Blake Shelton Thought His Career Might Be on Its Way Out — Then ‘God’s Country’ Came Along
It might not be an understatement to say that Blake Shelton owes his career to his newest hit song, "God's Country." A heavy, metal-inflected country-rock anthem that pays homage to the power of the land and the God that created it, the track came to the singer at a moment when his time as a recording artist seemed to be fizzling out.
"I heard the song, and it was almost like an awakening. It was like it re-energized me -- like, 'No, I don't wanna be done with this,' you know? 'I wanna keep making records,'" Shelton reflected at a recent press event.
To understand the true impact of "God's Country" on Shelton's career, you have to think back to the beginning of 2019, when Shelton was releasing singles off of his 2017 studio album, Texoma Shore, to radio. That record's first single, "I'll Name the Dogs," hit No. 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart in late 2017, but its next two sings -- "I Lived It" and "Turning Me On" -- climbed up to the Top 10, then faltered before reaching the top spot. Many artists would consider that a success, but for an artist like Shelton, who once earned 17 consecutive No. 1 hits, it felt like a pretty lackluster performance, and he began to wonder whether his career was coming to a close.
"It was like, 'Oh, s--t. We knew this would happen eventually,'" he recalls of that time. "It was like, 'We're not the new guy anymore,' you know? 'And we're starting to see this happen. Dammit.'
"You always wonder what that would feel like, when that starts slipping away a little bit," Shelton continues. "I think about that stuff a lot ... And I was kind of okay with it. I was like, 'Man, I got a lot more out of this than I thought I would.' I was having that kind of pity party."
As he contemplated his next step, Shelton says he wanted to take a break and reassess before jumping into a new album cycle. "I was not knowing even what I wanted to do moving forward, as far as when and what kind of record I wanted to make," he explains.
"It was like, 'The industry's changing. I don't understand. Why are we talking about consumption? Whatever happened to just record sales? What the hell are y'all talking about? I'm so out of the loop,'" Shelton continues.
Around this time, Shelton was open about the fact that he didn't know what the future held as far as a new full-length record: “I’ll be just as happy to release just another single. I do [have more songs] and I’ve got other stuff that I’m pumped about, but when I think about an album right now I’m like, ‘Do people care about them anymore?’ I don’t know. But I’m having a blast just releasing singles. Maybe I’ll do that from now on,” he said at the time.
Other aspects of Shelton's career, including his coaching role on The Voice, took center stage. Still he didn't close the door on new music: He asked his team to continue sending him new songs, and one day, while working outdoors on his Oklahoma property, he heard a song that changed everything.
"I was out on a skid steer with one of those mulch head attachments to it, and I was just out mulching some stuff on the property. It just so happened that it had a little bluetooth connector in there, so I stopped and figured out how that worked," he recounts. "I'll be damned, the first song I heard was "God's Country," and it was Hardy singing the demo.
"I just literally couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was like, 'This can't be happening to me right now!'" Shelton admits.
From there, the song came together at a record pace. Hardy tells The Boot that he co-wrote "God's Country" with Devin Dawson and Jordan Schmidt on Jan. 7, created the demo that same day and sent it to Shelton's team. Shelton cut it within a week, and, in short order, "God's Country" went to radio and rocketed up the ranks. By late May, Shelton was back at the top of the charts.
"For it to go from not existing on Jan. 1 to on the radio, and already in the Top 40 [in April] -- I know it's happened faster, but in my career, that's as fast as I've ever had something come through. It's crazy," Hardy commented at the time.
For Shelton, "God's Country" changed everything. It got him excited about the prospect of recording full-length albums again -- and, in fact, he geared up to release an album, Fully Loaded: God's Country at the end of 2019. The song reinvigorated his radio status, too, but that's not all: It also won the singer his first CMA Award in several years.
"It just kind of turned everything around for me, as far as airplay -- and even being nominated for something. Hell, I hadn't even been nominated for a CMA [in five years]. I didn't even mark that [awards show] off on my calendar anymore," Shelton relates. "Like, 'Eh, we're doing The Voice anyway -- I don't wanna go take up somebody's seat.'"
"God's Country" also challenges him vocally every night he sings it.
"That song has me against the ropes," Shelton adds with a laugh. "It beats the hell out of me, and I love it."
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