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Rewind with Blake Shelton

Blake Shelton
Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Facts about Blake Shelton: He was awarded the CMA Entertainer of the Year, is a three-time winner of Male Vocalist of the Year, has received multiple Grammy nominations, has six gold and platinum albums, and charted 12 No. 1 singles, eight of them in a row. He's back as a coach on this season of NBC's "The Voice," and his Ten Times Crazier Tour 2014 includes sold-out concerts at Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl for his first performances at both venues.

His career took off in 2001 when his first single, "Austin," took him to the top of the charts. Here's a look back at Blake Shelton's debut.

By the time Blake Shelton began adjusting to the fact that his debut single, "Austin," was the second-best-selling country single in the nation, it had reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Shelton knew immediately upon hearing the song that it had the potential to impact listeners. "I heard it as a man," he says, "so it probably touched me in a different way. I thought it was great. Like everybody else, I can relate to it because everyone hopes to have someone who cares enough about them to wait forever, and that's what happens in Austin. He won't let go, and by the time she realizes that she needs to go back, she has a second chance. She can make a mistake and still come back to him. Of course, I don't know how I'd be in that type of situation. I'm walking the fence!"

A newcomer to the country music charts, Shelton, a singer, songwriter and guitarist, accomplished something few new artists can do: involving heavyweights in the making of his album. Earl Thomas Conley, his all-time favorite country artist, co-wrote with him, and legend Bobby Braddock, Shelton's favorite songwriter ("He Stopped Loving Her Today," "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," "Time Marches On"), produced the self-titled CD.

"I've always gravitated toward the older generation of artists, songwriters and managers, the veterans of music," he says. "When I moved to Nashville, I was writing early on with one of Bobby Braddock's friends, and he'd call Bobby and play him our work tapes. I didn't know this. Bobby was interested, and we got together and decided to do this project."

Shelton got an early start in performing. When he was 8 years old, his mother entered him in a talent show. "It was a pretty humiliating experience," he recalls of the gig that had him onstage with 50 little girls. "I came through and told my mom that I certainly never wanted to do those types of things anymore. So she found venues for me without my having to be in the pageant! I was about 13 and there used to be a little country show in Ada, Oklahoma, Shelton's hometown, called The Music Palace. I performed five or six times there, then at local "Opry" shows, events, festivals, and around town during my teen years, anything to get in front of an audience." By this time he had figured out that being surrounded by 50 females is not a bad thing.

At 15, he began playing guitar. "Once I got it down, I was sold on wanting to be a singer and songwriter," he says. "Probably the most important thing to me now is my acoustic guitar. It is a very important part of my sound."

Two years later, with high school behind him, he relocated to Nashville, his first time away from home. "I met people who were impressed that I just up and moved at that age with nothing to fall back on," he says. "I was determined and naive. I thought I would move to Nashville, get a deal, get rich and retire at 25! I found out pretty quick that that's not how it is! I painted signs, I was a tape copy guy for three or four months, I started getting a good business going cutting demos at $40 a song, and I did other odds and ends until I landed my publishing deal."

Blake Shelton is enjoying a comfortable home on the charts. His latest single, "Ol' Red," is in constant rotation on country radio, and his future appears secure. He believes that much of his good fortune has been a matter of timing. "I don't know how this happened for me," he says, "but I'm smart enough to know that I'm one of the luckiest people in the world. I got a few good breaks at exactly the right time. I'm just lucky, I guess, because there are many, many, many people who are way more talented than I am and they'll never have the chance from the luck of the draw. I'm proud of my album, but I also feel very fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time, many times."

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