Curtis Grimes was not one of those Texas kids who felt destined to be a country music singer.
His dream was baseball. Music was just something he loved and listened to while driving around in his truck.
But when one dream got crushed, another came to be.
Grimes didn’t pick up an instrument, his roommate’s guitar, until his college years, while his baseball career was ending and while he was figuring out college wasn’t for him.
“I just needed a new outlet,” he said. “I needed to replace that void that baseball left.”
He learned to play guitar and write songs and put on a show. Then came a couple of small strokes of luck.
A friend of a friend managed a restaurant and got Grimes a weekly happy hour gig. Someone the manager knew helped Grimes get shows on Sixth Street in Austin.
Then there were bigger strokes of luck.
While Grimes was working at a trophy shop, he heard a radio commercial about a singing contest. The winner would open up for Kenny Chesney. Grimes sent in a video of a show he played at a sorority party. He won.
Calling the experience surreal would be an understatement, Grimes says.
“Imagine you’re playing these little bars and parties and the next thing you know you’re now on the biggest stage with Kenny Chesney,” he said. “It was kind of a blur.”
Then Grimes got on the first season of a little singing competition show called “The Voice.” He made it to the top eight.
Suddenly, he was part of the Nashville music scene and country music machine. He landed some No. 1 singles on Texas charts. It’s not something he had wished for his whole life, but it was happening.
“I’m not that guy that grew up wanting to be an artist since I was 8, so that took the pressure off,” he said. “I still felt like a baseball player that didn’t make it.”
While Grimes was building his name in country music, he was also living the life he thought went with that.
He’d gotten into the habit of getting drunk before shows so he felt more comfortable on stage. All those years of baseball coaches giving him advice to “block out the crowd and tune everything out” didn’t exactly apply well to being an entertainer. He sang songs like “Whiskey Drunk” or ones with curse words he was ashamed to play around his young nephew.
It felt like a far cry from how he’d grown up, when Grime read copies of Sports Illustrated and thought the “coolest thing about it was a famous athlete using their platform to tell people about Jesus.”
“I used to tell my dad that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up,” Grimes said. “And then it felt like I was doing the complete opposite of that.”
He might not have been in Sports Illustrated, but he still had the microphone.
“It ate at me,” he said. “I had one of those moments. It really was a come to Jesus moment.”
He wanted to change how he lived and the songs he sang. And he told that to his team in Nashville.
“Long story short,” Grimes said, “three months later, everyone dropped me.”
Looking back on it, Grimes sees that as another stroke of luck. He’s since gotten to make music, which he calls faith-based country music, his own way. His first album after making that decision proved to be more successful than the others.
“I think that shows that at the end of the day, people can tell when you’re being genuine,” Grimes said. “They can see through the phoniness that maybe you’re just trying to make a hit, but it’s not you.”
Grimes, who lives in San Antonio with his wife and two kids, is proud to be himself on stage and in his songs. Part of that meant founding Ten Finger Ministry, which includes handing out Bibles at concerts and sometimes performing his own brand of cowboy churches.
At his shows, he wants to put on a good show. He also might say, “No matter what you’ve been through, God loves you.”
Thirteen years after Grimes joined Kenny Chesney on stage, he’s still surprised that’s he’s still doing music. But he’s happy to have found another passion.
“I alway felt like, until I figure out my career path, I’m going to play music,” he said. “That’s still what I’m doing.”