Curtis Grimes’ life reads like your classic country narrative: A promising baseball prospect ditches his chance at a shot in the big leagues for a girl, only to come away heartbroken a short while later.
But instead of picking up the bottle, he picked up a guitar, and what sounds like the character in so many country songs is instead the one writing them.
“It was something I could do alone,” Grimes said. “I had a lot of time to myself in my college dorm, and I needed something to fill the time and take my mind off things. Music was this sort of therapy to deal with all the crap that comes along with something like that.”
Other than loving his fair share of George Strait and Alan Jackson albums, the Texas native had no background in music … not even touching an instrument until he was 19.
But he found it came naturally, and that his voice was something special. It took him from playing dive bars and frat parties to winning a shot opening for Kenny Chesney and landing on season one of The Voice, where a cover of Blake Shelton’s “Hillbilly Bone” caught the ear of not Shelton, but Cee Lo Green.
“I’m always afraid of singing in front of people. I loved singing along with the radio or by myself in the room, but I couldn’t bring it out otherwise,” Grimes said. “[The Voice] kind of forced me into it.”
While he didn’t win, he left with connections and a deeper understanding of the industry, which he parlayed into spots supporting Pat Green, Eli Young Band and Toby Keith. The exposure was good, but Grimes took it as an opportunity to learn stage presence from country’s biggest sluggers.
“That’s the hardest part for me,” Grimes said. “It’s nice to watch them take control of the crowd. It’s impressive to watch them get every single person in the crowd to be part of the experience. It’s little things that I can only learn from studying them for a night.”
He’s toured almost relentlessly the past two years, working his way up the ranks of the Texas country scene with his mix of Red Dirt and mainstream country leanings.
Grimes has independently released two studio albums, 2009’s Lonely River and 2011’s Doin’ My Time, and last year’s concert record, Live from the Parish. While another LP isn’t waiting in the wings, new music is on the way in the form of singles until he saves up enough quality material for a full release.
Practicing every day, he realizes life as a country singer has turned out not all that different from what his life as a ball player would have been; he’s just holding a different piece of wood.
“It gets easier every day. I’ve learned so much, and I’ve been able to take in a lot,” Grimes said. “There’s a lot of struggles, late nights, early mornings and being away from home involved, but you learn to play the game a little better.”