Shelton was born in Ada, Oklahoma, to Dorothy, a beauty salon owner, and Richard Shelton, a used car salesman. Shelton began singing at an early age and by the age of 12, he was taught how to play the guitar by his uncle. By age 15, he had written his first song. By age 16, he had received a Denbo Diamond Award in his home state. On November 13, 1990, his older brother Richie Shelton (who was 24) was killed in an automobile accident. After graduating from high school at seventeen, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a singing career. There he got a job at a music publishing company and, in 1997, he was aided by Bobby Braddock to obtain a production contract with Sony Music.