wife to help him.
For the second season, each of music industry mentors on the singing competition was allowed to bring in a pair of celebrity coaches to help the singers on their teams gain even greater insight on what they need to do to make it. Shelton’s brought in his wife, fellow country star Miranda Lambert (as well as Kelly Clarkson, “American Idol’s” first champion), to help, and he tells PopcornBiz about working directly with his new bride, running his favorite music into the ground and gearing up for a major Grammy night.
Can you talk about choosing Miranda to help you mentor? Has she been giving you her opinions already?
Oh, are you kidding me? She gives me her opinions about everything. But especially with this show. I mean she's really- I mean this show really hit Miranda in the heart a lot harder than I expected it to because she's not really- I think after 'Nashville Star' she kind of purposefully hasn't paid attention to many of these type of shows. And now that she's able to look back and see that she made her own way she can see these kids on here like Dia and Xenia for me last year. And she sees how attached I get to them and she can't help but get emotionally involved also, you know. And so of course as this season's been going along she wants to know every artist I picked. She wants to hear them. Any DVDs I may have of their auditions, anything like that that she can see, she wants to know every one of them. And trust me, I get an earful about what direction I should try to take them in.
It's been an exciting year for you. Can you talk about the first year of marriage and what it's been like for you?
Marriage? It's not really not that different. I mean just, we still, we just spent the longest amount of time we've ever spent together over December. I think we were together a little for over four weeks without a break. And I think we're still married, actually. You get to the point where you go, ‘Oh, that's enough – You need to go do a show now.’ And that's how it works with us. So that's why we've been together so long.
Who’s a music artist that you and Miranda are both really into?
U.S. & World
I don't know that there's ever that one artist that we agree on, but there's probably ten or so that we can both agree to listen to. She used to absolutely love 'Forget You' by Cee Lo until I played it so many times. I played it five times a day, and then I made it my ring tone. And then finally one night she goes, 'Okay, that's it! We need a new Cee Lo song.’ So it's like that: usually, when I find something that she's okay with, I play it so much that she's not okay with it.
With Kelly Clarkson's connection with "American Idol," was it an easy thing to talk her into doing "The Voice"?
Yeah. Because Kelly, I mean, Kelly has nothing but love for 'American Idol' as far as I know, but she also has nothing but love for artists. I've never met an artist that loves other artists more than Kelly Clarkson. I can say that without any hesitation. I've never heard her sit back and talk crap about other singers. She just loves records and loves to hear people live. And see their show. She's just a fan, you know. She just loves- she lives and breathes music. I can't say it enough. It's so true. And I knew from last year, we've been friends for a while now, and I knew last year that she had been watching the show and she bought Dia's record. And so I knew if she was available she would do it just because, again, like I said earlier, she knows what these artists are going through to some degree.
It's so hard to break through in the music industry and you have to think about yourself a lot. Did this sort of bring you back seeing what people had to go through? And also be a little bit more empathetic and not think about your own career so much while you try to help other people?
Yeah, in fact, that's one of the biggest criticisms that I get from my management around me is that: ‘Man, I know you want to help this person but goddangit, man, I mean at some point we gotta...you know what I mean?’ And they're right. You can't fix everything for everybody. But last year when I got down to my final two with Xenia and Dia on the team, I've never gone through anything like that before ever in my life. I mean, I don't have kids. And I don't have a younger sibling. It was the first time I ever experienced 'Oh my God. I care about these two girls and I want to protect them. And what do I gotta do? Show me what's the right thing to do,' you know. And I'm probably not very good at that. And that's why people could see it in me on television that it was like, 'Dang man, he's a dude that needs to let go a little bit, you know? He's getting emotional on television.' But I just, I'd never gone through anything like that.
With Kelly and with Miranda on the show, how is it working exactly?
This year we have 12 people per team instead of eight, and so we decided instead of having one advisor talking to 12 people, let’s pick the six that are most likely to fall into Kelly Clarkson-land and let her advise those six so she can spend more time with them. Listen to them sing. Not just run into a room and go through them real quick. She actually spent a day talking to each one of them a couple of different times. And then the same thing with Miranda. If I happen to have country singers or maybe some female singers that are a little bit more rootsy, they may fit into Miranda's category, same thing.
Do you always agree with the advice Miranda and Kelly deliver?
No, I don't agree with everything anybody has to say, you know. But that's neither here nor there. I brought them here because I know they know what they're talking about. And if they have something to say, who am I to go, 'Oh, no, no, no,' because- and they sell a hell of a lot more records than I do.
Has this experience changed your own music at all?
Yeah, I think it has a little bit. I mean, I got a damn iPhone full of Maroon 5 songs right now! I didn't before. Again, it's just an eye-opener for so much that's out there. And then on top of that the artists that come on and audition – there's a couple of times where, I'm sure they'll hear it because it's funny as hell, but I don't recognize a certain rock song or a pop song that clearly. I guess people were born knowing, but I, somehow missed it along the way and I say 'I don’t know that song'. But that's why this show's been good for me. And I do think it already is affecting my music. And not changing who I am and what I want to say, but definitely expanding as far as sounds and things like that go.
Are the contestants from Season Two more savvy because they've seen how the show works?
Yeah, they are. They know what to expect. Last year, I've actually had a lot of conversations with Dee about it, and she said that if she had known what the show was she would have never have auditioned for it because of the battle rounds and these awkward positions that you get put in on this show. And they are awkward. And sometimes it's hard to watch it and you're going, 'Oh s**t'. But that's why the show's good, because of those things. And so this year we got the kind of singers that damn sure aren't afraid. I mean, they go into it ready for battle from day one. So, yeah, they're definitely prepped.
Have you seen an uptick in your own sales and popularity and recognizability as a direct result of "The Voice"?
Oh absolutely. I mean twentyfold. It's crazy. I guess that's the power of television.
You’re nominated for two Grammys, are you excited for the big night?
Oh s**t, yeah – am I excited about the Grammys? Gosh dang! I won't sit here and go ‘I don't watch that stuff.’ Hell yeah, man! I want one of those things bad. I do. Because this is the first time I've ever kind of been embraced by that community, and it feels good. It really does. Because I've been doing this now for- this is eleven years I've been making records and having some hits. Just kind of keeping my head above water. And been happy and thankful of that. And for this to be happening to me this late in the game with the Grammys, everything else is that much more exciting because I know the value of it.
"The Voice" premieres its second season Sunday, February 5th on NBC immediately following Super Bowl XLVI