Sam Hunt, with special guests LANco and Ryan Follese, is set to play the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand Monday, September 4th, 2017! Tickets on-sale Friday, May 5th at 10am HERE. BUZ’N PresaleWhen: Thursday, May 4 10am until 10pmPassword: BUZNSAMLink: http://www.etix.com/ticket/p/6308496/sam-hunt-15-in-a-30-tour-with-support-acts-lanco-and-ryan-follese-stpaul-minnesota-state-fair?partner_id=1790 Tickets: $68 & $58 (all reserved seating) Tickets are available at Etix.com, by calling (800)…
Canadian Country singer Thomas Wade, known as “Thomas Wade and Wayward” reigned the Country music airwaves through most of the mid to late 90’s. Everywhere you looked, there was a video, interview , or appearance of Thomas Wade. The group was well on their way to the top. Thomas grew up in Burford, Ontario, begin playing around the age of seven in his uncle’s family band, he then paid his dues playing in various bands for most of the 1980’s and early 90’s before forming the chart topping band. During his journey, he worked in and around Nashville with some notable songwriters and producers such as Bill Shore and producer Byron Gallimore. Thomas also attended 4 years with Cindy Tanas actor studio and was very seriously considering a career in acting, where he landed a few notable roles, one being a lead role on CMT’s mini drama, “The Office”. But music ran thick in his blood and proved to be a very successful decision in his career.
“Thomas Wade and Wayward” released their debut album in 1996 and immediately started getting attention. It was Thomas’s onstage charisma, looks and catchy song hooks that drew people in and a fairly new CMT Canada became a second home for the Country group. Thomas had become the “Golden Boy” for Canadian country music, scoring 7 CCMA awards during a five year span, nominated for three years in a row for Country Group of the Year from 1997 to 1999. Country radio, CMT and country music fans across Canada were all tuned in to the Thomas Wade frenzy! They were on fire with the debut album which produced several top ten singles such as “Sitting Pretty”, “Zero to Sixty” and “Lying here with you”.
In 2001 Thomas branched out on a solo career and continued to enjoy success with “ The Loser” and “Wild Wild Ride” to name a few. Sitting at the top of his game with seven awards, three albums which he wrote and produced, , 12 top 20 singles , hit videos and seven years of headlining tours under his belt, life couldn’t get any better for Thomas Wade.
But by 2002 , an unforeseen and thought “incurable” neurological disorder took hold of his ability to sing and eventually even speak. In the early stages of the disease, Thomas tried to overcome the progressing symptoms by seeking naturopaths and any “tricks” he could think of to disguise his speech. Evidently he had to give up singing. As time went on, ordering a coffee was with great difficulty. Such a tragedy could very easily make someone give up and live in the shadows of their success, BUT not Thomas Wade!
By 2006 he was diagnosed with “Oromandibular Dystonia” and that it was not curable. But through with his own perseverance, Hypnosis, neuroplasticity reading up on anything he could find, Thomas developed his own “Neuroplastic” exercises and things started to improve. His incredible journey back from the impossible had begun.
During those years Thomas did not disappear totally from the industry, he remained active as a songwriter and producer. One of his songs was recorded by Canadian icon Celine Dion, which is a pretty good confirmation of his talent as a songwriter.
Thomas has recently released the first album in 16 years! It has something a little different from his early days as a country artist. The album titled “ Blue Country Soul” combines blues, country, rock N roll and a few surprises such as the crooner inspired song “Funny What Makes You Cry” to the very church choir themed “Boise River”. Giving us a variety of fast up tempo hits and smooth melodic ballads, an easy listening pleasure to the ear.
This is a great new chapter of an artist whose career has spanned over twenty years, Thomas is a true inspiration of hope, courage and perseverance, he hopes his story will encourage others to never give up hope .
2016 marks an exciting year of new projects, new beginnings and opportunities to do what he loves to do best, Making music for the fans.
INTERVIEW WITH THOMAS WADE
CMW: Hi Thomas, Let’s start by telling us how you grew up and when did you discover your desire to be a musician?
TW: I couldn’t miss being drawn to music. My Mom and Dad met in my Grandfather’s dance band. My Dad played guitar, my Mom has a beautiful voice, kind of sounds like a combination of Patti Page and Patsy Cline. My family was all about the music. My Uncle John was a champion fiddler, and I would try to make music with anything I could get my hands on. I think that’s why they gave me my first guitar when I was about four…to keep me from making music with pots and pans. My Dad put little colored pieces of paper on the guitar neck to show me where the chords were, and I soon figured it out for myself. I remember the moment it all came together around the kitchen table with my Mom and Dad. From then on I was accompanying my uncle on fiddle tunes …that what great training for my ears. Then I wrote my first song sitting on the back porch when I was about seven, and I got on stage when I was eight. I’ll never forget that night. It was a local jamboree…kind of our version of the grand ole opry. I sang Johnny Cash’s “I Got Stripes” After I got off stage I went to the back of the hall and the guy who ran the snack bar gave me a chocolate bar. That’s when I made the connection…that I could make money doing something I loved. I never looked back after that. I was pretty much a professional musician by age ten.
