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Curtis Peoples

By Katy Baldwin , March 20, 2015

Singer-songwriter, Curtis Peoples, just released his third album, The Fight. After writing an album review, I had the opportunity to skype Curtis and talk about his new album. Curtis shared stories about growing up in California with rock sensation, Vic Fuentes, as well as his personal journey overcoming ups and downs of being in the music business.  

Katy: Tell me a little bit more about yourself. How would you describe your music to people who have never heard you?
Curtis: My music is pretty much like a rock-pop kinda thing. I made up a name for it a few years back called “coffeeshop arena rock”. Its pop-rock at the end of the day and its more now than it has been before on the pop side. It’s kind of always been where its at I think. I just have worked with different people so the record is a little different than it is before. But thats kind of what it is. Its not singer-song writer music even though i’m a singer/songwriter for sure, but its trying to be a bigger sound.

What was your inspiration behind the album “Fight”?
I got to the end of my last record which was my self titled album and I toured so much on it and I was happy with so much of what happened. I knew I wanted to do something kind of bigger sound-wise and just trying in general to do something bigger. So I kind of called all the favors I had, or I just called friends of mine that were writers or artists, from managers or producers, and I was just like, “I’m trying to do this thing. I’m trying to do a bigger thing. And I really think i’m ready to move forward”. And thankfully over the years I've lived in L.A. and been in the Industry a lot of friends of mine have done really well, and I got lucky to be surrounded by a lot of really talented people so I was able to really call people then that had done some stuff. But they were just guys that I've known before they even did anything and really kinda shaped this whole thing. Its kind of like a domino effect. If you get this guy to work with you, then this girl will work with you, and then this band will work with you, and then all of a sudden you’re in motion.

You co-wrote the amazing song, “King for a day”. What was it like working with Vic Fuentes again on your new album?
Its cool because we’ve been friends since kindergarten.

Thats Crazy!
Yea! and our friendship and our working relationship has been going since we were in high school. And even actually since we were kids, we would like make karate movies together with a bunch of our buddies and so Vic and I have done creative stuff since we were kids. But when we were in high school, we started a band. He joined my band and we kind of did that for a while. And then he had what at the time was called, Early Times, but then eventually became, Pierce the Veil. He had like a punk band that ended up becoming a huge deal, so our band kind of broke up. I went the singer/songwriter route and he went the other route. But we never stopped working together. Vic designed all my t-shirts for years, he designed all my album covers. I wrote on his albums, he wrote on my albums. So when it came to pierce the veil stuff though, even though I had songs on most of their other records, I never felt like I had written their songs.

Really?
Right? I was always trying to write the song that was different. So I always had the song in the record that was cool, but it was different. It didn’t sound like them. Like when we did the last record, I was like, “I’m gonna stop trying to push this out of the box, and actually just accentuate what you're doing”. So thats how we ended up writing that. We just wrote the most Pierce the Veil sounding song possible. And it worked! Its been crazy. And then now on their new record that is coming out this summer, I have even more songs on it because then it was like not only did I understand it more, but then we had confidence because we had success on it. So now that we had the success, we were like, “Okay, now we really can do this!”

Thats so cool how you’ve been friends with him for so long!
It is! And Its insane how big its gotten. But its awesome. And it’s nice for both of us that when he calls me to tell me something good has happened with it, I in someway get to share in it. I would be happy for him even if I had nothing to do with it, but I think he feels that its a nice sense of camaraderie that he would call and say, “Hey this song did yadada” and I’m like, “Great! That helped me too!”

Do you have a favorite song from the album?
Um. I mean the song, Afraid, is the centerpiece for everything I did. Its not only like the most raw lyrically I’ve ever been, but it changed everything for the way we were making this album. Because after that song was written, everything after that had to somehow fit with that song. Because that song is going to be the center so like everyone had to get in line and fit. That song is the most emotional to play and its also the biggest to play. I will always play that song.

Its a good song!
Thank you. But the other one I really really love, just because its such a pop song but its also different and it is the best one live is , Everybody loves you.

