Cowboy hats and Daisy Dukes littered the dance floor, a smoky haze rose to the rafters, and a palpable buzz pervaded the air as Curtis Grimes took the stage Friday night.

After appearing on NBC’s “The Voice,” the Gilmer native started his 2013 tour at Whiskey Creek Saloon in front of a packed house of excited Texas country music fans.

“I’m excited to be here. I haven’t been home since last Wednesday but doing a show so close to my new hometown in Austin was really exciting for me,” Grimes said. “I was able to get some errands done around my house, and eat some good food; it’s always nice to play close to home.”

What separates Grimes from so many of his country music counterparts is his path to the stage. Excelling in both the classroom and on the baseball diamond, Grimes landed an academic and baseball scholarship to Centenary College in Shreveport, La.

“My dream growing up was to pitch for the Texas Rangers,” Grimes said. “I accepted that baseball scholarship and was dating my high school sweetheart at the time. Like a lot of young relationships, we got engaged on a whim and I ended up quitting school to be with her, being young and stupid. We ended up calling off the whole thing, and I had to decide what to do with my life.”

After his relationship ended, Grimes moved to San Marcos and enrolled at Texas State University. At about that same time, Grimes began playing guitar, and said his past relationship musically inspired him.

“That’s a tough time, breaking up with a longtime girlfriend,” Grimes said. “That past experience led me to songwriting, and it was actually very therapeutic. I ended up only being at Texas State for one semester before I won a local contest to open for Kenny Chesney, and I’ve pretty much been doing the country music thing ever since.”

Since opening for Chesney and appearing on the first season of “The Voice,” Grimes has shared the stage with headlining country musicians, including the Eli Young Band, Toby Keith, Jamey Johnson and Doug Stone. While Grimes, 27, admitted singing in front of large audiences is nerve-wracking, he credited his baseball days to helping him keep his cool.

“I pitched in the state championship game, so yeah, while singing in front of a bunch of new people is nerve-wracking, I kind of have experience in big-time moments,” Grimes said. “The most nervous I’ve ever been was with my time on ‘The Voice.’ Now I get nervous trying to come up with things to talk about on stage. It’s just so uncomfortable and unnatural sometimes; singing on stage is much easier than talking.”

With each performance, Grimes not only gained experience, but also hordes of new fans.

“He’s got such a great voice,” said Venus resident Linda Clark. “My husband and I saw him at the June Bug Jam in Milford and I said, ‘OK, he’s in Killeen next; let’s go.’ There were several other performers that night in Milford but he was by far the best. That’s why we’re down here tonight; we’ve had these tickets for weeks.”

“I came here tonight for one reason only — to see Curtis Grimes,” said Killeen resident Steve Muir. “I like him; he’s a good ol’ country boy, he sings the good stuff.”

Central Texans can see Curtis Grimes on Aug. 23 at Wild West Waco.

Herald/Erik Papke​

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