Kick back and relax with Blake Shelton

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 4, 2006

By Adam Hammer, staff writer

On Eighth Avenue in Nashville, Tenn., there is a small, laid-back bar with brick walls and neon beer signs on the wall where, every Tuesday night, singers, songwriters and aspiring musicians gather to perform for friends, patrons and anyone who’ll listen.

Many performers have graced that stage at Douglas Corner Caf and most remain unheard of. A few others, such as Blake Shelton, have gone on to sell gold records and climb the music charts.

But Shelton hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to get together with friends and fellow musicians and enjoy a good conversation over a beer and some tunes. In fact, that was the concept for his latest release, Blake Shelton’s Barn and Grill.

&8220;I just wanted an album that would go great with drinking beer and just kind of be kicked back and relaxed,&8221; Shelton said.

This was the first of Shelton’s three albums that he has been involved in concept, songwriting and performing. The idea was conceived during conversation over drinks with collaborator Bobby Bradock about Shelton’s favorite country music artists such as Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams.

Song after song, it came together with hits &8220;Some Beach&8221; and &8220;Nobody But Me.&8221;

&8220;When you think hard enough towards something like that it just starts to happen with the music,&8221; Shelton said. &8220;It was real exiting to realize we created that place I was trying to create with music.&8221;

Shelton calls Barn and Grill his most successful album as a personal accomplishment and with sales and accolades.

On stage, Shelton said his set list includes songs from Barn and Grill and songs from earlier releases. There are also some new surprises that find their way into the line-up.

&8220;In between albums is a good time to learn new songs and throw them in and try them out on the audience,&8221; he said. &8220;These shows are really laid back and a lot of fun I think.&8221;

Shelton was in the studio this week working on some of the final tracks for his next album with a single scheduled to come out sometime in September.

Shelton finds himself to be a more traditional country music artist than many artists out there with some untraditional qualities.

&8220;The thing that keeps me traditional is my sound. I’m pretty much down the middle, maybe just a little bit left of center,&8221; Shelton said. &8220;Maybe just enough that hopefully it keeps it interesting for fans.&8221;

Shelton moved to Nashville when he was 17. Before releasing his self-titled debut album in 2001, he said he played a lot of open mike nights and songwriters’ sessions in Music City.

&8220;At first I was a little bit afraid of rejection so I probably didn’t get on stage as much as I wanted to,&8221; Shelton said.

Before taking the stage, he went to many sessions to just watch and meet people.

&8220;Over time and meeting people and being invited to a part of a writers’ night, those were things that I always wanted to do was to sit there with my guitar and play songs that I had written, but if it was worth playing,&8221; Shelton said.

He kept mostly to the venues that were best-suited for his music, steering clear of places such as the Bluebird Caf.

&8220;I wanted people to drink beer and react to a song,&8221; he said.

From the open mike stage to the grandstand, Shelton said he has tried to stay on track and continue to grow as a singer and songwriter.

&8220;I’m always looking to make sure I know who I am and that I’m happy with that,&8221; Shelton said.