I love that song!
I’m glad you like it! That song is so fun. And it does so well live and it is just a blast to play.

It's so positive.
It's so great! And I wrote them both with the same guy, who is a writer and producer, Busbee, that I had known for years and Busbee now has written P!nk’s song, “Try”, he did Kelly Clarkson’s, “Dark Side”, and he’s done a bunch of stuff. A bunch of country stuff, and Lady Antebellum, and Rascal Flats. He’s only a couple years older than me and he’s like really done well and he was a big part of me kind of establishing the new sound or for lack of better words what I do now.  

What artist was your favorite to collaborate with on this album?
The two guys that I worked the most on it, I had an equally great time.. Busbee, like I said, My buddy Steven Miller did the rest of the record. Steven produced every other song. So busbee and I wrote four songs and two of his productions, we put on the record. And then Steve re-produced the other two we wrote. And then Steven and I wrote like five. And Steve just produced everything else. And he really saved the day because the longer we got into the process, we started to get all these record deals and all these things worked out. And all these things were happening and finally, before we did anything else, I was like, “We just gotta finish this thing” and then just like get somebody on board with the album and not worry about getting them on board with half the album or a few songs. So Steve really came in and like helped us get it where it needed to be and he produced everything and mixed it and was really a part of the whole thing. And I worked on, “King for a Day” by Pierce the Veil. And Steve is a writer on that, so Steve and I have a really special kind of thing.

Thats so cool how you have so many connections! You’ve just got it!
*Laughs* Its a long process and it takes time. And It happens very organically. For instance, Steve played with Ryan Cabrera. He played guitar with him years and years ago. And then he met Tyler Hilton through that because Steve and Tyler met and he ended up playing with Tyler. And thats how Steven and I got connected. We’ve known of each other and thats when we started seeing each other a lot more, and then we started working together so like that just happened that way and you know when everyone is friends with each other and they work together, everyone is kind of in some form gets to rise a little bit together. Because if you work on this track with this person that all of a sudden has a number one hit, then you go, “Yea, I’ve worked with this person who has a number one hit” and they go, “Oh ok, you must be good, you must be not crazy”.

Are there any artists that you would want to work with in the future?
Artist wise, I would love love love to get in a room and work with U2. I just love them. I love them so much and I think what they do, I could really do. I’ve been fortunate recently, that I’ve gotten to work with Third Eye Blind. That was a huge dream of mine. And thats been crazy. So they would have probably been one of my answers. And then there are so many great writers. I would love to get back in to writing with Ryan Tedder from One Republic. Like I’ve known him for years before. He was my friend’s roommate, and I hung out with them. What he has gone on and done has been incredible. I love working with them, even though it was years ago, he was so fast. And he trusts the people he’s working with but he’s fast. Like you have to keep up with him. And he’s always been really cool to me over the years. Like he has sent out tweets about my new albums when they've come out and he’s always really supportive. So I would love to work with him again just because I really like him and I look up to him because I’ve seen where he went from nothing to where he’s at.

I can’t believe you know so many people! Thats so crazy!

*Laughs* I always joke that my book will be, “I really knew a lot of people that did really well”.

Well, you are doing really well!
I’m doing fine. I’m doing good. Its cool, and its what you want and it makes you realize that you’re in the right place. Like whenever you’re feeling like you're stuck, you know that you surround yourself with the right core. Its the same thing with friendship. If you’re surrounded by good people then you know that in some form or another, that you must be a good person too.

