On Friday (April 16), Blake Shelton finally got the chance to perform in person at his Ole Red location in Orlando, Florida, nearly a year after the venue and eatery opened. The shutdowns have prevented Shelton from visiting in the months since the location’s launch, but he made up for lost time during his Friday appearance, giving a special performance to showcase Ole Red’s newest stage.
“It literally took a year until it was okay just to do this,” Shelton explained during a press conference before his set, addressing both in-person attendees and outlets joining virtually via video chat. “There is so much cool detail and so much thought that goes into the design of [this Ole Red location.] This is our first build, ground-up.”
During the pre-show conversation, Shelton was joined by Ryman Hospitality Properties Chairman and CEO Colin Reed, who has been Shelton’s partner in developing the Ole Red brand.
In fact, it was originally Reed’s suggestion to launch a restaurant based around the singer’s brand — and it took Shelton a while to warm up to the idea, the pair remembered during the press event. The origin story behind Ole Red begins during one of Reed’s annual duck hunts, an event he hosts in Mississippi for Grand Ole Opry members and country music executives.
“Colin started saying to me, ‘Let’s do a restaurant together.’ And by now I think I had been on The Voice for a minute, and I was just thinking, ‘Oh my God, I don’t have time,’” Shelton recalls. “Even back then, you were saying, ‘Let’s call it Ole Red.’ I was going, ‘What is wrong with him?! Let’s go shoot a duck! That’s what I came here to do!’”
But Reed kept returning to the idea over the months that followed, and eventually pointed something out that changed Shelton’s mind about the whole proposition.
“He said the magic words, which were, ‘This isn’t like a restaurant, you know, this is a music venue,’” the singer continues. “And for me, when I moved to Nashville…really, the only gigs I could get performing were songwriter nights. Well, I wasn’t a hit songwriter, so I was kinda just stuck in the middle there. I wanted to be a country singer, [but] there wasn’t really a place for me.”
Now — especially since becoming a mentor to rising performers on The Voice — Shelton is even more conscious of the need country newcomers have for a good place to play. He established Ole Red hoping his venue would serve that purpose.
“For new artists that are completely unknown, to experience this kind of production and be shown in this light, and showcase what they do in the best possible way — it’s priceless, you know?” Shelton adds. “…That was what interested me about being part of this, is the opportunity it gives for new up and coming talent.”
In addition to playing at the new location on Friday, Shelton also brought a few items of memorabilia to put on display at Ole Red Orlando. Fans who stop by the venue can check out Shelton’s button-up shirt, jeans and boots — an outfit that he wore so much while shooting The Voice that fellow coach Adam Lambert joked that it was his “uniform.” Also on display will be a dazzling, glittery ensemble worn by former Voice coach and Shelton’s fiancée Gwen Stefani during the show’s Season 19 Blind Auditions.
“This, like, broken-glass mirrored outfit,” Shelton describes. “I had never seen anything like it, so she donated it to Ole Red Orlando.”
Shelton is also lending several of his awards show trophies to the new location, including a CMT Award he and Stefani won for their recent duet, “Nobody But You,” and a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Country Artist in 2020.
“And I’ll send some more. I’ll send some CMAs,” Shelton notes. “It’s kind of embarrassing — you love winning that stuff, but it’s kind of embarrassing to put it in your own house, on your mantle. It’s cooler to have it somewhere like this, where people can see it.”
But there’s one fond memory that Shelton won’t be parting with, he jokes: That’s the People magazine cover that awarded him the title of Sexiest Man Alive in 2017.
“That’s in [my] bathroom,” the singer deadpans. “I look at it often.”