Blake Shelton was barely in his seat at the 53rd CMA Awards in November when he turned around and (jokingly) warned Dan + Shay he would rough them up if their “Speechless” topped his “God’s Country” for Single of the Year. Then, he heard his name called from the stage.
“God’s Country,” a multi-week No. 1 hit, won “The Voice” coach his first trophy from the Country Music Association in five years. Shocked by the recognition, Shelton dedicated his win to famed producer Busbee and the singer’s country music hero Earl Thomas Conley — both of whom recently died.
Backstage, he said before he heard “God’s Country” in early 2019, he thought he had lost his momentum. He felt his country music career was slipping.
“‘How am I going to feel when this goes away?’” he remembers asking himself. “I was kind of having that pity party.”
“God’s Country,” which is from Shelton’s Dec. 13 release “Fully Loaded: God’s Country,” became his 26th No. 1 hit and heightened his presence on country radio.
2019 became the year Shelton found God — in more ways than one. It’s is also the year Shelton felt his faith soar. He sings about it in “Jesus Got a Tight Grip,” a song he co-wrote with Chase McGill, Jessi Alexander and Rhett Akins, also included on “Fully Loaded: God’s Country.”
Lyrics include: Jesus got a tight grip on my soul and he ain’t letting go, he ain’t letting go/ The devil reaches out but he can’t grab hold because Jesus got a tight grip on my soul/Might have a little rust on my halo/But when I’m gone I know where I’ll go.
The afternoon after the CMA Awards, Shelton lounged on a couch in a dressing room over the bar at his Ole Red entertainment complex on Nashville’s Lower Broadway. He shared the inspiration behind his new dedication to God and how his faith impacts other parts of his life. It sparked, he said, with the start of his unlikely relationship with girlfriend Gwen Stefani. The two connected on the set of NBC’s “The Voice” while they were both mired in messy divorces.
“I believe in God now more than I ever have in my life,” said Shelton, who also admitted he still drinks and cusses more than he should. “The biggest part of that is just how (Gwen) came into my life and now our relationship. It’s just too weird. If you take God out of it, it doesn’t make sense. If you put God into it, everything that’s happened with us makes sense.”
Shelton and Stefani have been a couple since fall 2015. She convinced him to attend church regularly for the first time in his life, and he said he realized it was time to “turn a page.”
Four years later, they split their time between homes in California and his farm in his native Oklahoma. Shelton was driving his skid-steer around his land to clear some brush early this year when his producer Scott Hendricks sent him five or six new songs. Shelton grabbed his headphones to listen, and “God’s Country” was the first song he played. He called it a “revelation.”
“It was the most shocking moment I’ve had in my 20 years of doing this,” Shelton said. “I was in a place that I consider to be God’s country doing the thing that makes me feel the most connected to God, which is working on the land. I heard that song, and I had one of those moments that you hear people talk about … where they say they pulled over on the side of the highway and listened. I literally had that moment.”
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SOURCE: Nashville Tennessean, Cindy Watts