Curtis Grimes Talks ‘The Voice’ Audition, Cee Lo’s ‘Smart’ Style and What to Expect in the Coming Weeks
Curtis Grimes, the 25-year-old Gilmer, Texas boy who was ballsy enough to tackle Blake Shelton's 'Hillbilly Bone' (in front of Shelton himself) during his blind audition on this week's episode of 'The Voice,' lets Taste of Country in on a little secret: The producers asked him to do it.
He didn't snag Shelton's vote, but he did end up on Cee Lo Green's team, which the young Texas country musician says was his first choice, anyway. Grimes opens up about how he got on the up-and-coming NBC show in the first place, what it's like working with Cee Lo, and how he and his teammates have been getting along throughout the competition so far. Right now, Grimes says he's just trying to keep his lips sealed until it's time to head back out to L.A. for the live episodes, which kick off in June.
While he isn't able to spill what song he'll be singing when Cee Lo's team members go head-to-head with one another in the upcoming "battles" round, he did let us know that there will be a 'Voice' tour! Stay tuned -- we'll be coming at you with more Curtis Grimes insider info after he appears on 'The Voice' each week.
You've been in the Texas country scene for a while. How did you get started as a musician?
I played baseball. I went to college just to play ball. I quit about halfway through my freshman year. My roommate freshman year had a guitar, so I would mess around with it but I didn't know what I was doing. So, I quit baseball and I had a lot of free time, so I went to the pawn shop and bought one just to start messing around with [it] and kind of looked on the Internet and learned how to play the chords based on what I saw on there, and kinda taught myself and practiced a lot.
Then, the next year I moved down to San Marcos because I wanted to go to Texas State, but that ended up not working out so I started playing this acoustic stuff just with my friends at their house, then fraternity and sorority parties. Eventually, I got a weekly gig at El Arroyo for happy hour on Thursdays. Then I started playing over on 6th Street every Wednesday night, so that was my first I guess actual show, aside from my happy hour gig. I started off just me and a fiddle player, then I got a drummer and bass player and ended up with a guitar guy just along the way.
I did that for a long time -- until I won the Kenny Chesney contest where I got to open up for him at the Erwin Center. Slowly, I started to pick up other gigs just around town. Then, my drummer at the time, his grandpa had a little bar up in Oklahoma, so that was our first time to play outside of the state. We went up there and played at his grandpa's little bar. I did that for about a year, just trying to find new places to play. It was a progression.
Then, we had a big show opening for Jack Ingram at Hill's Cafe ... pretty much that's when I got more professional full-time band guys, and then I eventually quit my job and ended up doing music full-time. October will be the third year that I've been actually full-time touring the Texas country scene.
Let's back up just a little bit. When you got into music, you were in a serious relationship that didn't work out. Tell us how, if at all, that influenced your music.
[Laughs] Actually, I got engaged, and I quit baseball … she lived two hours away so I was going to see her all the time. Then we ended up breaking up like two or three months later, and that sucks, you know? It's kind of a depressing time in your life after coming off something like that. That was the first song I ever wrote: 'Lonely River.' So that influenced me a lot in songwriting, actually. It gave me a lot of downtime alone in my dorm room to work on playing guitar.
How did you get the opportunity to be on 'The Voice?'
Best in Texas magazine had a seminar in Houston, like they do every January, and I was on my way back from that, and my manager Dave called me and said, "Hey, this TV show wants you to come and audition on Saturday." And this was on a Wednesday I believe, and that Saturday we had a show out in east Texas, so I said, "If they can get me in early in the morning I'll go do it, so I'll still have plenty of time." I went and did it, and they wanted me to come back the next day. So we drove five hours to Longview and went and played a private party, drove back that night after the show, got to Austin at like eight in the morning and my audition was at noon over at Music Lab in south Austin. Pretty much they said, "Thanks so much. We'll be in touch with you," you know? I didn't hear anything for two or three weeks at all, so I'd pretty much given up on it, and then on a Tuesday night I got a phone call that said, "Hey, this is so and so at 'The Voice.' We're going to send you this email. Just respond to it as soon as you can. We want to get a little more information."
Well, I never got the email that night, and we were leaving to go do a tour in New Mexico that Wednesday morning. So she called me while we were on the way to New Mexico and said, "Hey, by the way, congratulations -- you made it! You're coming to L.A. next Thursday, so just prepare yourself," basically. It was that quick from the time they said, "Hey, you made it," to actually flying out to L.A.
What made you choose to sing Blake Shelton's 'Hillbilly Bone' at your audition?
Um, actually, they kinda recommend the song that you're gonna do. You don't really have a choice [laughs]. I mean, I like Blake Shelton. I'm a Blake Shelton fan, but that wouldn't have been my first song choice if I was going to do a Blake Shelton song. That's just kinda what they had me go with.
