Blake Shelton showed his softer side Monday on The Voice as he recalled the humble beginnings of his career after a contestant performed his signature song, Ol’ Red.
The 43-year-old judge went head-to-head with girlfriend Gwen Stefani, 50, when they heard Zach Bridges, an X-ray technician from Pearl, Mississippi, belting out his 2002 hit.
‘I never would have dreamed how important that song would have been in my life,’ Blake said, growing unusually serious as he remembered what it meant to him.
Signature song: Blake Shelton shared the story behind his ‘signature song’ Monday on The Voice after contestant Zach Bridges performed Ol’ Red
‘I moved to Nashville when I was 17. The only thing I knew in the world was that I wanted to be a country singer. I just graduated high school and two weeks later, I was sitting in Nashville.’
‘My first job was painting a house for Mae Boren Axton, whose son was Hoyt Axton, living in her driveway on his tour bus. He invited me onto his bus one day, and he sang me that song.’
‘Little did I know as a 17-year-old kid from Ada, Oklahoma, came there, didn’t know what I was gonna do, and within no time, I had found what would go on to be possibly my signature song.’
‘And now, here, all these years later, that’s the song that you chose to sing and that song was timeless. You did a great job,’ Blake said.
Nailed it: Zach performed Blake’s 2002 song bringing back memories for the country star
‘That was really sweet,’ said his fellow judge Kelly Clarkson, 37, who usually sparred with him.
‘You melted my heart,’ judge John Legend, 40, agreed, before Zach chose Blake to be his coach.
‘Blake lies a lot on this show, and it’s like, Blake is human. He’s actually a decent person sometimes,’ the EGOT winner joked.
Really sweet: Kelly Clarkson was touched by Blake sharing his personal story and said it was ‘really sweet’
‘It’s nerve-wracking to me when an artist sings my song during the blind auditions,’ said Blake. ‘Zach was so perfect and so dead-on, there was no question I was gonna press my button.’
Not that Gwen didn’t try to lure Zach to her team.
‘Honestly, I wanted to turn around because you’re a really good singer,’ she told him. ‘I really love that song. I’m a huge fan of Blake Shelton. I think he’s actually my favorite singer in the whole world.’
Moving forward: Zach listened as Gwen Stefani tried to lure him onto her team, but he chose her boyfriend Blake to be his coach
‘It’s fun to be in a competition with Blake, because It’s not who we are at home at all,’ Gwen noted afterward, laughing. ‘Being on this show, it brings it out.’
‘My only problem was the song selection,’ John cracked, explaining why he hadn’t turned. ‘Your voice deserves so much better.’
‘Finally the knives really come out,’ Blake retorted.
Decent person: John Legend joked that Blake lies a lot on the show
Blake also did well later to nab a contestant who earned a four-chair turn from the judges.
Ricky Duran, 29, performed a haunting rendition of Leon Bridges’ River, which he said was about ‘coming out of the darkness into the light.’
Back home in Austin, Texas, Ricky performed music five nights a week, and was ‘living the dream his parents had’ for him, explaining that they’d bought him a guitar at age six.
Four chairs: Ricky Duran got all four judges to turn their chairs
He had put his life on hold for the past few years while his mother was sick with an undisclosed illness, and she passed away in 2018, following his father’s death by suicide when he was 22.
Ricky hadn’t understood how stressed-out his dad had been, he said, but he wished he could tell him that he only wanted him to be happy and follow his dreams.
‘I feel like they’re the reason I have this opportunity,’ Ricky said. ‘I just feel like it’s meant to be, and I think that my mom and dad are watching me.’
Texas singer: The Austin, Texas singer performed a haunting rendition of Leon Bridges’ River, which he said was about ‘coming out of the darkness into the light
‘I wish I could tell them that I am going to go out there and sing this song for them.’
All of the judges praised Ricky’s chops and vocal control, and sought to have him on their teams.
‘On my place in Oklahoma, I have a river,’ Blake offered. ‘I’d love to take you to it, if you want to go.’
River property: Blake told Ricky that his property in Oklahoma has a river
‘That was a performance that clearly had us all from the beginning, and as these chairs turned around, it just gave you even more confidence, like, ”Man, I’m gonna let it fly”,’ he continued.
‘Your tone is great—you have the aggressiveness when you need to have it, and great stage presence. I’d love to be your coach, dude,’ Blake added.
‘I think I’d like to go to that river,’ Ricky said, picking Blake.
The judges: Blake, John, Gwen and Kelly evaluated the talent as the blind auditions continued
‘Just because he’s got a river doesn’t mean he’s gonna be a good choice for you,’ John cracked to the cameras. ‘I’ve got a pool!’
The Voice host Carson Daly, 46, asked Blake, as the ‘elder statesman’ for his philosophy this year.
‘I feel like I’m a better coach than these other three,’ he said. ‘I love all of them—one of them a lot—but this is a competition. I’m here to win.’
Turned around: Gwen, John and Blake competed against each other for the first singer
The show opened with a song by high school sophomore Joana Martinez, 15, who came from a musical family in Miami, and won the ‘Most Likely to win The Voice’ award at school.
Her polished, emotional performance of The Weeknd’s ‘Call Out My Name’ got Gwen, Blake and Kelly to turn their chairs, and she initially wanted Kelly, but picked Blake, too.
Next up was a stunning vocal performance by Brooke Stephenson, 28, from small-town Bolton, Connecticut, who wowed the judges with Patty Griffin’s Let Him Fly.
First up: Joana Martinez was the first contestant to perform during the two-hour show on NBC
Three chairs: The Miami singer picked Blake to be her coach over Gwen and Kelly
Brooke recently moved to Los Angeles, and played in local venues when not nannying or dogsitting, but said it hadn’t been easy pursuing music there.
