Blake Shelton, Eric Church

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Eric Church is doing some major penance.

The "Sinners Like Me" crooner is apologizing to Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert for some highly critical comments he made in an interview with Rolling Stone when he ripped his fellow country stars for their participation in reality TV, most notably Shelton's stint as a mentor on NBC's The Voice.

 Foot meet mouth. Here's how it all went down.

Not thrilled with the way shows like Shelton's have become an easy path to success for many an aspiring country artist, Church lashed out at The Voice coaches and their contestants.

"Honestly, if Blake Shelton and CeeLo Green f--king turn around in a red chair, you got a deal?" the country rocker wondered in the article. "That's crazy. I don't know what would make an artist do that. You're not an artist."

Lambert, who's married to Shelton, was the first to take offense, especially given that she got her start as a finalist on 2003's Nashville Star.

After alerting her hubby with a link to Eric's comments, she had this to say:

"Thanks Eric Church for saying I'm not a real artist. Or @Kelly Clarkson, @carrieunderwood & @KeithUrban. Your welcome for the tour in 2010," she tweeted, looping in a couple of American Idol alums and Urban, who's currently a mentor on Australia's version of The Voice, for good measure.

Church dug himself in an even deeper hole when he expressed disdain for Shelton's job and declared he would have no part of it if ever asked.

"If I was concerned about my legacy, there's no f--king way I would ever sit there," he told the magazine. "Once your career becomes about something other than the music, then that's what it is. I'll never make that mistake. I don't care if I f--king starve."

For his part, Blake shrugged off the diss and played it characteristically cool.

"@keepinitblog: Eric Church slams Blake Shelton, @NBCTheVoice, in his interview: 'I wish I misunderstood this...,'" he tweeted back.

Shelton later added to another follower: "@radiolia: I love you ericchurch I honestly think you made the best CD ever. But burning bridges is just a bad idea."

One of the teenage members of his Voice team, Racheal Woodward, also chimed in: "Well I was a fan of @ericchurch till now."

Realizing he stepped in it, Church backtracked today, issuing a statement via his publicist to E! News clarifying that his remarks weren't intended as a slam against those musicians so much as against a system in which stars are manufactured without having to work their way up.

"There are a lot of artists, due to their own perseverance, that have gone on to be successful after appearing on these shows, but the real obstacles come after the cameras stop rolling," the 34-year-old singer explained. "Every artist has to follow up television appearances with dedication towards their craft, but these shows tend to gloss over that part and make it seem like you can be ordained into stardom. I have a problem with those perceived shortcuts, not just in the music industry. Many people have come to think they can just wake up and have things handed to them."

Church noted that he had "a lot of respect" for those country stars that did get their start on such shows, among them Underwood, Clarkson and his "friend" Miranda, but stressed that he "never intended to tear down any individual."

Finally, he offered this best mea culpa:

"I apologize to anybody I offended in trying to shed light on this issue," said Church. "I am grateful for all of the artists and fans that have supported me along my journey and certainly did not mean for my comments to undermine their talent and achievements."

No word yet whether his apology has been accepted.

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