Curtis Grimes has come a long way since competing on NBC’s “The Voice.” The Texan singer has a single soaring up the Texas Music charts, a heavy tour schedule, and plans to film his first-ever music video. Going into the competition he wasn’t some rookie: Curtis opened for Kenny Chesney and even got to sing a duet with him in the encore of the night. Determined to make his mark on the country music scene, Curtis discusses life after The Voice, why he really didn’t want to sing “Hillbilly Bone” in front of Blake Shelton, and how he’d love to tour with Justin Moore or Chris Young. He’s the second part of our “catching up with The Voice” feature.
During the Blind Auditions, you sang Blake Shelton’s “Hillbilly Bone.” Were you nervous singing his own song in front of him, or was it more of a funny thing?
I’d say overall that was the most nervous I’d ever been singing-wise. I don’t think it was directly because it was in front of Blake, I mean obviously I was looking at him the whole time waiting for him to turn around. I don’t know if I can say this, but they kind of picked your songs for you and you gotta do it and you don’t have a choice. So I did it, and if I would have had the chance to pick a Blake song, I probably would have picked a different one, to be honest with you. But I had to do it anyway so there was nothing I could do about it, so I did it as well as I could. I’d say I was nervous overall just from the situation not so much just because I had to do a Blake song.
What Blake song would you have picked then?
I probably would have picked “Austin.” His first number one, and it would have been perfect because I’m from Austin, so.
Yeah, that would have been great!
Yeah, it would have made a lot more sense!
He still would have laughed though.
Yeah, yeah he would. And see, I don’t think he would – I think it came across to him that I was trying really hard to impress him or whatever. I think if I would have sang him something from like, way back then, he might have taken it as a funny thing instead of seriously trying to impress him with “Hillbilly Bone.” I would never do that (laughs).
Speaking of “The Voice,” you got to work with Cee-lo Green, but he’s not really the average guy for a country artist to work with, but did he give you a piece of advice that you’re still using?
His biggest deal was to not necessarily do things exactly how everybody else is doing it. He was real big on originality and real big on flavor, I guess. So that was kind of his whole mind-set going into the whole deal with me. Obviously, off of that it’s not the same genre that he’s familiar with or used to but I think that was a little bit of a challenge to try to cross-over. Song-wise I did a Lady Antebellum song which was for the Battle which I didn’t have a problem with, and then I never really did another country song that we could have changed up very much style-wise, you know? But that was his biggest push I would say, to really be unique and original.
Now you already had a song picked out for the following week…
Yes, I did. (laughs) I wish I would have got it the week before, but that’s how it goes.
What was it going to be?
Zac Brown “Colder Weather.” We had to fill out a list of our top five songs that we’d perform on the show, and that, well, none of the other songs that I performed were on the list. It was either my number one or two song, I can’t remember, but they gave it to me. We still had to learn it and rehearse it with the full band and all that stuff. I would have liked to have done that one but oh well. I still got to go and record it and it’s on YouTube now and all that good stuff.
That’s a personal favorite of mine, you would have killed it on the show.
Yeah, I think a lot of people were singing it around the hotel. Javier and all those guys were just singing it, we were just playing around.
Do you sing it in your shows maybe, now?
Yeah, we do, we just sang it last night! You spend a week having to learn it, so I just made my band learn it too.
Looking at your Twitter account, you’re still pretty in-touch with the other guys from “The Voice.” Do you still keep in contact with your coach?
I have not. I don’t think I’ve ever, or he’s ever, talked to me on Twitter.
Going into the show, no one really knew how big it was going to be or what exactly it was all about. What was it that made you want to try out and were you surprised at how big it had gotten?
That is very true. I was actually on my way back from Houston; I went to an event in Texas, the Texas Country Music chart or whatever, and I was in a seminar and I was on the way back my manager gave me a call about this tv show doing auditions in Austin like three days later. He asked me if I wanted to do it, and I was like, “well, I’m playing five hours away that night but if they want to fit me in real early I can go and audition first thing in the morning.” That’s kind of what I had to do, so they set me up an early audition time and did that, then went and played the show, then had to come back and do a follow-up at noon the next day.
