Blake Shelton Talks Family: 'Every Day I've Fallen in Love with the Boys as Much as I Do with Gwen'

In an intimate interview, the superstar Voice coach reveals how wife Gwen Stefani has influenced his life and why he's embraced his role as a stepfather to her three sons

With a string of 28 No. 1 hits and a 21-season throne on The Voice, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more successful country artist than Blake Shelton. But the superstar says he already knows the clock is ticking down on his career — and, he says, he's just fine with that. After all, he has other priorities now.

"What I've been looking forward to doing for the last four or five years ... is eyeing that timeline, that part of my career, where I just need to start stripping some things away," Shelton, 45, said in an intimate hour-long interview Friday in Nashville. "You gotta get some life in there, and marrying Gwen [Stefani], I've married into a family. She's got three boys ... and all of a sudden you go, there's other stuff."

Shelton was the big-name guest at this year's Country Radio Seminar, the national gathering of broadcasters. His interviewer, Country Countdown USA host Lon Helton, took the artist through a list of wide-ranging topics before a rapt audience of several hundred industry insiders. But surely the most revealing queries were the ones that offered a glimpse into Shelton's life with his pop superstar wife, whom he started dating in 2015 and married last year, and her three sons Kingston, 15, Zuma, 13, and Apollo, 8, with ex Gavin Rossdale.

Blake Shelton and Lon Helton at CRS in Nashille 02/25/22
Blake Shelton and Lon Helton. Nancy Kruh

In fact, Shelton divulged, her children's presence initially made Stefani, 52, skeptical that the couple had staying power.

"I think Gwen thought, when we first started seeing each other, that it was just gonna be a moment in time because of that," he said, alluding to her concern about whether he would want her sons in his life.

Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton
Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani. Gwen Stefani/Instagram

But Shelton said he didn't think twice about making a commitment to the boys — and he did so because he had such a fine example in his own father, who married his mother when she already had a baby, his brother, Richie.

"He took Richie on and raised him from the time he was 1 year old, and my brother never thought of my dad as anything other than his dad," said Shelton, who lost his brother, age 24 at the time, in a car accident in 1990. "The example that my dad set for me was that [child] was not even a consideration [in a romantic partnership]. You got three boys? Awesome! My dad did it. My dad raised me. I could do this. I didn't know what I was signing up for, but I was all about signing up for it. And every day I've fallen in love with the boys as much as I do with Gwen."

Gwen Stefani shares family pic with blake in honor of son zuma’s 13th bday
Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani, Zuma, Kingston, and Apollo. Gwen Stefani/Instagram

Shelton also revealed he rocked the LA-raised boys' world when they began making trips to his 1,300-acre ranch near Tishomingo, Oklahoma. He relished recalling the older boys' first visit when they were clueless about rural life.

"The two of them were like, 'Well, what do we do now?'" Shelton said. "I go, 'Go out that door and don't come back till you're too tired to go any further.' Well, they can't even imagine just going down to the creek with a net or turning over rocks or getting on a buggy and driving around."

Today, Shelton said, his ranch has become "like Disneyland" for all three of his stepsons. He shared that he's taught them how to fish, but he added, the boys have other favorite pursuits: "When it comes to burning things and starting fires and throwing hatchets, you better get out of the way!"

Shelton also talked at length about the profound influence that Stefani has had on his own life, particularly through her own deep devotion to faith and family. To Shelton, the unlikely fact that the two even connected — they met as opposing coaches on The Voice — is ample evidence of God's existence.

"I think honestly, looking back, that under the circumstances that Gwen and I fell in love with each other and got together was all the proof I needed," he said. "She has such a strong faith in God. I mean, if Gwen was sitting here right now, she would go 'God'" — Shelton raised one hand high over his head — and then 'everything else.'" He lowered the other hand toward the floor.

Blake Shelton and Lon Helton at CRS in Nashille 02/25/22
Blake Shelton and Lon Helton. Nancy Kruh

"Just watching her and learning from her and learning how she thinks and how she treats people and how she just operates in her life, naturally I start seeing the God in everything, because she does," he said, noting that his own deepening faith has begun showing up in his music on such album tracks as "Bible Verses," "Savior's Shadow" and "Jesus Got a Tight Grip."

"I do like having it on my records," he said, "because I want it on there."

Shelton said his wife also has tightened the bonds with his sister, mother and stepfather. (Shelton lost his father in 2012.) "She's got her arms around all of them," he said, "and I never experienced that with anybody really, because that's a lot to take on, and family's first for Gwen."