CMW: Who influenced you most throughout your career?
TW: The person who made me want to get on stage was Johnny Cash…when I was 8 years old I sang on my first show, ” I Got Stripes” and people started calling me ” Princeton and Burford’s Johnny Cash. After that there are so many influences depending on what period you’re talking about. I was immersed in music constantly. Elvis, Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins, Jim Reeves… Then I got into the Beatles… Kenny Rogers, Larry Gatlin, Gary Morris… Lee Greenwood, and in a big way, Keith Whitley. As you see, that is an question with a potentially endless answer!
CMW: You are also a trained actor as well and attended for four years with Cindy Tanas actor studio and landed a few notable roles. There came a time where you had to choose between acting and singing, how did you come to that decision as you are very passionate about both.
TW: That was actually a really easy decision. I originally tried acting because through all of my career previous to Thomas Wade and Wayward I was usually the guy standing to the side who sang, but never talked on the mic. I was always playing with people who were already experienced at it. I think I knew on some level that I would have to get around to filling this gap in my game, but I didn’t until my fellow band mates in “Wayward” decided I should be the front man for the band when we made the transition to a recording act. I had to figure out how to get comfortable talking to a crowd, and fast. I decided that acting coaching would help me with speaking, and with videos. I got bitten hard by the acting bug, but when we got immediate success upon the release of our first single “Sitting Pretty” it was clear to me that this was the wrong time to switch horses!
CMW: Your journey into music proved to be very successful, how did Thomas Wade and Wayward get their big break?
TW: Thomas Wade and Wayward never really got what you would call a “Big Break”. We were just a really good band, made up of really talented people, with extremely good harmonies. We had that “ghost voice” that comes when the blend is just so good that it sounds like more singers. We also had vision. We took care of all aspects of our career ourselves. By the time we were ready to release our first record we were already a very popular band, and unique with our stage presentation. Our first video (for Sitting Pretty) was shot at Lulu’s Roadhouse in Kitchener. If you watch that video you can see how many people came out to support us…it was a huge turnout. So, we just tried to do everything right, till we eventually got on the radio and CMT, and we were ready!
CMW: During the 90’s, you were one of the top featured country artists and labeled the “poster child” of the newly formed CMT Canada, scoring numerous top ten hits , picking up 7 awards along with being nominated 3 years in a row for Top Country Act at the CCMA’s for the years 1997 through to 1999 – what was it like during those early years for the band and how did you celebrate your success?
TW: To tell the truth, for me, it was a Roller-Coaster ride. It was exciting…at times overwhelming. I loved playing the big stages, and I loved making videos. It was rewarding, but I never really stopped to admire it. I would just finish one thing, think “Hmmm, That was good!” Then move on to the next thing. We had a number 1 video with “Lying Here With You” and I remember all of us sitting in front of the TV, not even knowing it was coming. We had “Hi-5s all around, then it was back to work…no number one party or anything! The other difficulty I faced was that by the time “Thomas Wade And Wayward” was released I was having problems with my voice. I would have to rest my voice for an entire day leading up to a show, leave it all out there on the stage at night, do the meet and greets, and the autograph lines, then I had to be quite again. Then I had surgery immediately after our CCMA performance in ’97. I loved it, and I wish I had taken the time to enjoy it more…but that’s what Roller-Coaster rides are all about!
CMW : Among the many great songs you wrote and recorded, “Sitting Pretty” remains one of my favorites, what is your personal favorite you recorded or to perform live?
TW: I think just for the pure high of the audience response, my favorite TW &W tune to perform live was “Lying Here With You”. The start of ” Lying Here” is just a piano part, and I still get chills when I think of the audience cheering and clapping before I even started singing. I really felt the audience with me during that song. After TW&W, I had a whole other record. I think my favorite to perform on that one was “Wild,Wild,Wild Ride” I had so much fun with the audience on that one…it was the first country/rap song after all, unless you count “Luke The Drifter”.(LOL)
CMW: A few little known facts about you, you were , for a few years the voice of the Lotto 649 commercials and you also had a song you wrote recorded by Canadian Icon Celine Dion, that is quite an accomplishment! How did your song get selected by the talented songstress ?
