SNOWMASS VILLAGE - At the age of 6, Tom Curren picked up two things: surfing and guitar playing. One led to three world titles before the age of 26, and the other a respectable musical career, highlighted by a 27-stop American tour in the early '90s and the 2012 release of "Summerland Road," his debut EP.
On Jan. 25, Curren will play a free show at the Bar at Wildwood. His music has been described as bluesy and gritty, with a minimalist approach.
Curren's music has been recognized not only within the surfing community but outside it, as well. Jackson Browne, who was in Fiji attending the same event as Curren a few years ago, took notice. The two ended up jamming together, and later, Browne showed up at one of Curren's shows. Browne performed a few songs, and Curren accompanied him on guitar. Browne later invited Curren to play in his Los Angeles studio.
"He's just been really encouraging," Curren said of Browne.
For "Summerland Road," Curren teamed up with producer John Alagia, who is known for his work with Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz and John Mayer. Alagia listened to a few of Curren's home recordings and decided what he liked and what he didn't like. Curren said Alagia has "an instinct for traditional forms of music" and that he was good at tightening up his song ideas.
"Sometimes (in the studio) it becomes a bit clinical in a way," Curren said. "But (Alagia) was really good about having the right vibe and the right players."
One of those players was Jim Keltner, drummer for Eric Clapton and John Lennon. Before the band came in to record, Curren laid down the vocals on acoustic guitar. This provided the framework, and then they recorded, finishing most songs on one take.
Even though Curren is focused on music, he still finds time to surf and keep up with his sponsor Rip Curl. Some days, it's all surfing for Curren. Other days, it's all music, especially when the waves aren't cooperating.
Curren has four children with surfing aspirations of their own. Two of his sons, 16 and 18, are on a junior pro tour in Hawaii. He also has a 23-year-old daughter who surfs as a professional.
"There'll be times where's it's 100 percent music and other times where it's 100 percent surfing," Curren said. "Sometimes it will be a mix."