All good things must come to an end, including country music careers. Despite their legacy, there’s a reason you don’t hear hits from Johnny Cash or Loretta Lynn on the radio very frequently. Eventually, they make way for the Dolly Partons and George Straits, who in turn dial back their careers as others like Blake Shelton and Carrie Underwood heat up.
Shelton is one of the foremost country music stars right now. But a lifetime steeped in the country music industry means he knows it won’t last forever. Shelton might be relishing the fame he’s achieved now. But the country icon says he’s braced himself to hang it all up when the time comes.
Shelton’s been in the country spotlight for more than 20 years
Shelton moved from his hometown of Ada, Oklahoma to Nashville to make it big when he was a teenager, and initially made a living selling lyrics he’d written to musical publishing houses, Biography reports. Several years later, he secured a solo recording contract and released his first hit single, “Austin,” in 2001.
Now more than 20 years later, Shelton has released 12 studio albums and boasts more than 50 singles — more than half of which have made it to No. 1 on the country charts. The Grammy-nominated artist has also received several country music awards over the course of his career. And he’s expanded his influence into other genres by being a longstanding coach on NBC’s The Voice.
Shelton says knowing the industry means accepting ‘the clock’s ticking’
Though it might be easy to let all that success go to his head, Shelton knows that fame in the music industry has a shelf life. “I’ve kind of always been prepared for when this ends and my songs aren’t getting played anymore and it’s over. It’s always over at some point,” Shelton said in a recent interview during Country Radio Seminar. According to the “Come Back as a Country Boy” singer, studying the industry gave him a realistic perspective on his career and its trajectory. “I’ve always been prepared for that and I’ve braced myself for it. And I learned to accept it a few years ago…that it’s coming.”
Shelton said he flew under the radar for 10 years or so as a performer, until he won an award from the Academy of Country Music for male vocalist of the year in 2012. From there, he said, a trusted friend told him “the clock’s ticking.”
“People are going to get tired of you winning all the awards. People are going to get tired of you having number one after number one after number one,” Shelton said. “And they may not be mad at you, but they’ve already got two or three of your albums. How many albums do I need by Blake Shelton?”
Blake Shelton’s career end isn’t likely anytime soon
During the interview, Shelton had a grounded perspective for when it would be time to call it quits in country music. “You have to be honest with yourself; you can’t believe it’s going to go on forever because it’s not,” the “Minimum Wage” artist said. “I want to make great records. And the moment that I feel like I’m not relevant anymore, I don’t think I’m gonna make ‘em anymore.”
Shelton is humble about his future, but he seems to have a lot of runway left in his music career. He released his latest album, Body Language, in 2021. The album debuted at No. 3 on country charts and features a No. 1 single, “Happy Anywhere,” per CMT. In other facets of his career, he’s been a coach on The Voice for all 21 seasons. A member of his team has won eight times, making him the most successful coach in the show’s history, according to NBC.
Regardless of where his success is now, Shelton said he’s prepared to gracefully yield to up-and-comers when the time is right. “When it’s my time to make room for somebody else the last thing I want to do is kick and scream to keep my spot,” he said. It’s an admirable point of view, given how clearly he’s earned his current place in the spotlight.