Yes, I did a ton of radio and television jingles through the 80s and early 90s, and the Lotto 649 were the biggest, and really the “tail end” of my jingle career. The Celine cut was a game changer for sure. It was one of those fluky things that happen…sort of a “right song, in the right place at the right time” kind of thing. Beverley had recorded “Come To Me” in demo form to go on her up-coming record, I guess it must have been early 2004, and she brought it to L.A to play for her friend and former producer, David Foster. He heard it, and basically ordered her to take it off her record! It was pretty amazing, and good timing for me, for sure.
CMW: Along with your upbeat, catchy songs you have written, you also have a knack for heartfelt ballads. “Lying Here With You” was perhaps your most requested song that hit home for a lot of people, and they related to it. Was that song drawn from a personal experience of yourself or someone you knew.
TW : Well, they do say that you have to write what you know, and I guess on some level I must have always known that I would have to learn some hard lessons in order to be a writer. That song…the opening sequence, pretty much all the imagery comes from real experience. I think I have enough of that experience now. Denise and I have been together 15 years, but I still had enough sad in the tank to write “Funny What Makes You Cry” for the new record. Actually, the video for that plays like “Lying here 2”
CMW : By the early 2000’s during a performance, you started to notice something was wrong with your vocals while you were singing, this continued to progress over time and ultimately ended your recording career. Can you explain this rare disease you were diagnosed with and how it’s progression eventually took away your ability to sing and speak.
TW : When it first started, it moved very slowly, and almost imperceptibly. Over many years in just got harder to sing. My voice lost power, and range gradually, then in late 2001 a strange sound started, a sound like I was singing and drowning at the same time. It was awful, and terrifying. Impossible to really explain except to say that it was like not being able to walk all of a sudden. By late 2002 I finally gave up. The doctors couldn’t give me any reason for what was happening to me.I retreated to being a producer/writer, but then I found out that the worst was yet to come. By 2004 I couldn’t pronounce certain vowels, and by 2005 I sounded like I had a stroke. There’s so much more detail to it, I would have to write a book to give the story justice.
CMW : You were initially told you never regain your speech again. This would be devastating news to an artist sitting at the top of their career. How did you get through the initial prognosis and overcome incredible odds, to not only speak freely, but also record music again!
TW: Yes, by 2006 I was officially diagnosed with Oromandibular Dystonia. (That’s the short form of the name!) And it is very rare, and considered to be incurable. It was easy to believe that because every time I opened my mouth I got the proof. Around 2010 I heard about a new concept called “Neuro-plasticity”, and started researching the connection between stress, trauma, and illness. I was also introduced to Hypno-therapy. (I’m a Hypnotist myself now!). When I first started improving a little, I knew I was on the right path. I just kept working on it until I got my voice back. And, incidentally, I am writing a book about it, so people will eventually get the whole story…hey, at least you know it has a happy ending!
CMW: If you could pick an artist to collaborate with today, who would that be?
TW: Well, I’m really sad that all the great producers I would have wanted to work with have passed away. Billy Sherrill was top of the list. I would also have loved to have some of the greats like Scotty Moore play on a record of mine. I’ve always been in love with Emmylou Harris. Denise knows the score there (lol). I feel like it would be really cool if I got to sing “Come To Me” with Celine Dion. There…if you’re gonna dream, dream big. I am also blessed to work with some of Canada’s best… I have been writing and performing with Jamie Warren, and Sean Hogan. Best of all, my younger brother Terry is in my band now! We have amazing talent right here at home. As for the Blue Country Soul Album itself, I was able to work with these talented individuals, John Dymond, Steve O’Connor, Gary Craig, Ali Raney ( of the Lovelocks) who all helped make this album possible.
CMW: Your new album, “Blue Country Soul” has a mix of very different music that you are known for in your early career. What was behind the decision to create an album of a completely different genre of music than what you are so well known for?
TW: Well, I think the most important part of who we become musically is who we love. I started playing music live when I was only 8. By 10 yrs old I was a musician. I had been loving and learning songs from the mid 60’s all of my life by then. If you listen to country at that time, the “Nashville Sound” was huge. All the way into the 70s. It was pretty much jazz at times. Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline both cross the line. Ray Price? Pretty much jazz in the 70s. Then, add in the Elvis I was marinated in, and you get pretty much what I’m made of. I have a ton more influences, but really at heart, the older songs have always been closest to me. It wasn’t so much a decision to record something that sounded old. It was my heart finding it’s reason to try again. If I had even thought about the charts, or radio programming again, I never would have found my way back to what I love. Just being a singer again.
CMW: In the song from your new release Blue Country Soul , the song “Funny What Makes You Cry” has a “Buble” kind of feel to it. A very romantic, big band style of song. I wouldn’t of imagined a mainstream country artist cutting a crooner inspired song,(Although artists today are experimenting different sounds in their music, which has found their way into the country music genre) but you have done an amazing job on it! Is this a style of music you have always wanted to record?
