Shakira Sings Country Duet With Blake Shelton: 'I Was a Little Tired of L.A.'

The Colombian singer says she stumbled into "Medicine" when she asked her fellow "Voice" coach to introduce her to "real people with roots" in Nashville.
Shakira and Blake Shelton

When Shakira wanted to get a little bit country on her upcoming album, she approached fellow Voice coach Blake Shelton. The result is "Medicine," a country song that's light enough on fiddle and steel to work on pop radio.

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"I told him I wanted to work with Nashville people," Shakira told Billboard's Leila Cobo for the magazine's current cover story. "I was a little tired of L.A. I wanted people with another point of view, real people with roots with whom I feel comfortable working in the same room. And I told Blake I wanted to do a song that had the narrative of a country song, that was picturesque, that was a real song. But it also needed to suit me, because after all, I'm Colombian.

"I think I have real folk roots in my previous albums," she added. "The acoustic guitars, that type of narrative, songs that have a traditional structure. And I said to [Shelton], 'I want to do that type of song.' When I wrote the song I didn't know what direction to go in and I did like eight versions. Dance, pop … but I said no, this is a country song."

The bilingual star worked on the song with writer Hillary Lindsey and producer Mark Bright, who both have collaborated with Carrie Underwood, among others.

"I think she did a hell of a job," Shelton said. "One thing is for someone like her to say she's going to do something and another is to do it. And I'll be damned, a month and a half ago she wrote me and said, 'I wrote the song, and I want you to tell me what you think.' And I said: 'Gosh dang, you did exactly what you said you'd do. It sounds like a hit song.'

"I was so nervous. You have no idea. I was so scared he was going to say, 'No, Shakira. I love you, but no,'" she recalled. "But then he said, 'Sister, I love you. This is great.'

"And then she said, 'Well, do you want to sing on it?'" Shelton added. "I was honored to do it."

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Shakira and Shelton sang each other's hits during the opener of this season's Feb. 24 premiere of The Voice, when Shakira performed a rocking version of "Boys Round Here," and Shelton took a shot at Shakira's "Whenever, Wherever," on which she joined him for the chorus.

"She was one of those huge international stars I had only seen from a distance," he said. "And she feels like someone I had known my whole life. She's motherly to everyone she meets. I love being around her and seeing how she treats the group of people who travel with her. She's just a real person." 

Shakira's self-titled album hits shelves March 25. Her Voice coach pairing with Shelton for "Medicine" follows the success of Adam Levine's massive Maroon 5 track "Moves Like Jagger" with Christina Aguilera. She also recorded "Just a Fool" with Shelton, and "Make the World Move" with Cee Lo Green for her latest album, Lotus.

A version of this article first appeared on Reporting by Leila Cobo. Read her full cover story on Shakira here.