Blake Shelton is performing “Minimum Wage,” at the ACM Awards on Sunday night, but that’s not all: He’ll incorporate his newest single into a medley with the debut single that started it all, “Austin.”
Spring 2021 also happens to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of “Austin,” which Shelton sent to radio in March of 2001. At a press event on Thursday (April 15), Shelton explained some of the details of how the performance came together, and shared why he was excited to bring both songs to the ACM stage.
“The ACMs wanted to do a tip of the hat to the fact that I’m, first of all, still alive, second of all, that I’m doing this 20 years later,” he said. “I’m not [usually] a big medley fan — I like to either do the song or not — but what with it being what it is for ‘Austin,’ I didn’t wanna miss the chance. If they were willing to honor the song, I wanted to get that in there, so that’s what we’re doing.”
Shelton goes on to say that for him, “Austin” was more than just his breakout hit: It was also the beginning of his education on just what it takes to stay at the top of the country radio game, and made him appreciate his musical heroes on an even deeper level.
“As I got into the business and had a song or two on the radio, I started realizing how incredible George Strait’s career has been,” he points out. “Because I had ‘Austin’ and it was a big hit, and then we came out of the gate and stumbled, had a few songs that flopped…I realized, ‘Man, making it more than a minute in this business, you’ve done something.’”
That makes him even more grateful to still be notching hit singles, Shelton adds. “20 years later, to still have a song on the charts — I mean, I don’t know how that happens. I don’t. I’m literally the luckiest guy in country music,” he says.
Of course, there is one downside to remaining among country music’s A-List for two decades and counting: With so many hits under his belt, sometimes Shelton forgets the words to his own songs. To help with that, he’s got some advice from his fellow country hitmaker, Luke Bryan.
“I learned this trick from Luke Bryan, because Luke’s the worst about going, ‘Y’all sing!’ [and holding his microphone out to the audience at shows.] I [asked him], ‘Man, what’s that,’ and he said, ‘I can’t remember my damn words,” Shelton jokes. “So it’s easier to have the crowd sing it for you, and they think they’re part of the concert — they’re just saving his ass. So if I do that…you guys’ll know.”