Blake Shelton celebrated the grand opening of his new downtown Nashville venue, Ole Red. The singer, who also owns an Ole Red venue in Gatlinburg, Tenn., never imagined one of his earliest hits would be the launching pad for his new business venture.
"It's funny, because my very first Fan Fair, I stood in line to meet Deborah Allen at the Giant Records booth, and she gave me a kiss on the cheek. I was 17 years old," Shelton shared at a recent media event. "I was in Heaven. And then weeks later I got an apartment here and I came downtown a few times. There was music down here. You didn't want to be down here after dark, back then.
"There was Tootsies and Roberts, and there was Printers Alley," he continues. "I remember thinking, 'Wow. How did those guys get that gig? I'd love to have that gig, at Tootsies. I wonder who they know. I wonder if I can meet that person. I wonder if I would be good enough.' It seemed like a hill I could never get over, just to get worked into the circle of guys that were playing the honky tonks down here back then."
To go from that teenager to a 41-year-old with a successful music career, and an increasing business empire, is almost more than Shelton can fathom.
"To be sitting here on the third floor of this thing right now, Ole Red, which, back then, was a song," Shelton reflects. "I already had the song back then because Hoyt Axton had passed the song on to me for my 18th birthday, and I didn't even know that it had been recorded by George Jones or Kenny Rogers before. It seems too good to be true the way it all came back around. Ole Red was handed to me within the first week that I moved to Nashville, by Hoyt Axton, and now 24 years later to be sitting in this building, it's unbelievable."
Shelton first looked at the now-restored building almost two years ago, when he and his girlfriend, Gwen Stefani, happened to be in town, although he admits he wasn't convinced early on that the building, which housed an Opry gift shop could be turned into a five-story event space.
"We immediately came upstairs, and it was just nothing but cubicles. It was just an empty building," Shelton recalls. "It was empty; it was deserted. And the whole time somebody had their papers and like, 'This is the floor – it's going to look like this. It's going to have this.' And they were showing me, and I'm like, 'OK. Right.' 'And this floor right here won't even be here because we're going to take this level' ... it was just these unrealistic things that he was telling me. And, then we went upstairs to the rooftop and he was saying, 'This is where the rooftop bar is going to be, and we're actually going to add another part, indoor part. There'll be indoor, outdoor.'
"Meanwhile, Gwen's standing there and her heel goes through the roof," adds Shelton with a laugh. "And so we're trying to get her leg back out and it's like, 'What the f--- is this? And so we left. It was exciting, but at the same time I think part of me thought, this is a monumental task that they're going to have to take on to get this thing up and running ... The team and the workmanship is just overwhelming. It's beautiful."
Although the Oklahoma native is excited about his new restaurant, he's even more excited about what it will mean for his time on The Voice.
"Can you imagine how this is going to change my run on The Voice now, to be able to be in the blind auditions?" Shelton says. "Because none of those other three morons can say, 'Well, if you get on my team, you'll have a gig at Ole Red."
Shelton is playing several fairs and festivals over the summer. Dates can be found by visiting BlakeShelton.com.
Photo Credit: Instagram/blakeshelton