Blake Shelton at Magnum's nightclub in Chicago, Il, December 4, 2001.
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'Austin': The Story Behind Blake Shelton's Emotional Debut Single and First No. 1


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Aside from that whole answering machine plot point, Blake Shelton's debut single and first No. 1 hit "Austin" sounds as fresh as ever over 20 years later.

Giant Records released Shelton's recording of the Kirsti Manna and David Kent co-write on April 16, 2001. Giant was absorbed into Warner Bros. Records while "Austin" was climbing the charts, making young Shelton a Warner Music Nashville recording artist.

Before anyone associated him with The Voice, "Ol' Red" or Gwen Stefani, Shelton was an instant success in country music. His five-week run atop the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart with "Austin" tied a record for a debut single, also held by Billy Ray Cyrus for 1992's "Achy Breaky Heart." The single even reached No. 18 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100, making it Shelton's highest-charting crossover hit until "Honey Bee" debuted at 13 in 2011.

As for the song's official music video, come for Shelton's mullet-era look --something he's playfully revisited since then-- and stay for that gorgeous, red 1968 Ford Mustang.

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"Austin" and its b-side, "Problems at Home," were included on Shelton's self-titled debut album, which hit shelves on July 31, 2001.

Though "Austin" proved to be a can't-miss single, Shelton needed convincing from producer Bobby Braddock to give it a fair shake.

"I thought 'Austin' was a little bit hokey at first, but by the end of the song, I thought, 'Man, this is kind of cool. This is like one of those Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movies,'" Braddock said (as quoted by CMT). "But Blake pretty much said the song wasn't macho enough for him at first. So I told him, 'I think you need to listen to it again.' He did, then came back and -- like I did -- had a change of heart. And he said, 'Man, I think this is a pretty cool song.'"

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Shelton fought a push by Warner Bros. to select "All Over Me" over "Austin" as his introductory single after getting feedback on the latter from some of the women in his life.

"Every one of them said the same thing: that they shed tears when they heard 'Austin'," Shelton said (as quoted by CMT). "So then I called the A&R person at the label and said, 'We need to have another meeting.' And she told me they'd already decided on a single. I told her, 'There's new information and we need to have a meeting.' I was determined to convince them to change from 'All Over to Me' to 'Austin.'"

Even with his debut making history, it took Shelton another nine years to find firm footing atop the country music industry. In 2010, he joined the Grand Ole Opry cast and won the coveted CMA award for Male Vocalist of the Year. Success has continually snowballed since then for the multimedia superstar.

"Here I am sitting here talking to you 20 years later after 'Austin' came out -- not only talking to you but talking about new music that's still coming out," he told People in 2021. "I don't know how this happened to me, but I thank God every day. I've just been super blessed and super lucky. It's unbelievable."

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This story was first published on April 16, 2021.

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