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Sawyer Brown's New Album “Desperado Troubadours” Reunites Them with Their 'Biggest Fan' — Blake Shelton

Mark Miller says Shelton — who produced the group's latest album — "can blow me away with the recall he has of records and songs, especially from the '80s and '90s"

<p>Michael Gomez</p> Sawyer Brown

Michael Gomez

Sawyer Brown

Sawyer Brown's Mark Miller has something to say about Blake Shelton, but he knows Shelton isn’t going to like it.

"He’s absolutely brilliant," Miller, 65, tells PEOPLE from his home studio in Nashville of the country music superstar. "Blake has this ‘Jethro Bodine’ part of his personality that's just kind of goofy, and he wants you to think that, but he’s really smart and he has this incredible memory. He can blow me away with the recall he has of records and songs, especially from the '80s and '90s."

It’s this recall and memory that made itself known as Shelton joined with his musical heroes Sawyer Brown to produce their brand-new album Desperado Troubadours.

<p>Curb Records</p> Sawyer Brown's 'Desperado Troubadours'

Curb Records

Sawyer Brown's 'Desperado Troubadours'

"Blake is such a historian of the band and such a fan,” says Miller of the '90s hit-making band also made up of Gregg “Hobie” Hubbard, Joe “Curly” Smyth and Shayne Hill. "He's also got great instincts. To be a producer, you have to have the instinct in the studio to be able to lead and navigate through a song."

And it was this instinct that Sawyer Brown leaned heavily on during the creation of the entire album, but especially during the creation of the breathtakingly “God Bless This Road."

"I felt like we were kind of struggling with that song when we were putting it down,” says Miller of the song he wrote alongside fellow songwriter Hubbard. “I felt like Blake saved that song. Blake came in and we sat down at the piano, and we worked it out. That's the kind of thing that Blake really brought to the studio — that instinct that he has."

Not only was Miller impressed with Shelton’s talents, but also with his incredible work ethic during the making of Desperado Troubadours.

"We used to tease him that he used to get there and let the help in because he was always the first one at the studio and he was the last one to leave,” says Miller, who recently authored the book The Boys and Me: My Life in the Country Music Supergroup Sawyer Brown.

<p>Dean Dixon</p> Sawyer Brown

Dean Dixon

Sawyer Brown

Certainly, creating Desperado Troubadours was a treat for Shelton as much as it was for the CMA, ACM and CMT Award-winning group currently celebrating their 40th anniversary.

“When Blake was approached about producing the record, he called me within five minutes just said, 'Man, I know you're already a great producer and I don't even know what I would bring to the table, but you're my hero,'" recalls Miller. "He said, 'I've got to do this.'"

Related: Blake Shelton Remembers Toby Keith Following His Death at 62: 'You Were the Toughest Man I Ever Met'

<p>Courtesy of Sawyer Brown Band </p> Sawyer Brown

Courtesy of Sawyer Brown Band

Sawyer Brown

And they did do most of it over the course of just a handful of days.

“Blake and [his wife] Gwen [Stefani] flew in from Los Angeles, and we just literally camped out in the studio for three or four days,” says Miller, who also worked with co-writers such as Mac McAnally, Cody Jinks and Tennessee Jet on Desperado Troubadours.

During those days, the members of Sawyer Brown also put the finishing touches on the moving "This Side of the Sky," a song Miller wrote again alongside Hubbard which he refers to as ‘an extension’ to the massive Sawyer Brown hit "The Walk."

"'The Walk’ was my experience with losing my grandfather,” recalls Miller, who is currently on the road on a headlining tour with his Sawyer Brown bandmates. "Hobie actually had the title 'This Side of the Sky' and this idea for the song for a long time. He had lost his mother, and I lost my mother right before COVID."

He pauses. "I know when I lost my mom, it was just weird. I kept on wanting to pick up the phone and call her. And that's kind of what this song is about. It’s about still being able to have that conversation on ‘this side of the sky’ because we know where they are."



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