I don’t know how to judge in terms of people trying out in Austin, but there was, I think, if I was guessing there was around maybe 300-400 people trying out. You assume that it was going to be a big show, you know? I just never heard of it before but I didn’t have anything to do, so. Trying out for NBC, you can’t buy that. So I went and did it and then everything happened. So I flew out there, and you get there, and you get to the house and you see Mark Burnett. And then, you start to notice all the advertising they do. You kind of get reassured of how big of a deal it really is, you know. It was cool to go from never hearing about the show, to go to being eventually driven around in limos and all that good stuff. It was fun.
At first they didn’t know who the coaches were, right?
Right. Blake was the last one they added. Originally it was Cee-lo, Christina and Adam.
So if you weren’t on Cee-Lo’s team, who was your second choice?
Well Blake would have been my first choice anyway. Before they added Blake, I thought Cee-lo would have been a cool team to be on. I don’t know. Looking back, initially going into it I would have thought Christina Aguilera, because I would have recognized her a little bit more than Adam. But after it’s all said and done, I think Adam was a good person, a good team to be on. Christina’s had the riffers and the runners and the diva-style performers, but Adam had a nice little mixed pot of different genres and different things, so. I don’t know, any of them would have been awesome. Like I said, I initially said Cee-lo, but it was a completely different genre or mix-up, so.
So, would you go through all of it again or was once enough?
Yeah, but I would have done things a little differently. I would have pushed harder to get songs that I thought were better for me. I would have changed a couple things. Yeah, I’d do it again. It was fun and the exposure was great. I met a lot of cool people, artists – AND – just from the production crew to Blake, Cee-Lo, and them and everyone involved. Mark Burnett, even. He’s a nice, cool guy. Even the day of the episodes he would walk around with us, and you know, talk to us and pep everybody up. He wasn’t just an office figure; he was actively involved. That was cool and that meant a lot to me. Yeah, I’d definitely do it again but I would put a little more input into my song choices, or try to anyway.
Now, before you got into the whole music scene, you were a college baseball pitcher, right?
I did. I did that for like… half a year. I played baseball all my life, you know. As far as playing it for college, maybe half a year, then I quit and all that good junk.
Right, but have you ever thought “What if?”
I miss it everyday. Yeah, I think that but I can’t really complain about the last four years about what music’s done for me and what music’s brought, so it’s hard to risk that for possibly blowing out a shoulder, or.. you never know.
What were you studying in college?
I was actually going into sports medicine. I wanted to get into orthopedics.
Oh, that’s completely different from the music field!
Yeah, yeah it is. That was more of the sports influence, all that stuff was always interesting to me. I was into the recovery stuff and the surgery. That’s what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t too good of a student.
Now, you had the chance to open and perform for Kenny Chesney. What was that whole night like?
It was awesome. The only catch was that I didn’t really know what I was doing. I had only been playing with the band for like three months. That was the first group of guys that I got together. We were in no way in any means professional or anything, kind of a garage band that we got together pretty much. Seeing as the show was sponsored by Corona, so me and the drummer were the only ones who were 21. So we had to get a fill-in band, basically just to play the show. Let’s say it wasn’t the most comfortable I’ve ever been on stage, in front of 16,000 people. But it was definitely a good kick-start, a good experience to be thrown into probably the biggest crowd that I’ll ever open for in one sitting like that. I was with the guy that was at the top of his game at the time. But it was fun, it was a little overwhelming, but it was definitely a good experience. It gave me something to look forward to anyway.
So if you could form your ‘dream band’ with anybody from any genre of music, who would you pick?
Ooh, I’d probably pick… heck, I couldn’t even get real specific about it. As far as lead guitar player; I like my band, don’t get me wrong. I’ll keep my guys with me as long as I possibly can. But as far as anyone, I’d go with Brent Mason who does all of the lead stuff for Alan Jackson’s stuff. Man, I don’t know. I guess I don’t really know the musician side of the bigger guys as much as I should be. I don’t know. Like I said, that would be cool just because I listened to a lot of Alan Jackson growing up and know that my lead guitar player listens to a lot of that stuff. It’d kind of be a mentor type deal. Yeah, I’m really happy with the group of guys I have now and like I said, I’ll keep ‘em with me as long as I can.
You just released your EP, and your single’s doing pretty good on the charts. How has the fan reception been to it so far?
