Music

'Austin': The Story Behind Blake Shelton's Debut Single and First No. 1 Hit

https://youtu.be/bb1DTsxBOfE

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

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 "Achy Breaky Heart."

"Austin" even reached No. 18 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100. It was 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 and stay for that gorgeous, red 1968 Ford Mustang.

"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.'"

Shelton fought a push by Warner Bros. to select "All Over Me" over "Austin" as his debut 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.'"

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Even with his first single 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 CMA award for Male Vocalist of the Year.

Shelton will perform "Austin" and recent release "Minimum Wage" at the 2021 ACM Awards (airing Sun., April 18 on CBS).

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'Austin': The Story Behind Blake Shelton's Debut Single and First No. 1 Hit