Blake II ACM Awards Rehearsals
Blake did brief interviews whilst at rehearsal for his ACM Awards performance of God’s Country.
2019 ACM Awards: Blake Shelton shares emotional story behind 'God's Country'
“Do you know what a skid-steer is,” Blake Shelton asked.
Wearing a ballcap and a button-up shirt, he’s leaning against the wall backstage at MGM Grand’s Garden Arena in Las Vegas following his rehearsal for Sunday’s Academy of Country Music Awards. The question is important because he was driving his skid-steer – a heavy-duty four-wheeled loader with an enclosed cab – on his farm in Oklahoma when he first heard his new song, “God’s Country.”
It was, Shelton said, a “revelation.”
He was using his skid-steer outfitted with a mulcher to clear some of his farmland, so he could plant 10 or 15 acres of alfalfa. As he was preparing his field, Shelton’s producer Scott Hendricks texted that he had just sent him five or six new songs. Shelton had his headphones in the cab with him and decided to listen to the tracks while he worked. “God’s Country” was the first song he played.
“It was the most shocking moment I’ve had in my 20 years of doing this,” he said. “I was in a place physically 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. And 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.”
Lyrics include: We pray for rain and thank Him when it's fallin' | 'Cause it brings a grain and a little bit of money | We put it back in a plate, I guess that's why they call it | God's country
Until he heard the song, Shelton didn’t know what his next career move would be. He wasn’t in a hurry to put out a new album, and he still doesn’t know if he’s going to. With the way the recording industry is changing, Shelton planned to just hang out and see what happened for a while before he decided what he would do musically. But when he heard “God’s Country,” he called Hendricks immediately.
“I said, ‘Man, that song sounds like a remedy, like a cure, like everything that I need in my life to hear on the radio and to hear myself sing,’” Shelton recalled. “I went, ‘That’s it. Let’s record this thing.’”
Hendricks told Shelton to listen to the other songs -- a request Shelton rejected.
“I was like, ‘Forget the other ones,’” he said. “I literally don’t care what else you sent me. Nothing has ever had this kind of an impact on me. Even before I put the vocal on it, it was just the sound that was the missing link to where we are in country music now and where we came from. It’s almost like a chance to stop and catch your breath and go, ‘We’re still all here. We still like this stuff, too, right?’”
“God’s Country” isn’t traditional country, but more of a Southern rock anthem.
“It feels like a combination of ‘Ole Red’ and ‘A Country Boy Can Survive’ to me, which definitely has a place in country music,” Shelton said. “Those songs are rare.”
Shelton will perform "God's Country" on the 54th Academy of Country Music Awards, which will air live from MGM Grand’s Garden Arena in Las Vegas 7 p.m. Sunday on CBS.