‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’

‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’

Born on a military base in Fort Carson, Colo., singer-songwriter Michael Grimm has paid his dues to get where he is today. But despite winning season 5 of America’s Got Talent in 2010, which earned him $1 million and contract with Epic Records, the soon to be 32-year-old Grimm still says he has much to prove.

Before entering the show, Grimm had released three independent albums from 2007-10 and America’s Got Talent was his big chance.

During audition week in Los Angeles, he performed “You Don’t Know Me” by the late Eddy Arnold. In Week 2, he sang “Try a Little Tenderness,” recorded by Otis Redding in 1966, which sent Grimm to the Top 48.

Once in the quarterfinals, Grimm did Al Green’s “Tired of Being Alone,” and his semifinal performance of Randy Newman’s song “You Can Leave Your Hat On” guaranteed him a spot in the Top 10.

Another Al Green song, “Let’s Stay Together,” helped Grimm advance to the finals where he won with “When a Man Loves a Woman,” popularized by Percy Sledge, also in 1966.

“I was shocked, but not surprised,” said judge Piers Morgan after the show in 2010. “He’s very talented and will have a great career.”

Judge Howie Mandel said he had a feeling it would be Grimm. “I am thrilled to get a chance to see him perform,” said Mandel. “It’s exciting to watch someone blossom like he did.”

Grimm will perform in Beaumont and open for the Little River Band on Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Julie Rogers Theatre at 8 p.m. The show is presented by the Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce, and tickets are $50-$40.

The Little River Band has sold more than 25 million records and have had over a dozen Top 10 hits including “Help is on the Way,” “Reminiscing,” “Lonesome Loser,” “Down on the Border” and “Paper Paradise.”

In advance of his performance, Grimm talked to The Examiner about his musical journey thus far.

Has it been difficult to shake the reality show tag?

It was a very good thing for me to win the show, but it has been tough. I’ve noticed that a lot of the music business frowns on the reality show stuff. I knew that before going into the show but up to that point, I wasn’t left with many options. I wanted to get out and do my thing and be heard, and it’s been difficult to do my thing before getting a chance with this show. It was a good tool to show America who I am and actually show them what I can do. But back to the question, it has been tough to prove to the business what I can really do.

When did music become a part of your life?

My grandmother inspired me. She had a lot to do with it, really. She helped raise my sister and me, and we would sing in a southern Baptist church while my grandmother played piano. Somewhere along the way, she kept encouraging me to sing. I come from a blue-collar family and I realized it was a way for me to vent and release troubles, especially when I hit my first heartache. Then I made a transition from singing country music, which I was raised on, to soul music.

While working on this new album, which came out in May, how important was it to include some covers and how did you choose those particular songs?

After winning the show, I always wanted to work with Don Was. He has worked with artists like The B-52’s, Carly Simon, Iggy Pop, Bob Seger, Garth Brooks and The Rolling Stones. I asked Epic Records if we could get him, and there he was. Don and I put our heads together and came up with an idea to do half and half — half original and half cover songs. The covers songs were some of the songs that influenced me, so I wanted to bring them back. There’s a duet with Travis Tritt on there where we do a Lynyrd Skynryd song. I just wanted to have a good time with it. I also did “Stay With Me (Baby),” and Ian McLagan actually came on the record and played. I wanted an Americana sound, and that’s why I went to Don. He was very inspirational to work with.

About the show, what went through your mind when one of the judges, Sharon Osbourne, told you that you were her husband Ozzy’s favorite during  the competition?

It’s still hard to believe. To have his approval meant a lot to me at that time and told me that I was on the right track. It just felt good, you know? Even Piers Morgan, one of the other judges, would could up and say, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing.’

How important is your live show?

The live show is what I do. I just spoke with Barry Manilow about this, and we’ve become friends since the show. Barry asked me where I was most comfortable, and I told him on stage. He replied, ‘Then that’s where you need to be.’ I can play five or six hours a night on six or seven days a week. I’m used to doing that in Las Vegas alone. The stage is a place that I can release all my emotions.

Speaking of shows, you just got off a big tour opening for Stevie Nicks.

It was absolutely amazing. I mean people come to see Stevie, including tons of celebrities. I’ve been blessed to tour with her and meet a lot of people in the business. Oddly enough, I met Bill O’Reilly at one of the gigs.