“I find that as time goes by, my definition of a hero changes. My heroes have started to become my good friends,” Shelton shared with PEOPLE recently. “You start to find out, the older you get — I guess we all do — that a really good friend is a pretty rare thing to have in your life. I’ve gotta say that the handful of really close friends that I have, those are my heroes. They’re the ones that will just drop everything to be there for you if they need to be. I hold them high.”
In addition to his every day heroes, the Oklahoma native does keep one of his musical influences near and dear to his heart, as well: Earl Thomas Conley. Shelton’s admiration for the singer has continued over the years, with the superstar even thanking Conley when he won Male Vocalist of the Year at the 2014 CMA Music Awards.
“I noticed Earl Thomas Conley had never won that award. I don’t know, it struck me,” the singer recalled. “I just assumed that surely he must have, because he’s my favorite, he has to be the winner, right? That night I happened to win male vocalist of the year and so I mentioned his name on stage and dedicated the award to him. He’s just an incredible vocalist and, I feel like, underrated.”
He later got a text from Conley, thanking him for the special moment. “He said it had been a lot of years since he had heard his name mentioned from that stage,” shared Shelton.
Shelton will embrace some of his closest relationships when he returns to NBC’s The Voice with his on-and-off-screen bestie Adam Levine, as well as Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson, for the upcoming season 15 of The Voice, premiering Sept. 24.