I told them when they told me that, [and] I busted out laughing and they asked what was funny, and I said, "Oh, everyone back on the Texas country scene is gonna make fun of me for singing this song on national television." But, on the other side of that, it was an easy song for me to sing and in my range. Some people got songs that were completely different genres than them, so I was glad that I got a country song that was low [and] deep in my element. I would have rather done a different song but I mean, oh well, you take what you can get. It could have been a lot worse.
Watch Curtis Grimes Perform 'Hillbilly Bone' on 'The Voice'
Were you upset that you didn't make it on to Blake's team?
Um, I wasn't because Blake was the last coach that they added, so before that, my No. 1 coach was Cee Lo. It was either Christina [Aguilera], Cee Lo or Adam [Levine]. I was like, Cee Lo is an awesome producer, he knows a lot about music and the music industry, and I thought it would be neat to work with someone from a completely different mindset, you know? Just to see what his ideas were and what he wanted to do with me. So that was my first choice. Then, when they added Blake, the big reason that I wanted to be on Blake's team is because he has all the ties and all the connections on the music scene, and he's really hot on the music scene right now, nationally. So that was just good, connection wise.
Like I said, I like Blake Shelton -- I'm a fan of his. That would have been my No. 1 if I could pick, but I'm happy to be on Cee Lo's team because that was initially the direction I wanted to go anyway. It worked out.
Before 'The Voice,' were you already familiar with Cee Lo Green's music?
I was familiar with him from the latest song. Then, after I did some research … I guess I wasn't aware that he was in the Gnarls Barkley and [did] 'Crazy' and all that stuff. So, after I found out I was like, "Oh, that's that guy!" He's on top of his game right now.
So, what is Cee Lo like as a coach? What has he taught you so far?
He's a really, really smart guy. I can't keep up with what's going on in his head all the time. He uses a lot of big words and I can't understand half of them. But he's a nice guy ... different, a little different. He's a little weird and little different but it's cool to work with someone that's on that level, and that's not a country person. So, it's interesting.
How are your teammates?
Awesome. Everybody, with the exception of maybe two or three, everybody is just awesome -- supportive, great friends now [and] we all still stay in touch. It was interesting to me to see how… a lot of time lead singers have egos, and especially putting them all into one hotel, you'd think there would be a lot more conflict and battling. The atmosphere at the hotel was like we'd all hang out, everyone would song swap by the pool, everybody would just sit around a little fire or just in the room -- everybody's going around the room just singing their own song, everybody's really supportive and friendly. It was completely the opposite of what you would expect, being a competitive TV show.
…With the exception of two or three? Were there a couple people that you didn't really get along with?
Not me. I would say just a couple that everybody didn't really… you know, like I said, egos or just a chip on their shoulder or whatever. You know.
How many episodes have you guys filmed? We noticed you have a lot of concerts of your own coming up.
They've actually already filmed up until … they filmed round one and then the blind auditions. Up until about [the episodes narrowing it down to the Top] 16 have been filmed already. Then America votes for the Top 16 on live episodes.
Can you tell us what you're singing on next week's "battle" episode?
[Laughs] I can't. I can tell you the format: All of us on Cee Lo's team get paired up against each other and sing a song, the same song. Some of them were like harmony stuff going on, and some of them were straight one line-one line battling off, and then at the end of the song Cee Lo picks who wins and goes on. So, after the next round there will be four people left on each team.
We're rooting for you, obviously, but if things don't work out with the show, what will you do next?
Right now, we're under contract with NBC and even Universal Records, so we can't even release any new material until those contracts are up, I think 30 days after the last episode. Basically, you'll either have a record deal with Universal or you can continue with your own music stuff. Once it gets to the Top 16, there's going to be a 'Voice' tour and the Top 8 go on for sure, and they have the option to take anyone from the Top 16. So, if that happens you're gonna be that tied down tourwise until after the tour ends.
Worst case scenario is you get kicked off and come back here and use all of the national exposure and just kind of use that as fuel to the fire, and just continue to do what you do and try to step up to the next level.
So you're able to continue playing the shows that you've got lined up in July?
Right now, I'm not sure. Basically, those are booked because I'd rather have a show and have to cancel than to not have anything. That's kind of [a set of] security shows, just in case. At first they weren't even gonna let us play right now while we're home during the break, until we start catching up, but they're like, "Hey, y'all are touring musicians. You need to play."
'The Voice' aside, what would you say has been your biggest accomplishment as an artist to date?
Before this it would probably be opening up for Kenny Chesney! It happened early -- really early -- and the only downside to that was I had only been playing with the band for three months. I wasn't really at the top of my game to perform in front of a crowd like that, but it definitely was a good experience because I got thrown right into Kenny Chesney, who was at the top of his game at that time. That was probably the biggest thing you could be on at the time. That was a good experience to get submerged in it and then go, "Hey, well, here's you something to look forward to, so go work hard now!"
Watch Curtis Grimes Record His Single 'A Girl Like You'