Country Throwback: Blake Shelton Explains Transition from ‘Not Knowing’ if He Could Pay Rent to Country Superstar in 2001

by Jennifer Shea

Blake Shelton may be a celebrity now, but back in the day he was just a starving country artist trying to make rent.

A longhaired, cowboy hat-wearing Shelton told an interviewer at the BMI Country Awards in 2001 that at the start of that year, he was struggling.

Shelton As Starving Artist

“You know what, I was a guy who, this April, didn’t know how in the world I was gonna pay my rent,” Shelton began. “And now I’m a guy that, at this moment, I still don’t know how I’m gonna pay my rent, but I’m outta town so much, it really doesn’t matter anymore, y’know what I mean?” 

The country singer explained that he moved to Nashville from Oklahoma when he was 17 years old. 

He made that move after a songwriter who had visited his hometown recognized his talent and encouraged him to pursue a country music career.

“I remember when I first got here I called her,” Shelton recalled. “I said, ‘May, I moved to Nashville, this is Blake. What should I do now?’

And she said, ‘Well, you can come paint my house for me.’ So my first job when I got to Nashville was painting [the songwriter’s] house. Which, you know, anybody would give for that opportunity, just because she knew so many people. And she really did introduce me to a lot of people. And really got my foot in the door in Nashville.”

Award-Winning Musician

Later on, another songwriter, Bobby Braddock, heard some of Shelton’s work. He decided to cut a demo and shop Shelton around to record labels and eventually got Shelton a record deal. 

“I pretty much owe everything that’s happened to me so far to songwriters,” Shelton summed up.

Shelton has received 29 BMI Country Awards over the course of his career. He won in 2001 for “All Over Me.”

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