Shelton and Lambert met at the taping for a TV special in 2005, when Shelton was still married to his first wife, a girl from Ada he'd known since he was 17. ("Looking back, it was just the wrong thing all around," he says of that first marriage. "I married my buddy.") They're a funny couple in person – Shelton is a full foot taller, and Lambert's melted-butter face looks way too sweet for his devilish grin – but she loves his sense of humor, and he loves her peanut-butter pie. Shelton also knows how to handle Lambert, who's famously sung about setting a cheating ex-boyfriend on fire and menacing an abusive one with her shotgun (a song she wrote in her concealed-handgun class). "I don't give her too much shit," he says, smiling. "That's like poking a bear."
But he says he was never intimidated by Lambert, despite her fiery rep. "She's as lovable as can be – until you cross her. She'll go from zero to 100 real quick. If Miranda has an inkling you're saying something hardass to her, it's gonna be a problem." Recently, Shelton says, she got into it at a Nashville bar with someone he'll only identify as "the lead singer of a very popular rock band." The guy was drunk and said something out of line to Lambert, and she threw a drink on him. Shelton quickly got in between them, but he insists no actual punches were thrown. "I'm a lover," he says, "not a fighter."
Shelton proposed to Lambert during a fishing trip in 2010, on his property. They were both wearing camo. They got married the next year at a ranch outside San Antonio; the bride wore her mom's white wedding gown and cowboy boots, and the groom wore a new pair of Wranglers. They exchanged vows under an archway made of antlers and, at the reception, dined on venison they'd shot themselves, washing it down with Champagne in Mason jars. They honeymooned at Shelton's ranch, where they went bass fishing again. Afterward, they gave their wedding photos to 'Us Weekly,' which put them on the cover.
Now the Lambert-Sheltons live in Johnston County, Oklahoma, near a small town called Tishomingo, or Tish for short. It's 45 minutes from Shelton's hometown. "It's pretty sleepy," Shelton says. "There's the Dollar General, on Main Street, and a Family Dollar. And if you can't find what you need there, you're fucked – the closest Walmart is in Madill, 15 miles away." Shelton moved there in 2006, after 12 years in Nashville. He and Lambert have built up a small prairie fiefdom: a 1,200-acre ranch that they live on, a 2,100-acre ranch nearby, and the 700-acre ranch over in the next zip code that Lambert bought when they were dating. Lambert also owns a clothing and antique shop in downtown Tish, called the Pink Pistol, and recently bought a two-story building across the street, which tabloids reported she's planning to turn into a bed-and-breakfast. "When that story came out, I remember reading it like, 'Man, look at this bullshit,'" Shelton says. "And she was like, 'That one's actually true.'"
These days the couple are tabloid fixtures, to Shelton's dismay and occasional amusement. "Did you know we're having twins?" he asks, guffawing about the latest cover scoop. Still, they try to keep as low a profile as possible for a Kim-and-Kanye-level power couple. A hot date means throwing a cooler in the back of the pickup and driving around the property clearing brush and singing to the radio, or watching 'Flip This House' (if she's got the remote) or 'The Golden Girls' (if he does), or else having dinner at the all-you-can-eat rib buffet and dessert at Dairy Queen. On a really big weekend, they'll take the boat out on Lake Texoma. "When we get home, we like to be home," Shelton says. "We turn the TV to one of those music channels, Willie's Place or whatever, make drinks, and just talk shit about people."
During the season, Shelton goes home every chance he gets, taking a private jet back to the little airstrip in nearby Durant, where he parks his truck. "As soon as we're done on Wednesdays, my ass is on the plane," he says. Just setting foot in Oklahoma is an instant refresher: "It's just like plugging in your phone," he says. "I get in my truck, I see the fields, see the cows." He'll play with the dogs Lambert has rescued from the side of the road (upward of six, at last count, including a new one she just named Sasha Fierce – "She worships Beyoncé"), or check on the horses and pigs she keeps at their place. He goes from his truck to his tractor and back again.
"When he's home, he's just this normal good ol' country boy," says his mom, who lives on their 1,200-acre ranch and makes crafts for Lambert's store. "He helps do the dishes. He'll sweep the floor. He doesn't ever comb his hair. He's just regular Blake."
Levine visited once, and Shelton took him out riding four-wheelers and shooting guns. "I was on my way to this fancy chi-chi island vacation," he recalls. "And afterwards, I realized I had so much more fun playing beer pong and driving quads with Blake than I did at this five-star resort."
One night, Lambert shows up with Shelton on the set of 'The Voice' to perform a tribute to the Oklahoma tornado victims. The song they're singing is one they wrote together, called "Over You," about Shelton's older brother, Richie, who was killed in a car accident when Shelton was 14.
"The guy was my hero," Shelton says. "Talk about worship – he was the coolest guy on earth." Richie took him fishing and gave him his collection of old country 45s.
Shelton can still remember the exact moment of the accident. "I was standing outside, waiting for a buddy to pick me up for school, and I heard all these ambulances go by. I didn't think anything of it. When I got to school and Dad pulled me out of class, I thought, 'Oh shit. That's what I heard.' " As it turned out, Richie had been in the car with his girlfriend when they slammed into the back of a school bus. "One of those things," Shelton says. The girlfriend was driving, Richie was in the passenger seat, and her four-year-old son was in the back. "It was a three-casket funeral," says Shelton, a catch in his throat. "They buried him on his fifth birthday."
Shelton's dad always said he should write a song about his brother, but Blake was resistant. "He thought it was tacky," his sister says. "He didn't want to exploit it." But one day Shelton and Lambert happened to see a TV biography about Shelton. She started asking some questions about his brother, and pretty soon, they were crying and writing a song about him. "I can hardly even remember writing it," he says. In the end, he decided it would be too hard to sing onstage every night. Lambert recorded it instead, and put it out when Shelton's dad was still alive. "So he got to see it going up the charts," Shelton says. "That was pretty cool."
His friends and family say that's the kind of influence Lambert has had on Shelton. "That's probably Miranda's doing," his sister says. "Getting him to show a little bit of a softer side, be more emotional. Not just be the funny guy all the time."