I watched your N’Sync cover of bye bye bye with Lance bass and I must say I watched it three times in a row. I loved it! What song would you want to cover next?
I’ve never really done any Rolling Stones’ stuff. Ive always wanted to do that. So I’m trying to find a cool one to do. I’ve always wanted to find a cool way to do a Michael Jackson song because obviously we don’t sound anything alike, and I’ve always been trying to find a cool way to do something like that. That would be really fun to work on. The N’Sync one was funny how it came about because when I went on tour with Voice Avenue, they had great originals but they also made their name doing youtube covers and they've gotten worldwide fans because of it. So when I went on tour I was like, “I should probably do some kind of cover, but I gotta do something my way though”. So I was really looking into doing an 80’s cover, but then I kind of realized that especially with the younger fans, some of them are gonna get the song, but the 90’s songs are what they are more connected to. So somehow I landed on, Bye Bye Bye. And I tried to play it and I figured out a cool way to do it. I was like, “Wow this actually totally works” and it annihilated every night on tour. People knew as soon as I went into that first line, and it got their attention. Especially as an opener, sometimes whether they were into it or not, people kinda pay attention or they don’t. But when I played, “Bye Bye Bye”, they were in.

I’m a huge N’Sync fan. When I saw that cover, I was like… oh my god. *laughs*.
Its the most I’ve ever had a cover kind of feel like it was part of my thing now. like I want to keep playing it. Thats why we released it as a single and put it on iTunes, Spotify, because this is so different and so out of the box for me as a cover. But it totally fits. Like I wanted to embrace it more and have it be a thing. and then going on Lance Bass’s radio show and surprising him by playing it and have him start singing along, was just cool. He’s so nice and down for it but when he started singing harmonies, it was pretty great.

Besides writing awesome music, what are your other favorite activities?
I love movies and I love sports. Those are the things that I love. I watch a lot of NBA basketball and football. I exercise a lot. I love running. I live in a cool part of Hollywood where all the studios are so I like to run around there and run around the parks. I go to a lot of movies. I love movies so I see them a lot.

Have you seen Chappie?

Not yet!

Ok because I really like Die Antwoord and people said its kind of like Robocop. But I didn’t like Robocop.
I didn’t see it because it looks a lot like the other movies that director has done and there are so many robot movies right now, I think I was just kind of like, “Eh”. It didn’t interest me very much. where normally movies like that really will. I probably will see it when its on DVD.

What is your favorite city to tour in?

I love the crowds in so many cities, but when you play in New York its just so fun. New York lends itself to not only the show, but the after show. Its just so easy to go out with people and hang out with friends and fans after shows in New York because no one has a car. And it’s just one of those cities. New Orleans is the same as a city, I’ve actually never played there before which is weird, but you just get there and you're like, “oh I get why this is like this”. When you get to New York, you’re like “OHH! This is magical”. Chicago is an incredible music town. Just to see as far as fans. Austin is amazing. Midwest and East coast is all really great. I actually loved playing in LA. I know a lot of people really complain about it, but i’ve had good luck in LA. I’ve had better luck in LA than I have in San Diego where i’m from originally. San Diego in general is laid back. Seattle has been really great to me. I like Seattle a lot.

What do you never leave home without when you go on tour?
Besides the obvious things. I never leave home without my computer. When I say that I’m saying I never really leave home without new movies to watch. When I went on tour there are those long drives that can be so brutal, and I’ll watch a lot of movies when its not my turn to drive. I’ll go to red box in whatever random city we are in and rent like four movies and watch it. Thats a big thing for me. Other than that there is nothing strange or anything in particular that I need. I always try to bring some kind of book but the only reason why I read books now is because i’m in this like rock book club with some of my musician friends. We read music biographies so i’m usually on tour so i’ll take one of those with me and read those.

OK... so this is basically a ten year anniversary from the first time you sat in the Hot Seat.
That was like at the beginning of basically everything I did. Thats insane. When you guys told me that I was like, “Where has time gone?”