TW: Definitely. As I said, if you listen to “For The Good Times” by Ray Price, it’s all right there. Then there is the fact that my Mom sang songs like that. She was, and still is a great singer, and those are the kinds of songs she sang…Kay Starr, Patsy Cline, Theresa Brewer… I guess you could say I was “born this way” (is a Lady Gaga quote out of place in a country music interview? Lol)
CMW: The music industry has changed dramatically since your success in the late 1990’s, Has it been hard to transition from the way things operated then to today’s hectic and faced paced social media frenzy ?
TW: In a word…WOW. Things have changed so much. Actually, what has really changed is the delivery system. It has always been hard to get music on the radio, at least on a national or international level. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Music has always been somewhat “Youth-centric”, though country music hasn’t been until the last bunch of years. I am working on the basic principle that is still true, and always will be. When it comes down to it, a good song, and a performance will find it’s way. I believe I will find my audience, or they will find me if I just keep doing good stuff, and delivering the goods on stage. That hasn’t changed. Even the whole video thing. I never would have had the success I did without CMT. I had to find a way to afford to make videos, and so I learned how to do that. My new video for “Funny What Makes You Cry” will debut in celebration of the official release of “Blue Country Soul” on August 15th.
CMW: Where can we find you these days on social media Thomas and where can people find your new CD?
TW: My website is a great place to start. www.thomaswade.com . I am doing a Vlog called “the Blue Country Soul Café” which you can find on Facebook, and Twitter, as well as Thomas Wade’s Video Channel, and all my albums are available on iTunes. Wow, that’s a lot! Also, my new album has been released to non-commercial radio across Canada. I also have some very cool projects I am working on with some talented Canadians. A project called “Thomas Wade’s Jukebox 1959” will be coming to a town near you in 2017, and I will be touring this December with Sean Hogan and Jamie Warren with the “Canadian Country Christmas” tour. So, I am easy to find these days.
CMW: It has been a pleasure chatting with you Thomas ! Thank you for taking the time to tell your story!
Interview by: Trina Sampson
Music is at its most powerful when it tells a story. Few things are more potent than a song that washes over the listener, each cinematic line surging with emotion and taking the audience on an unexpected journey. In the past decade, Carrie Underwood has emerged as one of the most compelling storytellers of her generation. Beyond the range and timbre of her impressive pipes, Underwood knows how to weave and deliver a delicious tale. Aptly titled Storyteller, Underwood’s fifth studio album is filled with intriguing characters and fascinating ruminations on life, death, love, and heartbreak.
“I feel like one of the things that sets country music apart from other types of music is the storytelling aspect,” the seven-time GRAMMY® winner says. “I want three-and-a-half-minute movies on the radio. I love that there’s a beginning, middle, and an end, and it all makes sense. You can follow the characters, and you can see it all playing out in your head. That’s what I’m drawn to, so that’s what I write, what I pick, and what I want to sing. All the songs on the album either are very character-driven mini-movies or they’re my own personal stories. Hopefully, both are entertaining and relatable.”
One of the most awarded singers in any genre of music, Underwood has built a stellar career on cinematic songs that pack an emotional wallop, from her first chart-topper “Jesus, Take the Wheel” to more recent No. 1 smashes such as “Blown Away,” “Two Black Cadillacs,” “Something in the Water,” and “Little Toy Guns.” Since winning American Idol in 2005, Underwood has sold 58 million records worldwide, scored 21 No. 1 hits (including 11 she co-wrote), and earned over 100 major awards. She was the first female artist to be twice named the Academy of Country Music’s Entertainer of the Year. A respected member of the Grand Ole Opry, Underwood has tallied 38 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart with songs that have been streamed more than 1.5 billion times worldwide. In addition to her impressive recording career, Underwood branched out into acting with roles in film and television, including starring as Maria von Trapp in NBC’s Emmy®-winning The Sound of Music Live!, which attracted 44 million viewers. She has also launched her own fitness lifestyle line, CALIA by Carrie Underwood, which made a splash during New York Fashion Week 2015.
The Checotah, Oklahoma native’s four previous studio albums – Some Hearts, Carnival Ride, Play On, and Blown Away – have each been certified Platinum or multi-Platinum, and all have been named Country Album of the Year at the American Music Awards. In 2014, Underwood released her first hits collection, Greatest Hits: Decade #1. Storyteller has already continued that momentum with the record-breaking success of the hit first single, “Smoke Break.” “‘Smoke Break’ is all about the overworked, the tired, the people that just run to catch up,” Underwood says. “‘Smoke Break’ is about taking a step away for just a minute and being able to clear your head and collect your thoughts. We were very careful when we wrote it in wanting to make sure people understood the metaphor. That’s why we said, ‘I don’t smoke, but sometimes I need a smoke break. I don’t drink, but sometimes I need a stiff drink.’ It’s more about finding those things that take you away, whether that’s your coffee break or a glass of wine at night or your exercise or chatting with your mom. It’s that thing that is just for you, and it’s a release.”
