In the middle of a knock-down, drag-out presidential campaign, Barack Obama held the final state dinner of his administration at the White House on Oct. 18, and who should appear? Blake Shelton.
He was, of course, the guest of Gwen Stefani, the night’s scheduled entertainment, and before it was all through, Shelton ended up onstage with her, performing “Go Ahead and Break My Heart.”
“That was a pretty neat deal,” says Shelton. “Luckily, I’ve got a girlfriend that’s cool enough to get invited to those things, and I just tag along with her.”
It’s one of numerous occasions when Shelton or Shefani brought the other onstage in the last year. They have performed that duet during her shows in Los Angeles, Dallas and Virginia Beach, Va., and at his shows in Oklahoma City; Peoria, Ill.; and - on his 40th birthday - at the Country Jam in Grand Junction, Colo.
So when Shelton’s new single, “A Guy With a Girl,” pops up on the radio, it’s easy to associate the storyline - in which a man goes unnoticed next to his female companion - with their relationship. Shelton pretty much expects that response, too.
“‘A Guy With a Girl’ is my life right now,” says Shelton, who sees his life reflected in the first-verse references to tractors, concert stages and hanging with his buds. “Out on the farm or touring, [I’m] that guy, and then at the end of the day, when it’s time to have a life and go to a party or something, I become the guy that’s with Gwen. It’s pretty cool.”
Thus, “A Guy With a Girl” was in his possession as he split with Lambert and the new relationship with Stefani unfolded. As he recorded a new album, If I’m Honest, Shelton decided to build it around the transitions in his life, and “A Guy With a Girl” rose in stature.
“We were trying to wrap up the album at the beginning of the year, and all of a sudden, this song is a true story for me,” he says.
Shelton and producer Scott Hendricks recorded the instrumental tracks in Nashville, adhering closely to the original demo while adding a little more motion to the background parts with layers of guitars and an active bassline… Shelton sang his final parts in the evening after working on The Voice during the day in Los Angeles, using a closet in his Hollywood Hills home as a glorified vocal booth.
“He comes home, and we just sing until he’s tired,” says Hendricks.
Stefani sat in as an observer for many of those vocal sessions, including the work on “A Guy With a Girl.”
“She loved the song, and she was really interested because it’s such a different way to make a record than how they make ‘em in the pop world,” notes Shelton. “So she didn’t miss much of the vocals that I ddi for the album.”
“When Gwen’s sitting there beside me, he tends to want to sing better,” adds Hendricks. “We we may just have to [always] have her sit there when he’s singing."
Warner Music Nashville released “A Guy With a Girl” to radio via PlayMPE on Sept. 26, and it’s already at No. 19 in its fourth week on Country Airplay, underscoring the positives Shelton feels as as the guy with Gwen Stefani.
“Everywhere we go, whether it’s my hometown in Tishomingo [Okla.] or some fancy party in Hollywood, when she comes around, it’s like people just stop,” he says. “And I don’t blame ‘em.”