So how have you grown or what have you learned in the last ten years?
I’ve gotten a lot more patient. A lot more appreciative. And a lot more open minded about where my career is going. I think when I look back early on, especially when I was in a scenario where I was still figuring out what I was doing, I was lucky that I was working with my friends, Tyler Hilton and different artists that I was able to do legitimate tours with and make fans pretty quick. But I look back and its hard not to look back and be like “Aw Im so much better now than I was then. I’m surprised people like what I did back then”. But you look back and you look at it as genuine. And you were very driven, and people like what you were doing, and you are supposed to get better. Thats the whole point. The way I look at things now is that I don’t force the issue, things don’t only happen inside a small little box. I realized now and when I look back at all the things we were talking about with friends that are successful, there is not one of those friends that are successful the way I thought they would be successful. Or the way they thought they were going to be successful. Everyone’s road ends up being very different. For me i’ve ended up being pretty much independent the entire time I’ve been a singer/songwriter. I’ve had little deals here and there but I ended up being independent. Although what I do is very mainstream, but Im good at handling my own stuff and hustling myself so maybe thats why recently I was like, “Ok maybe thats just the way I do it”. And thats fine. And my biggest success is with Pierce the Veil which is a hard rock punk band and so that rules! Nothing i’ve done and nothing anyone in my world has done has been to code, or what they thought it was going to be. That makes you patient. That makes you realize that you have to keep doing what you’re doing and say yes to things as they go along and you will get where you need to be. I think I look back ten years and I still want my career so badly. But you stop glazing over every success so when something good comes along now, I try to sit there and appreciate it and revel in it instead of being like, “Cool, thats awesome. So I’m gonna do this and i’m gonna use this thing to now get to a bigger thing”. Because there is no end to that. You get a grammy and you’re like, “Damn I have a grammy now, but I want a number one record though” and then you go, “I have a number one record but I don’t have a number one album”, and then you will just never win that way. Its good to look forward but I just really have a calm about where things are going even though I’m no less than where they are going, whenever I have before. Especially in the last couple of years I have really felt that, and it makes me feel better. There are times where you really want an opportunity you don’t get and it bums you out, but you accept that it doesn’t mean its over. And when I look back it was more devastating to miss out on opportunities or it hurt more to watch other people be successful and now I realized that I have done a lot. I just haven’t done it in the way that I thought I was going to do it so sometimes I have to remind myself that i’m still successful.

It's good that you have such a positive look on things. Because you have to or you’re just going to go downhill from there.
Especially with this career. There is no structure to it. There is no order. So you have to roll with it. I don’t care who you are, if you’re Robert Downey Jr. or you’re whoever, you are going to have huge ups and you're going to have huge downs if you stick to it. Like you will find ways to succeed and be creative, but its never going to be up all the time. You're never going to always be successful.

Would you ever consider getting on to The Voice?
No. I have tried out for it because everybody who lives in LA knows the scene really well. I knew I wasn’t right for it. I felt like even though my story is interesting, its not the kind of interesting they are looking for. And also the show is a great show and I love what it did for my friend, Tony Lucca and some of the other people that have been on it. But I don’t think they help the artists as much when they are off the show like they should. Even though American Idol might have had a strong hold on their artists, they developed them and made more stars out of them. I would just really like to see The Voice help the artists post show more. The only people who are really succeeding out of it are Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. Like those guys are all winning hard. But I don’t feel like the artists are and that's my only problem. I say that challenge into the universe for those shows. Don’t move on from these people when you're done, the ones that you think could do something, help develop them.

Anything else you would like to say to your fans?
The reason that we did the deluxe version of The Fight is because I believe so much in this record and the nature of the way I put it out, we ended up just putting it out when I did the NBC Last Call with Carson Daly. We just put the record out and were like, “Lets just figure everything out as we go”. Opportunities have come but they have been coming a little slower or a little more disjointed than I thought. But when we did the touring this fall and the Pierce the Veil stuff did well, i was like, “I feel like I want to give this record one more good six to eight month push”. I just want more people to hear this thing before I move on to the next project. And so my manager suggested that we record three new songs and we put out the record and keep touring and I was like, “I love that idea” because I don’t think we got to do everything we wanted to do on it. And the fact that I wright now for other artists has made it so that I can kind of spread my time out a little but I wanted to tour a lot this year and really try to get this record as far as I can. I want to get to a point one day and be like, “ok, this was successful and this wasn’t. But I tried everything I could”. So I just want to tell people to check out the new songs and keep checking my social media being tour dates will be coming soon.
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