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."
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.
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.
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.