From Texas State to Hollywood Hills, Grimes’ talent resonates with ‘Voice’
By Catherine Harper
Texas State University alumnus Curtis Grimes could not have imagined that one call would change his life in January 2011. After auditioning earlier that month for NBC’s “The Voice” — a singing competition moderated by celebrity judges — Grimes’ country stylings hit the mark with producers and he was on his way to stardom.
“They reached out to me at first with an e-mail saying they’d like me to audition after they’d seen some of my shows on YouTube,” Grimes says. “The whole experience was awesome.”
After flying to Hollywood, Grimes worked with music coach Cee Lo Green each week of auditions, making it to the quarter-finals on the show. His success with the singing competition has awarded him national exposure, with his new album Doin’ My Time hitting the Top Texas 15 and his new single “Irresponsible” on airwaves last month.
Before his singing success, Grimes was immersed not in music but in baseball as a pitcher at Centenary College in Shreveport, La. After transferring to Texas State in 2005, however, Grimes struck a chord with the music scene in San Marcos.
“Texas State definitely influenced me music-wise, since the country scene is so strong down there,” Grimes says, speaking from his tour stop in West Texas. “It’s kind of a central hub of country music. There were artists like Randy Rogers and Ryan Turner coming from there, so it’s where I found a lot of my influences.”
Although he struck out on joining Texas State’s baseball team in his first year in San Marcos, Grimes says singing and strumming the guitar kept him going.
“I had planned to play baseball at Texas State after going to Austin Community College for a year, but I couldn’t transfer over to the baseball team from where I had been in Shreveport,” Grimes says. “Music kind of filled that void, so I just went from there.”
While taking a break from Texas State business studies to write songs, Grimes finally took the stage at Gordo’s on the Square in San Marcos in 2007. With the local scene spurring on his interest, Grimes continued to explore his new-found passion for music at venues such as El Arroyo and The Blind Pig in Austin, Texas.
In his second semester at Texas State, Grimes entered Austin’s “Next Big Star” contest to open for Kenny Chesney’s sold-out show at the Erwin Center and, to his surprise, he won.
“I opened in front of 200-350 people at Stubb’s; and then 16,000 people at the Erwin Center,” Grimes says. “That was the first time I’d ever played in front of so many people before. I was so nervous and it was a huge deal because I wasn’t used to playing on such a big stage. I got to sing with Kenny and that was just a surreal moment…After that experience, I wanted to get to his level one day.”
After his debut, there seemed to be no stopping Grimes. Playing shows all over Texas and Oklahoma, Grimes found gigs at main events such as the Best in Texas music magazine seminar and opened for country music star Jack Ingram.
At the set of “The Voice,” Grimes says the Hollywood atmosphere was a lot to take in. Performing in “blind auditions” each week for celebrity judges — including Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine of Maroon 5 — Grimes says the lights and production of the set were intimidating, to say the least.
“I don’t know whether it was the TV cameras or the judges or talking with Carson Daly beforehand, but I got really nervous,” Grimes says. “As the show went on, I started to get a little more confident and feel good on stage.”
Although he didn’t have a lot of stage prep before going on national television, Grimes says his baseball experience as an all-star athlete in his hometown of Gilmer, Texas, helped him transition from spotlights in the stadium to those on the stage.
“Being frontman and pitcher is a lot like being the singer in a band because everyone’s watching you and you’re involved in every song and every play,” Grimes says. “Baseball kind of prepared me for some of the pressure of singing.”
Currently, Grimes is continuing his tour across Texas with a local show at Cheatham Street Warehouse on Saturday, Feb. 11.
“I always liked going back to Cheatham Street Warehouse, because that’s where I got started,” Grimes says. “We’re playing as many new markets and new venues to reach as many audiences as we can.”
In the future, Grimes says he hopes to continue looking toward the big picture.
“I think I’d like to play with my band as long as possible, because they’re my buddies,” Grimes says. “I think I’ll still be riding this thing out to see where it goes.”