From the small-town working mom and big-city ladder-climbing man she sings about in “Smoke Break” to the unsavory Bonnie and Clyde type couple in “Choctaw County Affair” and the spousal abuse survivor in “Church Bells,” Storyteller is populated with complex characters: an intentional effort by Underwood. “I naturally gravitate toward songs that have strong characters,” she says. “I don’t ever want to write a song or sing a song about a person that’s just there. That’s just not my style. And I feel like in the whole storytelling aspect, people are strongest when they’re pushed to their limits. When it’s do or die. Fight or flight. You’re either going to bend and come back stronger than ever, or you’re going to break. That’s why I pick songs like ‘Church Bells.’ This girl had to do something, or else she was going to pay the price. I just love songs about strong women. I love being sucked into that story: rooting for the woman and seeing that she does something powerful that she never thought she could do.”
Underwood describes the woman in “Church Bells” as “Fancy’s little sister,” referencing Reba’s iconic hit. “It’s just a cool story of a strong woman,” says Underwood of the song, which finds a poor but beautiful young girl married to an abusive, wealthy man. “In the song, she ends up killing him – which is not a new storyline for me – but again, it’s a movie in song form. The church bells do evolve. In the beginning, they represent a wedding. In the middle, they represent her needing some help after he abuses her, and at the end, the church bells represent the ones that ring out at his funeral, and she’s free. So a lot happens in three-and-a-half minutes.”
The woman in the album’s picturesque opener, “Renegade Runaway,” owes a lot to the women of the West. “She is dangerous. She’s wild. It’s not like she’s evil. She just can’t be tamed. She doesn’t need anybody to complete her,” Underwood explains. “The song has this great western Young Guns feel to it. When Hillary Lindsey, Chris DeStefano, and I were writing ‘Renegade Runaway,’ we were Googling all these belles of the Wild West. We were looking up pictures of these strong women standing there in their corsets and lace, and they had their guns on their hips. There were all of these incredible images and stories we were learning about these really strong women, and we were incorporating them into this character.”
Though the characters Underwood and her co-writers created drive a lot of action on Storyteller, the most poignant songs are those snapshots of her own life, including the tender ballad “Heartbeat.” “My husband and I are so lucky to be able to go to so many events and things,” she says. “We live our lives in the public and around people, but I’m the kind of person that just wants to be alone with him and be one on one. I don’t typically do very many love songs, but when we were writing ‘Heartbeat,’ there was something so real about it. “We live in this crazy, loud world where so much stuff is flying at us. Sometimes we just need to get back to what’s simple and what’s real.”
Another very personal song is “The Girl You Think I Am.” She says, “This is me telling my story about my dad. This is Hillary Lindsey talking about her dad. And that was David Hodges using a lot of his experience being a dad to girls. All of our personal stories are injected into this song that I hope is super-relatable on every level to others.”
The song that reflects the biggest change in Underwood’s life in 2015 is the closing track, “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted,” a celebration of marriage and motherhood that explores her feelings about her husband and their son Isaiah. “‘What I Never Knew I Always Wanted’ is definitely my story,” says Underwood. “I was pregnant at the time when we wrote it. I was never the kind of person that wanted this huge family, but the second I found out I was pregnant, it was like, ‘Oh, my gosh! I did want this. Let’s write a song about it!’ And even with my husband, I was never the kind of person that wondered, ‘Where’s my Prince Charming?’ That wasn’t me at all. But then once I met him, and we started dating, I guess I realized I was wrong. And I could admit that. I could admit that I never planned this, but it happened, and I couldn’t imagine my life any other way. Stuff like that is extremely personal, but there’s going to be a lot of people out there that relate to this song. It’s my story, and I think it’s a lot of people’s story.”
In crafting her new album, Underwood worked for the first time with producers Jay Joyce (Little Big Town, Eric Church) and Zach Crowell (Sam Hunt, Keith Urban), as well as her longtime producer Mark Bright. “I want to grow, and I want to change, and I want my music to reflect that, and I felt like I just needed things to switch up a little bit in order to achieve that.
“I’m a very scheduled person,” she continues, “and I like knowing how things are going to happen and when they’re going to happen, which is why I also needed someone that was unpredictable to me. Jay Joyce is just an uber-creative guy. One time he literally had me singing through this voice box thing, like a bullhorn. It was just a different way of doing things. Zach Crowell was somebody that was new for me to work with, as well. I had written with him a little bit, and his name kind of started poppin’ up all over songs that I was choosing, so it just kind of made sense to work with him in a production sense. I’ve been working with Mark Bright for 10 years, and we are such a great team. I knew I wanted him to work on this album. All three producers allowed me to be me. Nobody ever tried to tell me to sing it like this or do it like this. I felt like that helped with the continuity of the album. We have an album with three producers, but with each, it was about bringing out the best for every song.”
