Drumming Up Success
May 22, 2005
By Millicent Martin
Tim Curle plays for one of the nation's Top 5 concert tours.
He's been the percussionist of pop/classical singer Josh Groban for three years.
Groban's known for songs such as "You're Still You," which he sang on the TV show "Ally McBeal," "Believe" from "The Polar Express" movie, and "You Raise Me Up."
When the California resident isn't on the road with Groban, Curle has other gigs, including the contemporary service at the Crystal Cathedral. He's played for four years at the church made famous through worldwide telecasts.
In April, he played a couple songs with Elton John for a breast cancer research benefit.
His mom, Karen, and other family members in Cambridge City note how his sacrifices have paid off.
"I'm very proud of what he's accomplished, how hard he works, how dedicated he is to his music," said Karen Curle. "... God has blessed him with a special gift to go out and perform in front of people. I always tell him to go out and say a prayer and play music for God."
Some of Curle's local relatives saw him perform recently in Oxford, Ohio, Fort Wayne and Las Vegas on Groban's tour.
"The way they could make the sound fill the whole arena (Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas) was fantastic," Karen Curle said.
Touring the country provided a chance to play for various relatives. His mom as well as his dad, who lives in Oregon, were able to see him in Las Vegas.
Several family friends went to the Oxford, Ohio, concert, including his aunt Karla Southerland's co-workers from First Bank Richmond and their family members.
Kimberly Poinsett, marketing coordinator for the bank, said knowing the connection to Curle made the concert even better.
"It was a wonderful show," Poinsett said.
Poinsett said she felt she already knew Groban's musicians, thanks to the details Southerland has given bank employees as they've watched the band on TV.
Fans have packed increasingly larger venues to see Groban's band -- venues Curle always dreamed of playing -- including Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and the Grand Ole Opry.
Groban's tour was ranked fourth this week, below the Eagles, Kenny Chesney and Rod Stewart, according to Pollstar. Tours are ranked by average box office gross per city. The rest of the Top 10 included Yanni, Motley Crue, Bob Dylan, Duran Duran, Green Day and Sting.
"I think they're just beginning," Karen Curle said. "They haven't done their best yet. There are great things to come."
Tim Curle said Groban has "all the right pieces to the puzzle -- he could have a career like Elton (John) or Sting."
"He'll have longevity. He has the potential to do this as long as he wants to, and God willing, we'll be his band," Tim Curle said.
Relaxing in Wayne County
The 34-year-old percussionist came to visit his Wayne County relations around Mother's Day.
Although Curle grew up in Ohio, he spent many weekends and holidays on Mulberry Street in Cambridge City, running the sidewalks and playing Wiffle ball.
On his recent local visit, he went golfing with his cousin David Southerland in Pershing.
Golf and music are two of Curle's passions.
"I started golf at 4 and drums at 5," Curle said. "I've never known life without either one."
While Groban might have more worldwide name recognition, Curle has bragging rights on the golf course over Groban because Groban is new to the game.
Curle doesn't just play golf when he's off tour -- he plays music in various ensembles.He'll perform in the musical "Sweet Charity" in Palm Springs.
Playing for churches keeps things in perspective, Curle said. "It's good for my music and good for my soul. It keeps me grounded."
Staying grounded might be challenging when earlier this year band members each received platinum records for Groban's CD/DVD "Josh Groban in Concert" and album "Closer."
Singing and playing
Curle is not only Groban's percussionist -- he also volunteered to sing with him in the song "My December." Curle said he gets his voice from his mother.
"I hope I can sing a little more with him and have a bigger part in the show," Curle said. "There's no pressure. He's only one of the best singers in the world to have to sing behind him in tune."
It's also a challenge to play percussion at the same time.
"There are two sets of breathing skills, and you're trying to put them together," Curle said. "It confuses your respiratory system."
Groban's diverse songs range from pop to movie soundtracks to sad or romantic melodies in Italian and Spanish.
On tour, Curle is surrounded by instruments including timpani, a mounted drum, an electronic drum pad, conga, bongo, djembe (an African drum), timbales, an orchestral snare drum, chimes, several types of cymbals, tambourine, shakers and goat's toes.The toes are sewn to a strip of cloth like a bracelet. Curle said they provide a great sound on the timpani, resembling marchers.
On the road
Touring "can be exhausting but more exhilarating than anything," Curle said.
Groban's recently concluded tour started in January 2004 and included venues around the United States and Canada, Europe and South Africa. They spent Thanksgiving Day on a safari.
"Growing up I said I wanted to see the world and be playing music while I'm doing it and it's exactly what has happened," Curle said. "Hopefully it can continue that way."
Groban plans to make a new recording later in the year, and Curle hopes to tour in early 2006 to promote that new album.
"It's been a tight-knit unit from day one," Curle said of the band. "... It doesn't happen that often in this business -- there are too many egos, too many lead singers and lead guitarists. God knows everybody in the band has seen that part of the business at least a dozen times. So it's been a real treat to be around the greatest people and part of such a great tour."
Curle said Groban is "a musician's musician -- he plays drums, piano, writes songs and obviously sings a little. I couldn't ask for a more fulfilling musical situation."
"Each of you complement each other," Karen Curle said about her son and his colleagues. "It seems to be such a fine blend of people as well as musicians."
On the extras of Groban's latest CD/DVD, " Live at the Greek," Groban talks about each band member.
"Everybody loves Tim Curle," Groban said. "...He's a little madman. He's got tons of energy and he's probably the strongest guy on tour. Tim's great and he's one of the most talented percussionists around."
Curle is featured several times on the lighthearted extras and speaks in several clips.
Groban's albums include "Live at the Greek," "Closer," "Josh Groban in Concert" and "Josh Groban."
Song samples can be heard on Amazon.com.
Groban's songs are often played on the "Legendary Voices with Pat Marino" radio show via the Internet, www.radio.bostonpete.com/radio.html
Curle can also be heard on violinist Lucia Micarelli's CD, "Music From a Farther Room." Micarelli was Groban's concertmaster on the latest tour.
On the Web
Josh Groban: www.joshgroban.com
At a glance
Some of Tim Curle's local connections
Curle's mom, Karen Curle, aunt Karla Southerland and uncle Tim Close live in Cambridge City. His late grandparents, Paul and Helen Close, also lived in Cambridge City.
How Tim got the gig
Curle graduated with a degree in music from the University of Oregon in 1994 and received a master's degree from the University of Southern California.
One of Curle's former USC classmates and band mates, Zachary Provost, is Josh Groban's music director and pianist. Three years ago, Curle and Provost reunited at a convention and Curle offered to work with Groban's band. About two weeks later, Curle played his first gig with Groban.
Provost was introduced to Groban by legendary producer David Foster, who has produced hits for such artists as Celine Dion and Barbara Streisand. Foster and Provost's connection began when Foster asked Provost to arrange the national anthem for Cher at the 1999 Super Bowl. Curle and many members of Groban's band also perform concerts with Provost.