'The Voice' coach Blake Shelton juggles TV, touring

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ST. LOUIS -- When "The Voice" returns to NBC next month, vocal coach Blake Shelton will be nowhere around.

The country superstar, whose latest album is "Red River Blue," will be knee deep on his new tour, "Well Lit & Amplified," with supporting acts Dia Frampton of "The Voice" and Justin Moore.

But fans of the country superstar, whose father Dick Shelton died Tuesday in Oklahoma after a year of declining health, needn't worry.

The first several weeks of the second season of "The Voice," which begins Feb. 5 after the Super Bowl, have already been taped, allowing Mr. Shelton to tour and return to "The Voice" in time for the live rounds.

"I've learned the hard way you can't tour and do live TV at the same time," he said.

"This year, I'm not touring when 'The Voice' starts airing live in the middle of March. Once we're live, we shut it down and concentrate on the show. We have to make my show and my team as strong as it can be."

"The Voice" was a strong performer in its first season, a rare bright spot on NBC's prime-time schedule. Javier Colon was the winner of the inaugural season, which featured coaches Mr. Shelton, Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine overseeing teams of contestants.

Ms. Frampton was part of Shelton's team.

He says the show's immediate success was due to the novelty of having famous coaches work with the contestants.

"I think having the four of us on the show together helped make it interesting," says Mr. Shelton, acknowledging that viewers probably didn't know what to make of the show initially.

"I was skeptical. I wondered if people would tune in to see the first few episodes and never watch again. But once they did tune in to see what we were about, they were hooked. They realized it wasn't just another talent show. [It was] artists working with other artists."

The show could have its work cut out for itself in Season 2. When "The Voice" debuted last summer, it had no similar competition.

"American Idol" had just wrapped its season, and "The X Factor" had yet to air. This season, "The Voice" and "American Idol," which started Wednesday, will overlap.

"I'm interested to see what happens," Mr. Shelton says. "Common sense says that's our competition, the only competition there probably is. I don't know. We're two different things. We're obviously both looking for the next big star out there. But the way we go about it is two completely different things, and I don't think any one of them is wrong.

"If anything, I hope because we're a newer concept and have different levels to go through that that will play into our hands."

"The X Factor," Simon Cowell's competition series that ended its first season in December, and "The Voice" both have coaches, but Shelton says there's a difference. On "The Voice," all four of the coaches are performers. On "The X Factor," two of the judges-coaches are industry executives Mr. Cowell and L.A. Reid, along with singer-dancer Paula Abdul and singer Nicole Scherzinger.

"The interesting thing about that for me is that with any one of the four of us, if we see something going on up there on stage, we can stop it and grab the microphone and sing as good or out-sing anyone on our team," Mr. Shelton says. "That's what we do."

On Season 2 of "The Voice" teams will increase to 12 people from eight. Mr. Shelton attributes this to a bigger talent pool this year.

For him, "The Voice" has clearly filtered into other areas of his career. He found the perfect connection between the TV show and his tour when he decided to grab Ms. Frampton. Getting her to tour with him was a no-brainer, he says.

"When it came up, she was the first name I threw up there, for her to be a part of this," he says. "I pushed her over the edge of the cliff. I couldn't leave her out there for the wolves.

"Now that she's made a record, it was time to get her out there," says Mr. Shelton, who guests on her album.

Moore was another easy choice.

"That guy's career is really taking off, and he's developing a fan base," Mr. Shelton says. "He puts on an awesome show -- really gets people fired up. And that's what I want, for people to walk away exhausted. He'll contribute to that."

Still, Mr. Shelton knows that many fans are waiting for him to tour with his wife, country star Miranda Lambert.

"That's definitely something we talk about," he says. "The trouble is, she and I are so unfocused on our future. It's hard for us to put a plan together. But I know in our hearts we'll do that. But it'll take discipline on both our parts. We have to do it at some point."

Mr. Shelton approached his tour from the perspective of a fan. He asked himself what he would want to see in concert -- and the answer was everything.

"I want to hear every song the artist ever did," he says. "That's what I will try to do, have a packed set list. My career [is]going on 11 years now, so there's a lot of songs that've dropped out of the set list because I didn't have time to do them. I want to incorporate some of those songs back into the set, though they're not recent hits.

"They're still important to my overall catalog, and I love those moments when people in the audience are mouthing the words."

The songs will be accompanied by what he says is his biggest production ever.

"It's 10 times bigger, but it's still not too big," he says. "I'm mainly, in my own small way, stepping into the big leagues, and I'm coming armed with cool stuff that'll be fun to watch without distracting from the music."

Fans certainly don't want to be distracted from "She Wouldn't Be Gone," "I'll Just Hold On," "Nobody But Me," "Home," "The Baby" and "Some Beach," or songs from his new "Red River Blue" album, such as "God Gave Me You" and "Honey Bee."

Mr. Shelton says there's nothing about "Red River Blue" that's particularly artsy or that sounds important.

"I love all kinds of music, whether it's making you laugh or cry, and I want to do all of that," he says. "That's what I thought about when I was making this record, making songs about drinking my face off or picking up a girl at a bar. That's how I approached it, and it works. I'm not saying it always will, but it did this time.

"People take themselves too seriously. This isn't brain surgery."

First Published January 22, 2012 5:00 AM


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