Kelly was lost watching her, mouthing the words to the song by her ‘favorite singer-songwriter’, and Brooke picked her to be her coach over Blake.
Blake recouped his loss by snagging EllieMae, a folksy 21-year-old singer who grew up on a dairy farm with 100,000 cows in Jerome, Idaho.
Small town: Brooke Stephenson, 28, from small-town Bolton, Connecticut wowed the judges with Patty Griffin’s Let Him Fly
He was the only one to turn for her, impressed after hearing her version of Kacey Musgraves’ Merry-Go-Round.
Jessie Lawrence, 31, a commercial painter from Newark, New Jersey had a tough road getting to The Voice auditions, where he sang O-Town’s ‘All Or Nothing.’
Gwen picked him for her team, calling his voice ‘genuine’ and ‘raw and untamed.’
Dairy farm: EllieMae, a folksy 21-year-old singer, grew up on a dairy farm with 100,000 cows in Jerome, Idaho
Commercial painter: Jessie Lawrence, 31, a commercial painter from Newark, New Jersey had a tough road getting to The Voice auditions, where he sang O-Town’s ‘All Or Nothing’
Next round: Gwen picked Jessie for her team, calling his voice ‘genuine’ and ‘raw and untamed’
She also scored Brennen Hensen, 20, ‘an alternative artist’ from Flint, Michigan, who went in seeking to have her as his coach, hoping she could help him become a rock star.
Brennen had grown up in Flint, Michigan, where the water had long been poisoned by lead, and was still struggling to recover from the devastation it wrought.
His raw, sunny performance of Vance Joy’s Riptide, which he played while accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, earned chair turns from Gwen and Blake.
Michigan singer: Brennen Hensen from Flint, Michigan performed Vance Joy’s Riptide
Chair turned: Gwen turned for Brennen and beat out Blake to land him on her team
‘Brennen, I’m in a tough spot here,’ Blake said. ‘If I got you on my team, then she’s gonna be pissed off at me, and I’m gonna pay for that later on.’
‘I love you,’ he said, in a last-ditch effort, but Brennen went for Gwen, who called him ‘cute.’
Singing student Jared Herzog, 21, from Niceville, Florida, had a special reason to try out for the show.
Singing student: Singing student Jared Herzog, 21, from Niceville, Florida, promised his girlfriend he would audition as a Valentine’s Day present
‘My girlfriend’s a really big Voice fan, so as a Valentine’s Day present, I promised her I would audition for The Voice,’ he said.
He chose his song, Dan + Shay’s Speechless, because it reminded him of his girlfriend, whom he called ‘the most beautiful girl in the entire world.’
Season 9 show winner Jordan Smith, who once attended Jared’s school, Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, called to support him in getting a four-chair turn.
For her: Jared chose his song, Dan + Shay’s Speechless, because it reminded him of his girlfriend, whom he called ‘the most beautiful girl in the entire world’
He got three as John, Gwen and Blake swiveled around.
‘You showed a lot of range and versatility,’ said John, after hearing him sing. ‘You take the whole audience on a journey, and that’s what performance is all about.’
‘I don’t want you to be the cause of any rift between America’s favorite couple,’ he added, suggesting Jordan ‘pick a neutral party’ to keep Gwen and Blake’s relationship intact.
Three chairs: John, Gwen and Blake turned around for Jared
‘You pick me, you get Blake,’ Gwen emphasized.
‘You pick me, you get Chrissy [Teigen],’ John retorted, referring to his 33-year-old wife. ‘Chrissy cooks better than anyone on this stage. We’ll have you over for dinner.’
It was a good offer for Jared and he picked John.
Lauren Hall, 25, said she had been auditioning for The Voice for seven years, with Monday’s episode being the first time she made it past the open calls.
She’s back: Lauren Hall, 25, said she had been auditioning for The Voice for seven years, with Monday’s episode being the first time she made it past the open calls
‘It’s game day,’ said the soccer player, from West Hollywood, California. ‘And when it’s game day, you bring it.’
Kelly was the only one to turn for Lauren’s rendition of Adele’s One And Only and she scored Lauren for her team.
The American Idol winner was equally charmed by Matt New, 29, from Midland, Texas, who grew up playing music at church, but put his ‘dream of making music on hold’ when he became a dad at age 18.
Young dad: Matt New, 29, from Midland, Texas, who grew up playing music at church, but put his ‘dream of making music on hold’ when he became a dad at age 18
‘We barely scraped by,’ Matt remembered, sharing that he and his wife once pulled their furniture off the street and found it infested with bugs.
More recently, they opened a gym that brought more financial stability, and he felt free to go forward again, with his wife vowing to support his dreams.
His cover of Post Malone and Swae Lee’s Sunflower got everyone but Blake to turn, and the judges asked him to bring his kids, ages 10 and five, onstage.
Family man: The Texas singer performed Post Malone and Swae Lee’s Sunflower and got everyone but Blake to turn as the judges asked him to bring his two boys onstage
‘Oh, I’m gonna eat you, you’re so cute,’ swooned Kelly, who, like Gwen, has a five-year-old child.
Fort Worth native Kelly tried to make a play for Matt based on their shared Texas roots, but he went with John, who praised his versatile, powerful tone.
Matt let his boys choose the judge, saying they’d repeated John’s name ‘over and over.’
The Voice will return Tuesday on NBC as the blind auditions continue.
Blind auditions: Kelly and Gwen will be back along with John and Blake on Tuesday as the blind auditions continue