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Humble and humorous

Country singer doesn't take success for granted

Country singer doesn't take success for granted

April 03, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

A couple of 6-week-old mutt puppies were dumped last year at Blake Shelton's 460-acre farm west of Nashville, Tenn.,.

He named one of them Austin, the title of a song from his debut album. "Austin" - the song - spent five weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts.

Shelton calls the other pup Ol' Red, the tag borrowed from the song of the same name. Shelton's "Ol' Red" video helped to carry that CD to its gold status. It also garnered Shelton a nomination for Country Music Television's Flameworthy Breakthrough Video of the Year. The awards ceremony will be broadcast on CMT at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 7.

Shelton jokes he's happy he had a second hit, or he might have had to call the dog "Branson."

That's an example of the humility and humor that characterize the 26-year-old singer, who will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 6, at The Maryland Theatre.

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The concert is one of about 200 he and the band he's been with since the summer of 2001 will play this year throughout the United States.

"We love (performing live)," he says. "That's why we got into this business."

Shelton's first public performance - at age 8 - as entertainment during a little girl's pageant in his native Oklahoma. He says his mother knew he wanted to sing, but he didn't enjoy it.

"It was pretty humiliating for me," he says.

But by the time he was a teenager, Shelton realized how much he loved music. He went fishing every day after school and listened over and over to the same CDs until he couldn't listen anymore. These albums became his only vocal instructors.

He sang along, mimicking everything from Dan Seals' falsetto to Travis Tritt's growl.

He sang two weekends a month at a "little Opry-type" show, played in bars and fairs.

He met Mae Boren Axton, also a native of Ada, Okla. Co-writer of Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" and mother of singer-songwriter-actor Hoyt Axton, she invited him to get in touch when he came to Nashville, Tenn.

Not long after his high-school graduation, a 17-year-old Shelton made that trip, and Mae Boren Axton took him under her wing.

"She made a phone call or two," he says, making sure he didn't get in with the wrong crowd.

"It was good being able to kind of skip a few stages," Shelton says. In Nashville, a lot of things are based on relationships and trust, he explains.

His self-titled debut album released in 2001 sold more than half a million copies, hence the gold status. He received an Academy of Country Music nomination for the Top New Male Vocalist award.

He calls his success "exciting but scary," and he reflects on it and what's really important in "The Dreamer," the title song on his second album.

"It's probably the only thing I've ever sat down and taken from my life," he says, adding that anybody who's ever gone after a dream or a goal can relate.

The lyrics and music came together all at the same time, says Shelton. He's heard songwriters say a song just came out of nowhere.

"'The Dreamer' was that song for me."

The album includes tunes that range from raucous to emotional. "Playboys of the Southwestern World" is a country-rockin' bad boy adventure in Mexico. "The Baby," a youngest child's ode to his dying mother, gave Shelton his second Billboard and Radio & Records No. 1 single.

Shelton has thought about buying a place back home in Oklahoma, but for now, he'll stay in Tennessee, close to Nashville.

He says he's never going to be so comfortable that he can take for granted the success he's achieved.

"I'm just now starting to feel good about it," he says.

So, he got himself a bulldozer and he's planning to dig himself a bigger pond so he can enjoy another longtime passion - fishing.

"Things change and life goes on," Shelton says.

"I at least felt like I made a small mark."




Blake Shelton

3 p.m. Sunday, April 6

The Maryland Theatre

21 S. Potomac St.

Hagerstown

Tickets cost $35, including service charge, and are available at The Maryland Theatre box office, 27 S. Potomac St., and by calling 301-790-2000.

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