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Why American singer-songwriter Curtis Stigers turned his back on a pop career

Before getting his major record deal, Stigers had spent his early years working as a musician in the small city of Boise, Idaho, where he was raised.

Curtis Stigers will play a number of Irish dates© Dave Benett/Getty Images for Ron

Georges Kern, Till Bronner, Curtis Stigers and Ronan Keating© Getty Images for IWC

Eddie RowleySunday World

Back in 1991, Curtis Stigers was ruling the world as a long-haired pop star with a smash hit called I Wonder Why.

The American singer-songwriter and sax player was jetting around the globe on Concorde, performing on major TV shows and in iconic live venues, and rubbing shoulders with some of his musical heroes.

Then Stigers threw his fans and his career into a spin by releasing a jazz album as he charted a new course in music.

Record company legend Clive Davis, who had signed major stars such as Bruce Springsteen and Whitney Houston, had snapped up Stigers as a “next big thing.”

Georges Kern, Till Bronner, Curtis Stigers and Ronan Keating© Getty Images for IWC

In an interview with Shuffle as he gets set to tour Ireland, Curtis says: “I loved meeting Elton John, I loved playing with Bonnie Raitt, I loved getting to fly on Concorde and getting to be on TV shows. It was really fun, But I always, at the back of my mind, knew that I didn’t one hundred pc fit into that world.

“That world didn’t really suit me. The music always came first and the other stuff… the show business, the silliness... I mean, it was fun, but I realised I wanted to make music that I wanted to make and not music that guys who were wearing suits wanted me to make. So I blew up my pop career.”

Before getting his major record deal, Stigers had spent his early years working as a musician in the small city of Boise, Idaho, where he was raised.

“When I was around 19 or 20 I realised I needed to get out of Boise and go somewhere where I could play with other musicians, so I could grow and figure out what this show business thing was about and how to get into the record business.

“At the age of 21, in 1987, I packed up a bag of clothes, got my saxophone and caught a ride with a buddy across the country in a little Honda Civic. It took us four days to get to New York. Then he dropped me off and I got a place to stay for a little while. It was a dream and I fell in love with New York.

“By the time I got to New York I’d been playing for a living for six years. I had put in the hours to get the knowledge and technique.”

It was while playing a Saturday night residency in a restaurant that word spread in the music industry about this exciting new kid on the block.

He says: “I was riding subways to work in New York city and surviving on pizza and a bullet granola every day and just making my rent every month playing in clubs.

"Suddenly record company executives started showing up at this restaurant that I played at on Sunday nights and by the time I signed my record deal there were seven or eight labels bidding for me.”

Despite enjoying hits with songs that also included You’re All That Matters To Me, Stigers says he has no regrets stepping back from pop stardom.

“I don’t get paid as much as some because I’ve made certain choices in my life as a musician to follow my heart,” Curtis admits. “I managed to make a living and do well and pay my bills, but I’m not the superstar that maybe Clive Davis thought I would be.

“When I hit rock bottom a couple of times because of those choices it’s been a little scary, but I’ve always known that, no matter what, I’ve got music to play and almost always that music will allow me to at least make enough money to pay the bills.”

Stigers’ hits will always open doors and bring in a crowd. “So true,” he says. “I can play a lot of places in the world and get paid for it because of I Wonder Why. I love that song, it’s part of me…and luckily I wrote it.”

Curtis Stigers will play Dublin, Belfast, Navan and Galway next month. For tickets go to ticketmaster.ie


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