Without Adam Levine on The Voice, Blake Shelton Says Gwen Stefani's Return 'Kind of Saved the Show'


Now that filming has begun on Season 17 of The Voice, Blake Shelton says he’s been pining for his favorite foil, Adam Levine, who left the series after last season. But one thing is definitely soothing his spirits: Girlfriend Gwen Stefani is also occupying one of the show’s famous spinning chairs this season.

“Having her there, selfishly for me, made me happy, and I think it kind of saved the show with Adam going away,” Shelton, 43, said during a press conference Wednesday in Nashville, “because there’s no way around it: It sucks not having Adam there. I mean, he’s just a major part of that show and,” he added playfully, “my favorite person to kick in the nuts.”

Shelton and Stefani, of course, met on the show back in 2014, and Shelton says he’s happy about her return not only because of their relationship, but also because she’s a veteran of three seasons. “She’s familiar with it and gets it,” he said, “and that made me feel better because that show is a complicated thing. When you’re a coach on there … and at the same time you’re also supposed to be entertaining the audience at home, it’s kind of a juggling act.”

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Shelton spoke to reporters at his downtown Nashville bar and restaurant, Ole Red, during a celebration for his latest No. 1 single, “God's Country.” The platinum-selling song, co-written by Jordan Schmidt and singer-songwriters Devin Dawson and Hardy, topped the hot country chart in May — just two months after its release — and the country airplay chart in July.

The massive hit not only struck a chord with fans, but, Shelton revealed, it also helped him recharge his own batteries. “My last record kind of felt like things were slipping a bit,” he admitted. “People would say to me, what are you talking about? You know, ‘You had a No. 1 song on there, the album’s gold, it’s a platinum single’ — all these things — but still you kinda feel it, you know.”

Shelton retold the now-famous story of how he first heard the demo, sung by Hardy, while driving a skid steer on his Oklahoma ranch. Stopping dead in his tracks, he called his producer, Scott Hendricks.

“Man, I don’t know where that song came from,” he recalled telling Hendricks, “but that’s literally the kind of song that … makes me want to make another record, that kind of reignites my excitement, not for country music, but for what I do in country music — and let’s cut it.”

Devin Dawson, Hardy, Jordan Schmidt and Blake Shelton | Nancy Kruh

Shelton was in a recording studio within days — a speed, he said, that he’s now embracing. In fact, he said, these days he’s a lot more interested in releasing new songs than in assembling a new album, although, he added, he knows one is “inevitable.”

“I’m loving just recording a song and putting it out there,” he said. “It’s a blast for me just to sit back and go, ‘Okay, now what else y’all got? I’ll go cut it. Let’s go cut it.’”

Shelton’s comment was directed at the three songwriters of “God’s Country,” who also appeared at the press conference — and, indeed, Hardy has co-written “Hell Right,” the duet with Trace Adkins that’s Shelton’s next single. (Of course, Hardy has his own single, “Rednecker,” moving up the charts.)

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Devon Dawson, Hardy, Blake Shelton and Jordan Schmidt | Jason Kempin / Getty

“God’s Country” has paid dividends for Shelton in at least one more important way: His performance of the song on the ACM Awards in April caught the attention of fellow Oklahoman Garth Brooks. A couple of days later, the Hall of Famer called Shelton.

“It was kind of — I won’t say a disastrous conversation — but it was awkward a little bit because he’s Garth, and I’m the guy that wanted to be a country singer because I saw his first television special,” Shelton said.

By the end of the conversation, Brooks was inviting Shelton to join him on “Dive Bar,” his latest single that now sits in the top 30.

“He just said, ‘I’ve got this song that I’d like for you to listen to, and maybe if you like it, then we could record it together,’” Shelton recalled. “I think I literally said, ‘Buddy, I haven’t heard it, but I’ll do it.’”