In an already distinguished career, Storyteller feels like a landmark album. It’s a milestone felt by its creator. “The Storyteller album marks the beginning of a new chapter in every way in my life and my career,” Underwood says. “Musically, I feel like I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I feel like I’m more confident in myself as an entertainer, as a songwriter, as a singer. I’ve definitely evolved, and it’s all been very organic. The album has some songs that are a little more gritty and edgy, and others that have an R&B feel to them. Then there are these other songs that are just twangy. We brought in a lot of different elements in a way that makes the album feel fresh and new. I hope people just call it good music.”https://www.carrieunderwoodofficial.com/bio/
(Content from Official Blake Shelton Website)
Blake Shelton is many things. He is the hugely popular coach on the top-rated television music competition show The Voice, where singers he’s mentored have won three of six seasons. He is the reigning CMA Male Vocalist of the Year. He’s the charismatic live entertainer performing to packed houses in arenas, amphitheaters and stadiums across the country.
But the one overriding facet of who Blake Shelton is led him down a path that made all these other designations possible. Blake Shelton is a Country. Music. Singer.
Shelton is in a league of his own among contemporary country artists as a top-shelf interpreter of true country music songs, and Shelton’s 11th studio album, BRINGING BACK THE SUNSHINE, marks a return to showcasing that talent with an album that sonically represents the best contemporary country has to offer, yet feels like the classic cuts served up by the heroes that inspired Shelton as young boy in Ada., Oklahoma some 30 years ago. It’s a journey that includes a CMA Entertainer of the Year trophy, three RIAA certified Platinum albums, five RIAA certified Gold albums, 17 total No. 1 country singles,7.6 million albums and 22.8 million singles sold, and a four-year run as reigning CMA Male Vocalist of the Year.
On BRINGING BACK THE SUNSHINE, producer Scott Hendricks, Shelton’s longtime friend and collaborator, created an album that highlights what is arguably the most powerful vocals Blake Shelton has ever recorded. “If there’s one thing that is important to me, no matter what, it’s singing,” says Shelton. “I’m a fan of a lot of artists, but I always gravitate to the singers, and that’s why I always looked up to Earl Thomas Conley, Travis Tritt, Ronnie Milsap, Conway Twitty. These guys never went through the motions when it came to laying down a vocal.”
“That’s my job, to be the best singer I can be when I get in the studio,” says Shelton. “I don’t ever want someone to hear me on the radio and say ‘yeah, he’s singing okay, but where’s the heart?’ I want it all to be in there.”
From soaring confessionals and convincing professions of love and loss in cuts like the steel-drenched nostalgia of “Good Country Song,” the yearning “Sangria,” and the vulnerability of “Anyone Else,” to immediately memorable up- and mid-tempos such as the hilarious “Buzzin’,” innocent romanticism of “Gonna” and the Southern rock/country blend of the title cut, SUNSHINE is an album of highlights, and the exact tonic country music needs right now.
In short, SUNSHINE is a sterling example of what contemporary country music can be at its best, unfettered by outside influences and trends. “Our goal every time is to make the best record we can possibly make, and not let any politics or anything else get in the way of that,” says Shelton. “It’s me coming in and trying to be the best singer I can be, and Scott pushing me to do that, along with all the other jobs he has of making a record.”
Thirteen years since his first single “Austin” hit the top of the country radio charts, Shelton now holds 17 No. 1 singles to his credit, recently breaking his own record for most consecutive No. 1s at country radio. With 12 singles, including five from his last album alone, Shelton has the most No. 1s in a row on the country radio charts by any artist.
That unprecedented hot streak seems destined to continue on SUNSHINE, a recording process that begins with Shelton’s and Hendricks’ never-ending search for the perfect songs for Shelton’s supple baritone and demanding lyrical standards. “The only thing I really knew I wanted to do for sure—and Scott agreed—was, ‘let’s make a ‘country-er’ record than we’ve made in a while,” Shelton says, “and I do think we accomplished that. It definitely has elements of things you hear on the radio now, but I think it’s more of a throwback to some of those earlier albums I made with [producer] Bobby Braddock, as far as the lyrical content and even the melodies.”