It’s been good! You know, honestly, I didn’t know how the entire Texas country scene would be with me, since I was going to L.A., and mainstream exposure and all kinds of things like that. Sometimes they’re kind of weird about that sort of thing. It actually went really well. From the fan response to the other artist response, and just the support I’ve gotten from when I was out there by myself for a show. And even when I’m out doing radio stations, everybody pretty much latched on and kind of, I guess, helped me represent me. They had my back while I was out there doing the show and all, and when I got back home it kind of carried over and continued. It’s been really good. And like you said, we put out the EP, we put out the single. It went up the charts pretty decent. So it’s all good stuff right now.
So for the rest of the year, can fans expect any surprises from you, or anything big coming up they should know about?
Actually I’m getting ready to do a video for our next single. ‘Cause it’s something else to just use, a tool to just for the fans or for anyone. Having a music video is just the next step, a single is a start. I was kind of wanting to work on the next step, and that’s our biggest project I guess.
As far as show wise, we’re playing the Musicfest at Steamboat this year which is the biggest Texas country music thing that goes on. That’s gonna be our next big concert-thing.
So, what’s the next single gonna be?
I believe it’s gonna be a song called “Irresponsible,” which was at first (laughs) more of a filler-type of song. It’s done really good as far as fan reception and that kind of thing. I think we’re gonna put it out as our next single. Like I said, getting a good video to go with it will help ’cause it’s more of a storyline-type of song.
Do you have any ideas for that music video yet or are you still in the planning stages?
Not yet. I know we’re supposed to go in for it as soon as I get back from this trip this weekend. So, Sunday or Monday next week we’re gonna go in to draw up the beginning plans.
Is this your first music video?
It is, it is actually. It’ll be cool. I can’t wait to film it and all, kind of represent yourself, you know. Kind of make up your own storyline and do it exactly how you want it. I think it’s gonna be cool, too. We have a lot of flexibility and a lot of good people helping us out. It’ll be a lot of fun.
Is there anything on your iPod that your fans would be shocked you listen to?
(Laughs) well there’s probably a few songs.. I’m one of those people that listens to a good song regardless of what genre it is. I’ll appreciate it and listen to it, ’cause it’s a good song at the end of the day. I don’t know, there’s a lot of rap. There’s some Miley Cyrus on there, which they probably wouldn’t expect. Cage the Elephant, everything. I’m an impulse buyer, I would say. Going out on the road and I hear something, I’ll buy it. Or if I think about a song from way-back-when I’ll go to the store and buy it. Hanson’s “MmmBop” is on there!
(laughs) You just made my day with that one, you don’t even know.
(laughs) There you go! I bought that one on the way to Corpus Christi one day. (laughs)
Wait, what Miley Cyrus song is it?
“Party In The USA.”
If you could record any song out there on the charts, what song?
Oh man, I’d have to say any Chris Young or Justin Moore single. And that’s pretty much my direct influences from Nashville right now. Of all the top 40 Nashville-type stuff, it’d be Chris Young or Justin Moore. And any of them! “Tomorrow” or any of the Justin Moore stuff: “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away,” “Small Town USA,” any of those.
If you could give advice to anybody trying out for “The Voice”‘s second season, what would you tell them?
Honestly, they’re looking for more unique styles and different – even from personality. Anybody that they bring up there or they pick is going to be able to sing. That’s the first thing when I got to L.A. everyone there can sing, everyone there can sing amazingly. It’s more of individuality and having a good story that goes along with you. It’s not just about stories, it’s a package deal. So from the songs that you try out with, it needs to be a best representation of you, and your personality, and your best range and the first impression is the biggest one. You’ve gotta realize they’re seeing thousands of people a day, so they have to have one that sticks out for them, you know. I don’t know. I’d say more focus on your whole package than just the vocal part.
It’s Thanksgiving up here in Canada this weekend, so what’s your favorite part of Thanksgiving?
Ooh, the food, the food. But the other side to that is the same food for the next four weeks (laughs). I don’t eat turkey and dressing any other time of the year because I eat it for three or four weeks straight. For me, it’s a break because I don’t get to go home too much. It’s a week where I get to spend more than one day or one night in my home-town with my family and all. I’d say that. Food and family. Seeing everyone at the break and eating the food for four weeks.