Shelton Taps The Conway Twitty Songbook For A Hit
albums into his career, Warner Bros. Nashville artist Blake
Shelton has already topped the charts three times, twice with
songs that tug at the heartstrings ("Austin" and
"The Baby") and a comical change of pace with
bid for No. 4 starts with "Goodbye Time," a soulful
gem from the catalog of the late great Conway Twitty and written
by James Dean Hicks and Roger Murrah. The song broke into
the Top 10 on the R&R Country Airplay Chart and is
No. 11 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles Chart.
heard the song on a television show about Twitty's life. He knew
immediately he'd stumbled on to a winner.
they were rolling the credits," recalled Shelton,
"they were showing live footage of Conway singing it and I
had never heard the song before. He was doing that deal where he
had his knees bent and when he was hitting that high note, veins
were popping out on his head. He was sweating and it was
awesome. So we decided to make our own version of it. I
certainly didn't want to try and copy Conway."
likely would have appreciated Shelton's nose for a hit and his
determination to make that song his own. The lanky Oklahoman
started out in Nashville as a teenager doing odd jobs for
"Heartbreak Hotel" songwriter Mae Axton, and was
offered a record deal by the time he turned 21.
was stupid," Shelton said. "I could sing well enough -
I guess - and I made a lot of friends around Nashville.
It's not because I was this guy who had amazing songs people
were talking about."
green, Shelton quickly proved he had chops. Renowned songwriter
Bobby Braddock became his mentor, producing the first Gold album
with the No. 1 hit "Austin."
is a producer's dream come true because he has a total sense of
self - he knows who he is and what works for him,"
Braddock said. "His sense of humor makes studio work less
grueling, and he's a consistently good singer with good
said working with Braddock was a privilege.
is as important to what I do as me showing up and being
there," Shelton said. "He's got totally different
ideas, and he's never afraid to try something new. His
influences are a lot different than people realize.
Bobby's heroes were The Beatles, Ray Charles, Hank Williams,
Webb Pierce, people like that. And he pulls from all of that
when he's writing a song or producing."
with his debut, self-titled album and his second album The
Dreamer, helped Braddock and Shelton relax for the
recording of new album Blake Shelton's Barn & Grill,
for which Shelton received a Gold certification plaque on stage
at The Coliseum during the 2005 CMA Music Festival. They
went for story songs about average folks, in the model of two of
Shelton's heroes, Earl Thomas Conley and John Anderson.
me, the whole album is just conversations people are having,
like you're just sitting in a bar and if you listen to what
people are saying around you you'll hear all this stuff,"
Shelton said. "There's a couple breaking up, old timers
telling stories, a guy hitting on a girl - just one night
in any bar around the country."
conceiving this place Shelton envisioned, he and Braddock
enlisted a team of Nashville songsmiths including Harley Allen,
who wrote "The Bartender," and teamed with Jimmy
Melton to pen "When Somebody Knows You That Well," and
Paul Overstreet, who with Even Stevens, created the playfully
naughty "Cotton Pickin' Time."
another of Shelton's favorites, teamed with Rory Lee Frank to
write "Some Beach," another No. 1 hit.
up, I had all of Paul's albums and was completely obsessed with
him," Shelton said. "I used to go to his shows, and
stand around the bus."
Beach" is "just a good feeling song," Shelton
said. "When I started out, I tried to stay as reserved as I
could and didn't really know how to act. But now I've gotten
comfortable with what I do, and think people are starting to get
me a little bit, so I'm starting to work in more humor because
that's a big part of who I am. I love to joke around and laugh,
so I'm trying to keep that in the music, too."
is a country boy at heart, and he retreats regularly to his
800-acre getaway outside of Nashville. An avid hunter, he and
his wife enjoy the solitude of the woods. All that is on hold
for now while Shelton tours with Rascal Flatts.
Combining Shelton's music with the pop-Country of Rascal Flatts
doesn't make sense on paper, but it works, Shelton said.
we talked about touring together I told them, 'Man, I'm 180
degrees from you guys,'" Shelton said. "Their point
was, that's exactly why we should do it. So now I'm in front of
people who probably wouldn't have come out if it had been just
me playing, and I'm able to showcase what I'm doing, and maybe
win some of those people over. And the fact that we are so
different is why this tour is working so well I think."
the realization that he's performing in front of more than
10,000 screaming fans a night is a bit startling, Shelton said.
haven't been a real consistent artist chart-wise," Shelton
said. "I've learned not to count my chickens before they're
hatched. But sometimes you just see stuff happening, and that's
thing Shelton has plenty of room for chickens on that farm.
On the Web: www.blakeshelton.com
2005 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.