The public’s first taste of that focus was ‘Neon Light,” which Shelton describes as owning a “straight up George Strait, George Jones or Conway Twitty sounding chorus, mixed with the more recent stuff that I have recorded.” Thematically, the always-confident Shelton knew what he wanted. “One of the things I felt like I should do as a country singer was record music again that’s about breakin’ up, and heartache, and going and getting drunk,” he says. “The last two albums I made, one was just before I got married and one was just after I got married. I was in a really good place, and still am. But, at some point, I feel a responsibility to get back to, honestly, some of the more stereotypical things about country music. Those were the things that drew me to country music, so I wanted to sing about going to a bar, or somebody breaking your heart, singin’ about girls and things. More classic country music topics, you know?”
But even with the familiarity SUNSHINE evokes, the album often surprises, as with the keenly insightful “Anyone Else,” a song few artists would have had the courage to cut. Shelton says he “stole” that song from his wife. “She was going to record that for her Platinum album,” Shelton reveals with a laugh. “I absolutely fell in love with that song, and I begged her for it. She owed me one anyway from ‘House That Built Me,’ so I quilted her on that to get the song I wanted.”
Indeed, it’s hard to imagine anyone else singing “Anyone Else,” a song of rare emotional nakedness to which Shelton brings a startling intensity. Shelton says it starts with the song, written by Luke Laird, Barry Dean and Natalie Hemby. With its gentle opening guitar notes, what first appears to be a chiming, easy-rolling ballad reveals itself with striking lyrics like “a jealous sky won’t share the sun,” resulting in one of the most powerful songs Shelton has ever laid down.
“’Anyone Else’ is unlike anything else I’ve ever heard before,” Shelton says. “I can’t even tell you how much I love that song, I think it’s one of the most important songs I’ve ever recorded. I’ve been the guy on both sides of that song. I’ve been the guy that’s been jealous and hard on somebody, and not even know why, and I’ve also been the victim of that. The song is so relatable, and it’s so sad. Every time I sing it, there’s a different person that comes to mind that I’m singing it about, but it always includes me. But it hurts when people are hard on you, jealous or insecure, and won’t allow you to just be. I’ve experienced more of that in the last few years of my life than I have the other 38 years all put together. And when I can find a song that I can dump all those thoughts and emotions into, it’s a real big deal to me.”
More treasures abound on BRINGING BACK THE SUNSHINE, often filtered through the astute ears of Shelton’s in-house sample group, Miranda Lambert. “After I get some things I’m pumped about, I like to get Miranda in the truck and just play her stuff,” says Shelton. “When she heard ‘South Of Heaven,’ she played it again and again, and I called Scott and said, ‘man, we’re cuttin’ ‘South Of Heaven.’ Once we cut it, it became clear that this was one of my favorite ballads I’ve ever recorded.”
“South Of Heaven” is one of three vastly different tracks on SUNSHINE co-written by Wiseman. “The way Craig Wiseman can write a song blows my mind,” Shelton marvels. “He can not only put you in that moment, but in that person’s brain and what they’re feeling. [‘South Of Heaven’] definitely takes me back to high school, or even a little after high school, those moments that just seem magical, whenever you had that girl and you went back-roadin’, or whatever your particular version is—we all have a version of it—that song definitely takes me there.”
Conversely, another Wiseman gem, “Buzzin’” conjures up a different feeling entirely. “What I love about Craig, and I think ‘Buzzin’’ is a good representation of this, he’s so brilliant, so smart with his songwriting. “These songs are so genius and yet still so goofy at the same damn time. Every time I see his name on a song I can’t wait to hear it.”
Shifting gears yet again, Shelton believes “Sangria” is “one of the sexiest songs I’ve ever cut,” he says. “It sounds like something that came from a different time, almost like something Chris Isaak would have had on one of his records at some point. It’s just about one of those nights where you drink too much and you’re gonna end up hookin’ up with this person, it’s just inevitable. It’s not too over the top, but it’s pure sex, that’s the only way I know to describe that song.”
“Lonely Tonight,” a stirring duet with Ashley Monroe, was the “toughest vocal on the record for me,” Shelton says. “That song is just so range-y and, on top of that, I knew Ashley was going to come in and sing on it, and I knew that people were gonna hear her singing in a way they’d never heard her sing before,” he says. “We all know she’s a singer/songwriter, and we’ve all heard that side of her, but I don’t think people know the girl can wail like she can. I just wanted to step up to that level, so I was really hard on myself, and tried to make that as best as I could possibly get it.”
Others came more easily, like “I Need My Girl.” “That’s right in my wheelhouse of what I do, along the lines of ‘She Wouldn’t Be Gone’ or ‘Over You,’ some of those type of records that are kind of a power ballad,” Shelton says. “That’s my natural go-to, and that was fun for me to sing.”
