With If I’m Honest, Blake Shelton has made the most personal album of his career. Long known as a public figure unafraid to be himself, Blake has applied that same guileless approach to his art, bringing a searing emotional honesty to the 15 slices of life that make up the project.
“I’ve never been as proud of an album as a body of work as I am of this one,” he says, citing the title itself as an example of his approach.
“I felt like with this record being so important to me and basically autobiographical, a snapshot of a year-and-a-half of my life, an ordinary album title would be a copout. I thought, 'I can do better than that.'” The result is an aptly named and fully mature work about love lost and found, with Blake, in the best voice of his career, singing his own songs and those of many of Nashville’s best writers. For fans who know Blake only for hits like “Honeybee” and “Boys ‘Round Here,” or for his role in helping to make The Voice one of television’s most popular shows, it is proof he has taken his career and artistry to yet another level.
Blake being Blake, you can be sure one of the world’s best-known country boys has balanced the album’s emotion with a generous share of fun. In fact, the record opens with “Straight Outta Cold Beer,” a lifestyle party anthem a la “Boys ‘Round Here,” and includes “Green,” an ode to genuine country living, and “Doing It To Country Songs,” a natural for Blake and a track that features none other than The Oak Ridge Boys.
The heart of the album lies in songs of regret and remembrance, like “Bet You Still Think About Me” and “Everytime I Hear That Song,” and in songs about the process of taking a chance on love, including “Every Goodbye,” “Came Here To Forget,” “It Ain’t Easy,” “One Night Girl,” and “You Can’t Make This Up.” An emotional highlight comes with “Go Ahead and Break My Heart,” which features Gwen Stefani, who co-wrote it with Blake.
“It’s hard for me to talk about this song without smiling,” he says, “just for the fact that she and I wrote this thing together about our circumstances at the time.” Stefani shows up again as Blake talks about “A Guy With A Girl,” a song about being with someone who turns every head.
“I’ve experienced this so much in the last few months,” he says, “because Gwen goes to a completely different circle of award shows and parties than I’ve ever got to and so I’m like a fish out of water. I notice that people approach us but they’re really approaching her and that’s what this song is about—the guy is just the guy with her.”
He is especially proud of “Savior’s Shadow,” a gospel song that got its start in a dream and has been widely embraced in Christian markets.
“For a guy like me who’s never really stepped out about my faith,” he says, “this is another matter of being honest, of talking about things that happened and how they played out.”
Rounding out the album is an upbeat, catchy and highly country look at friendship. “Friends” came about when the producers of The Angry Birds Movie called and invited Blake to write the movie’s key song.
“I told my manager after that first meeting to make it happen, no matter what,” he says.
Blake’s role in the film, voicing Earl the Pig, is the latest in a wide range of accomplishments for the Oklahoma-born singer who long ago assumed superstar status. He is riding a streak of #1 singles that stretches back to 2009’s “Hillbilly Bone,” his concerts are among the hottest tickets in the business, he hosted the 2016 Kids Choice Awards on Nickelodeon, and he is currently the subject of a career-spanning exhibition called "Blake Shelton: Based on a True Story," at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
For the laid-back Oklahoman, life goes back and forth between his native Oklahoma, his musical base in Nashville and his TV home in Los Angeles. And though he lives life in the glare of the media spotlight, he has carved out a comfortable space from which to enjoy life in all three places.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see I’m happy right now,” he says. “Yes, life’s crazy, but it’s all turned out wonderfully. I’m a lucky guy.”
And with his new album, fans will be able to share like never before in the journey.
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