Blake Shelton Recalls Billy Ray Cyrus's Bizarre 'Pep Talk' to Him at His First CMA Awards

The country superstar sat down with Jimmy Kimmel to reflect on his television debut in 2001.

Blake Shelton received some tough love from Billy Ray Cyrus ahead of his first-ever Country Music Association Awards performance. 

Back in 2001, Shelton made his television debut at the ceremony as his first single, "Austin," had become a country radio hit. In honor of Wednesday's 57th annual CMA Awards ceremony, Shelton looked back on a core memory in his career during an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live

"They had asked me to come do one of those, like, commercial bumper moments where it's just like, 'Hey! I'm Blake Shelton,' and I got to sing like 20 seconds of the song and, 'Tune in for Garth Brooks' or whoever was comin' up," Shelton explained. "And I was scared to death." 

The "God's Country" singer said that as he waited in the wings, Cyrus walked off stage and approached him after presenting an award. 

"He said, 'You alright?' I go, 'Man, I'm scared to death. I'm scared to death right now to walk out there,'" Shelton recalled. "And he's like, 'What do you mean?' And I go, 'I've just never been on TV and I gotta sing.' And he goes, 'Hey, man, listen. Even if you do great, this is the music industry. Most of those people are gonna make fun of you and roll their eyes anyway, man. This is the music industry! You need to toughen up a little bit. Man, people make fun of you.'"

"I remember, like, that was his pep talk to me," Shelton continued. "He probably doesn't remember that, but I'm telling you right now as a young 23-year-old kid or whatever I was, I was like, 'Oh my God! You're right!'" 

Portrait of American Country musician Blake Shelton as he poses at Magnum's nightclub, Chicago, Illinois, December 4, 2001. - Paul Natkin/Getty Images

With a laugh, Shelton admitted that Cyrus "had a rough stretch at that point." 

Like the Oscars and the GRAMMY Awards in Hollywood, Nashville's CMA Awards are peer-voted by members in the industry.

Years later, there doesn't appear to be any bad blood between Shelton and Cyrus. The former was all smiles as they posed together for a photo at the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Awards. 

Billy Ray Cyrus (L) and Blake Shelton in the audience at the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Awards held at The Shrine Auditorium on May 1, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. - Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Clear Channel

Shelton chatted with Jimmy Kimmel to promote the upcoming second season of his Barmageddon game show, which he co-created with the pair's mutual friend, Carson Daly. 

The competition returns to USA on Nov. 13 with Kelly Clarkson and Michelle Rodriguez

"If you've ever wondered what Kelly Clarkson is like when she's been drinking a lot, you have got to watch Monday," Shelton teased. "She is, I mean, it's, she is drunk."

Gwen Stefani returns on Nov. 20 for a showdown against her husband. 

"The funny thing about Gwen is, in the entire amount of time that I've known her now, I've never known her, even on The Voice, to be competitive," Shelton said. "She's more of this supportive person with her contestants. I've never seen her as super competitive, until she plays against me on Barmageddon. All of the sudden it's like, flipping me off, really close to my face, 'You're going down.' I've never heard her say 'Let's Go' like Tom Brady. She never said 'Let's Go' before, now she's saying 'Let's Go?'"

In a more heartfelt moment between the couple, Shelton paid tribute to Stefani last month at her Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony.

"The first time that I ever met Gwen was in 2014," he shared in a touching speech. "She wasn't like any other famous person that I had ever met before. She drove herself to work in a black minivan with car seats in it. She didn't roll in with security. She came in with a baby and two little boys, which at the time worked like security because nobody was going near her. It was chaos."

"It was clear to me that she was a mother first and foremost over anything else in the world -- that was her number one job," Blake continued. "And now standing here almost 10 years later after I first met her, I can say without question that being a mother is still the most important thing in her life. And I gotta tell you all, that's rare in this business."

The duo -- who tied the knot in July 2021 -- were joined at the ceremony by Stefani's three sons: Kingston, 17, Zuma, 15, and Apollo, 9.

"He's usually a jokester, like, he's just gonna come out and ad-lib," Gwen raved to ET following the emotional ceremony. "[That] he had an actual speech, that alone was like, what? All the words today just meant everything to me."