While Shelton is about as stone country as a singer can get, he is deeply immersed in all sorts of music due to his other gig on The Voice (the seventh season began Sept. 22), a dynamic that inevitably infuses those influences into his own work. “Anything that you take in is gonna come back out in some way, and it has been doing that, for sure,” he says. Reflecting on that thought, Shelton adds, “I’m a country singer, and there’s nothing I’ll ever be able to do about that, or want to do about it. When I open my mouth, it’s country, and always has been. I just wanted to embrace that, embrace exactly who I am, to make this record. If somebody wants to get the gist of who I am from start to finish, I think this album musically encompasses all the roads I’ve explored as an artist.”
With its spirit of optimism, the song made perfect sense to Shelton as the title for the album. “I love the message of the song. It’s about a couple that’s gone through something, probably separated, and just decided to get back together, what’s most important is their love,” Shelton explains. “There’s something magical about that title, and given what this album is all about, I thought ‘BRINGING BACK THE SUNSHINE’ is like I’m bringing back some country music, some of these sounds we don’t hear that much anymore in country, at least in the mainstream,” he says. “Country is sunshine to me.”
Perhaps the defining track on SUNSHINE is “A Good Country Song,” a bittersweet, breathtaking slice of nostalgia written by Tommy Lee James, Matt Jenkins, and Jessi Alexander. “Jessi Alexander is a great friend of mine, and she got in touch with me when she heard we were cutting tracks and said, ‘I heard you’re recording, can I start writing for your project?’” Shelton says. “I said, ‘hell yeah.’ She’s written some very important songs in my career, like ‘Drink On It,‘ she co-wrote ‘Might Only Be You.’ When she writes for me, she literally writes for me, and if you ever question that, you only need listen to the lyric of ‘A Good Country Song.’ When I heard the lyric, it was almost as if she grew up in the same house I grew up in, from shifting the gears in my dad’s truck to listening to Earl Thomas Conley on a station out of Tulsa. There has never been a more accurate song about me that I have recorded.”
That’s it, in a nutshell. BRINGING BACK THE SUNSHINE showcases the many facets of a complicated person with a simple mission: creating a diverse, powerful country music album.
SUNSHINE taps into Shelton’s innate vocal rhythm, resulting in songs that are more pulsing than pounding, tempo notwithstanding. “It’s an accident, but it’s still by design of trying to keep the pulse up a little bit,” Shelton says, “while not getting too boring, because I do tend to be a ballad singer.”
So even if SUNSHINE finds Shelton entering a new phase of his career, the record still finds simultaneously him looking back and forward, in tone if not overall musicality. He’s still that guy who forfeited high school athletics to play gigs, who obsessed over the liners of each new country album he bought, who took off for Nashville at 17 armed with nothing but a dream and a country voice for the ages.
“It’s very important to me to push myself and push boundaries, musically and artistically, and always be looking for what’s next,” he says. “But it’s also important for me to come back and touch home base every once in a while, to be sure there’s always a firm foot planted in country music. Country’s defined a lot of different ways by a lot of different people, and I’m sure there are other people out there that will listen to ‘A Good Country Song’ and say ‘aw, that ain’t country.’ But country’s defined by each individual, and this is my definition of stepping back a little bit, let’s make a record that represents the beginning of my career, but also blending with where I’ve ended up. I think there’s still a place for that in country radio, and it’s important as an industry that we all don’t get too far away from home.”
This past summer, Shelton has been away from home performing before hordes of fans who have turned out for sold-out shows at iconic venues like New York’s Madison Square Garden, LA’s Hollywood Bowl and Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Shelton is wrapping the biggest tour of his career, but finds getting face-to-face with fans rewarding on multiple levels. “It’s so exciting to look down and see a six year old girl singing the words to ‘Ol’ Red’ or ‘Austin,’ and then look over and see a 60 year-old woman singing ‘Boys ‘Round Here,’ singing ‘backwoods legit, don’t take no shit.’ I always said my ultimate goal is to have a career like George Strait, and although I haven’t done that—and nobody probably ever will—that is my goal. And to step out there and see that it’s going from one generation to another, that’s the most satisfying and exciting thing that any artist can accomplish.”
So if the more seasoned and savvy TV era Blake could tell the driven 17 year-old Blake that headed off to Nashville anything, “I’d tell him just to relax and stop worrying so much,” he says. “I knew the one thing that I wanted to do with my life was country music, it worried me to death. I was never one of those people who was like, ‘I’ll give it a shot for a while and then move on.’ It never was that for me, it was ‘how am I gonna get this done, how am I gonna get my foot in the door?’ Even after I had a hit or two, it was worry of ‘how can I keep this going?’ It wasn’t until the last three or four years that I finally started taking a deep breath and going, ‘man, I get to be a country singer, and it’s OK.’ I get to do it now. I don’t care at what level, as long as I get to be country singer,’ that’s all I ever wanted to do.”
Latest Blake Shelton Video country music news