Blake II Indystar

Blake Shelton straddles present and past for 'Friends and Heroes' tour

So far, 2019 has been a year of celebrating influences for Blake Shelton.

The Oklahoma native hosted Sunday's "Elvis All-Star Tribute" on NBC, and Shelton will bring old-school country acts John Anderson and the Bellamy Brothers to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday.

Shelton told IndyStar the TV show allowed a dual homage to Elvis Presley and "Smokey and the Bandit" actor Jerry Reed.

"I was asked to do the opening number, 'Guitar Man,' and it was exciting for me because the nature of the song," Shelton said. "Being a Jerry Reed cover, it was fun and felt natural for me."

Shelton's "Friends and Heroes" tour features a supporting cast of Trace Adkins and Lauren Alaina in addition to the Bellamy Brothers (known for 1976 hit "Let Your Love Flow") and Anderson (known for 1982 hit "Swingin' ").

"The Voice" coach said he wants to spotlight Nashville's legacy.

“I think it’s important for not only country music artists to know what their heritage is, but also for the fan base to know who the people are that influenced us current country singers and why we do things the way we do," Shelton said.

In an email interview, Shelton fielded questions about performing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and growing up on John Anderson's music:

Question: One of the “Heroes” on your bill is John Anderson. You were 6 years old when “Swingin’ ” was released and you were 16 when “Seminole Wind” arrived. What do you remember about becoming a fan of John’s music?

Answer: I remember John Anderson’s music was a big of a deal to me as anything in the world because “Swingin’ ” was such an enormous record when I was a kid. It was probably equivalent to the biggest hit you hear today on the radio. When you’re a kid and there’s one of those records out there, these people just seem larger than life, almost like a superhero, especially for someone who wants to be a singer. And then later, John Anderson had his comeback in the ‘90s and it was such a big deal. I remember that there was a story back then that it had been 10 years in between No. 1 hits, and what an incredible comeback that was for him. He’s just proof that the right songs and the right artists match together and accomplish the impossible.

Q: In 2010, your six-pack EPs were an unconventional career strategy that paid off. Looking back, how important were those releases to where you are today?

A: Looking back at the six-packs, I can tell you that at the end of the day what matters is we had a few songs on those things that really connected with the fan base. And whether they were on a six-pack or an album or had they just been singles, the audience really reacted to them. That’s “Hillbilly Bone,” “All About Tonight” and “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking." Those three songs in a row I think helped take my career to a new place.

Q: Even after more than 20 No. 1 singles, it’s a challenge to make sure listeners know what you’re up to. How do you solve that puzzle these days?

A: It’s hard when you’ve been doing this as long as I’ve been doing it to keep people interested and wondering what I’m going to do next. I think the only way to really do that is to constantly keep one foot in where you come from and one foot in the future. I’m constantly trying to reinvent myself without losing who I am. Every time I make a record, that’s the one thing I have in mind.

Q: You played a memorable show at Indianapolis Motor Speedway the day before the 2016 Indy 500. What did that day mean to you?

A: My dad was always such a huge race fan, especially of the the Indy 500. I can remember, growing up, that was as big of a deal as Christmas to my dad. My whole family would watch that race. To be able to actually perform at the track during the weekend of the Indy 500 years later ... the only regret I really have is that Dad wasn’t there for that. (Shelton's father, Richard, died at age 71 in 2012.)

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