Curtis Grimes is having a very good day. He began by running in the inaugural FRESH 15K in Tyler, took the stage for a post-race concert and then spent an hour signing autographs and posing with adoring fans — including many young women who couldn’t wait to get a hug from him.
“It’s still sort of surreal,” said the 27-year old Gilmer native of his growing fame as a country singer.
If his name sounds familiar but you can’t quite place the face, think back to the first season of “The Voice.” Grimes was the one in the black cowboy hat who auditioned by singing judge Blake Shelton’s bad-boy, good-time hit “Hillbilly Bone.”
Just that fast, Curtis Grimes from little Gilmer became a big reality show star performing before millions.
Although Grimes sounds like one of those overnight success stories, he said, with a laugh, that it didn’t quite happen that fast.
As a kid, he could care less about being a singer. He wanted to be a pitcher in the big leagues. And he was good too. As an all-state pitcher at Harmony High School, Grimes helped lead his team to the state tournament in 2003. He earned a baseball scholarship to Centenary College in Shreveport.
The baseball dream derailed thanks to a guitar and a girl.
“During my freshman year, my roommate had a guitar and I started messing with it.”
Grimes ended up leaving the baseball team and breaking up with his financé. By this time, he had purchased a second-hand guitar at a pawn shop and taught himself to play.
“I began to pour my soul into music,” says Grimes. “It was my therapy.”
By the time he transferred to Texas State University in San Marcos, Grimes hopelessly was hooked on performing. His country sound and let’s party attitude was a big hit with the college crowds. Grimes soon was a regular on the club scene and party-happy Sixth Street.
“It came to the point where I had to try and make it in music or go back to Texas State,” said Grimes. Music won out.
After winning country superstar Kenny Chesney’s Next Big Star talent contest, Grimes got to open for Chesney at Austin’s Frank Erwin Event Center. Chesney called Grimes back on the stage to join in on his hit “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.”
Not long after that, Grimes auditioned for “The Voice,” which was then a new TV singing competition.
“What you don’t see (on TV) is that you go through several auditions before you even get to L.A. (Los Angeles where the show is filmed).”
“My heart was pounding,” said Grimes as he took the stage.
Blake and the other celebrity judges — Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, R&B hitmaker CeeLo Green, pop diva Christina Aguilera — seemed to be enjoying his performance, but it wasn’t until near the end of the song that Green spun his chair around, meaning Grimes was a keeper.
Grimes made a bigger commotion a few weeks later. After performing Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” with fellow contestant Emily Valentine, the two locked lips in a steamy kiss.
Grimes said it wasn’t quite as spontaneous as it looked.
“We had talked about it. I thought they were setting me up to be cut and I wanted to leave an impression.”
The judges kept Grimes. He made it all the way to the quarterfinal rounds.
“It opened a lot of doors,” Grimes said about being on the show. But he said ultimately it will be his music and ability to wow a crowd that makes or breaks his career.
In February, Grimes released “Our Side of the Fence,” his first studio produced album.
“This record takes so many different angles, aspects, sounds, types of songs, emotions, stages of your life, stages of a relationship. So I tried to make this as well rounded as possible. … It has been a fun process and I am excited for everyone to hear it” Grimes said in the album’s promotional video.
The first single “The Cowboy Kind,” quickly hit No. 1 on the Texas Music Chart. In the song, Grimes does some sweet talking to a girlfriend because he knows for her “it ain’t easy lovin’ the cowboy kind.”
Grimes said all he wants to do is put out the best music he can and pack in crowds. He headlined at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth earlier this year.
“It’s all about the live shows. You’ve got to give them (the audience) a reason to come back and come out on the night that you’re in town.”
Grimes wants everyone to leave his show feeling good.
“I want them to tell others, ‘I had a lot of fun’ and ‘you’ve got to see Curtis Grimes.’”