One way she shows it, he said, is through epic family meals: "Gwen's Italian. She's other things, too, but she really leans into the Italian part of her blood, and that comes with lots and lots and lots of family gatherings and lots of food. I mean, there's a reason that my chin looks like a f---ing stork, and I'm OK with it!"

Gwen Stefani/Instagram
Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani. Gwen Stefani/Instagram

Just as Shelton has been embracing a fulfilling personal life, he said he also has been letting go of any long-term expectations for his own career. As a self-described "student of the country music industry," he said he's well aware that popularity almost inevitably fades.

"I've kind of always been prepared for when this ends and my songs aren't getting played anymore," he said. "And I learned to accept it a few years ago — maybe three or four or five years ago — that it's coming ... You have to be honest with yourself, and you can't believe that this is gonna go on forever, because it's not. ... I want to make great records, and the moment that I feel like I'm really not that relevant anymore, I don't think I want to [record] anymore ... I'm not somebody that's ever gonna beat my head against the wall, because this industry has given me way, way more than I ever deserved. And I know that, and I'm proud of that. And when it's my time to make room for somebody else, the last thing I'm gonna do is kick and scream to keep my post ... But whenever that is, look, there's not one complaint that I could have. I couldn't be prouder and happier."

Blake Shelton
Blake Shelton. Courtesy CRB/CRS/Kayla Schoen Photography

Over the course of the interview, Shelton revealed these other intriguing details about his life:

Cher's participation on The Voice led to a surprise album dedication: Shelton and the pop diva hit it off when she served as his team's adviser during season 5, and he shared with her that his father, who had died the year before, was her "biggest fan." About six months later, Shelton said, he learned that the liner notes for Cher's new album included a dedication in his dad's memory. "I completely did not expect that," said Shelton. "I hadn't spoken to her since that moment, and she dedicated her entire album to my dad. It's pretty amazing."

Toby Keith's No. 1 hit "I Wanna Talk About Me" was written specifically for Shelton: Legendary Nashville songwriter Bobby Braddock was Shelton's producer when he penned the egocentric song, and Shelton recorded it while still searching for his first hit. But, Shelton said, a focus group gave it such a forceful thumbs-down that his label kept it off his debut album. Braddock passed the song to Keith, and Shelton went on to score his first No. 1 with "Austin" just before Keith released "I Wanna Talk About Me." Shelton, who spent a year and a half opening for Keith, doesn't begrudge his fellow Oklahoman's success. "I always say, I think songs like that find their home, and I do think Toby's such an asshole that that's the perfect song for him," Shelton deadpanned to hearty laughter. "He did wanna talk about himself."

He's becoming self-conscious about being known as "the funny guy." "After a while," he said, "it's like I'm the good ol' country boy on The Voice that's supposed to be funny." As evidence of that comic bumpkin reputation, Shelton cited a conversation he'd had earlier that day with his driver, who informed him that his name had been used as the butt of a joke in a recent episode of the HBO Max series Peacemaker. "What are they making fun of me for?" Shelton said he asked the driver. "I don't even know any of these people! He goes, 'Well, John Cena and this other character get in an argument about how dorky each other are, and she's making the point that John Cena's so white that she starts comparing him to people. And you're the first one. She says, "You're just a Blake Shelton."'" That, Shelton said, left him completely taken aback: "I was like, oh my God, I'm the new Nickelback!"

One of the other original coaches on The Voice taught him the power of "no." "I learned this from — believe it or not — Christina Aguilera that there's nothing more powerful than the word 'no' if you're trying to get where you're going," Shelton explained. "We used it a lot of times in the last 10 years. It's like, 'Hmmm, no, even though that's a lot of money, I don't want to do that.' And next thing you know, all of a sudden, it's twice the amount of money. And that big 'no' all of a sudden became a 'yes.' ... When I was fortunate enough to be able to use the word 'no' is when my career really, really changed in a big way because it's almost like a poker game."

He's since changed course, he added: "Now I really mean it when I say 'no.'"

He sets the same goal for every album he releases. "We're always looking for something different or what's next," Shelton said about his work with longtime producer Scott Hendricks. "And that's a hard thing to do because, when something works, you kind of want to go back to that." In fact, Shelton said, he's recently been fighting the temptation to chase the success of his 2019 mega-hit "God's Country."

"I know by now to stop doing that," he said, "but my ego gets in the way occasionally."

Changing up his sounds so often, he added, has "probably kept me from being maybe one of the more credible artists that's come out of Nashville." But, he said, "I'm a hundred percent OK with that because I did what I wanted to do, which is make records that ... keep people wondering what's gonna be next."

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