Blake Shelton is country. Following in the boot-imprinted footsteps of those before him, Shelton’s got Willie Nelson’s charm with a dose or two of Johnny Cash’s outlaw mentality. The result is an unapologetic, fiery, yet relatable artist who seems like he’d perform for an audience of 100,000 just as soon as he’d grill you a steak in his backyard. It takes a particular talent to become both a bona-fide Nashville star and a globally relevant musician with universal appeal. Blake Shelton represents a new front in country, one that’s carrying the historically American genre to fresh fan bases all over the world. If you ask him, however, his only strategy has been to stay true to his roots, respect Nashville’s place in country music history, and never stop working for what he wants.

The Oklahoma native, like his forefathers, is deeply passionate about what he does and where he comes from. After relocating to Nashville at 17, the now-celebrated singer-songwriter spent years penning songs for numerous country artists, working under the wing of famed songwriter and producer Bobby Braddock. Honing his craft on the local honky-tonk circuit, he caught his first break and got signed with a glorious mullet and well-used guitar in tow.

Shelton’s natural vocal delivery and relatable storytelling conveyed a been-there-done-that wisdom and connected with fans, seeing him tour nationally with superstar Toby Keith and earning several award nominations. As his career blossomed, Shelton released six studio albums and racked up over 15 awards. He’s been the CMA Entertainer of the Year, and Male Vocalist of the Year for three years running, and is nominated in both categories for the 2013 awards later this month.

No stranger to broadening his horizons, in 2011 Shelton became one of the star judges on NBC’s hit music competition The Voice. He went on to coach the winning contestant for three seasons of the show. You would be hard-pressed to watch an episode without hearing Shelton use the word ‘love’ at least twice to express his feelings about the efforts of the hopeful young singers vying for a shot at the big time. Though he shares the stage with three other established powerhouses, Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine and Cee-Lo Green, each week Shelton makes himself the man to watch. Off-the-cuff, impassioned appraisals of the contestants give merit to his seemingly permanent smile. His playful, honest friendships with the other judges make the competition a warm, nourishing environment to foster new talent.

Fresh into the fifth season of The Voice, we sat down with Shelton in Nashville to talk about what it’s like to be at such an exciting stage in his career. Watch the video above to get to know more about the ambitious, outspoken Oklahoma boy who’s quickly turning into an icon.