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Jenks native Simon Curtis tops the pop charts

The singer takes an unconventional route by releasing his debut album for free online.

Simon Curtis says he has always been a fighter. When he was 10 years old and battling leukemia, Curtis had to fight his parents and doctors to let him continue to pursue his passion for performing, attending theater rehearsals while undergoing chemotherapy. Now cancer-free, he is fighting his way to the top of the music world.

Curtis, a 2004 Jenks High School graduate, is ascending the pop charts in an unconventional way: He recently recorded his debut album, “8bit Heart,” without a record album contract and released it to the public for free on his website, The idea, he says, was to get in the public eye.

“I wanted to give a free album because I wasn’t looking at it as a way to make money. I was looking at it as a way to galvanize a fan base,” Curtis says. “It’s a very curious thing with the record industry right now. You don’t get record deals from talent and ability and marketability. You have to have something else. You have to already be working and have an established fan base.”

He first got the idea to release an album for free from his friend Andrea Lewis, a friend of rapper Drake. Drake, whose real name is Aubrey Drake Graham, and Lewis worked together on the TV show “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” Drake started his musical career in 2006 by releasing free mixed tapes.

“By his third mixed tape, he was able to go on tour,” Curtis says of Drake, who was nominated for two Grammy Awards this year. “He had such a huge following, he completely bypassed, essentially, having a record label. That’s kind of the model I wanted to follow.”

Although their musical genres differ, Curtis is well on his way to mirroring the rapper’s success. In the three weeks since his album was released, it has been downloaded more than 200,000 times. In addition, “Simon Curtis” was a trending topic on Twitter over Easter weekend and he continues to gain thousands of Twitter followers.

“I’m very blown away by how many people are downloading it and talking about it and writing about it,” he says. “It really has gone viral like I was hoping it would.”

And for someone who says pop music is his “biggest inspiration,” Curtis will soon be living out a dream by opening for former Backstreet Boy A.J. McLean at the famed Roxy Nightclub in West Hollywood May 6.

Curtis, who is a strong supporter of cancer funding and research and acts as an ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, tries to return to Tulsa at least once a year, usually at Christmas. When he is in town, there’s one thing on his to-do list: eat.

“There’s so many places with such freaking good food. You can’t get that food anywhere else,” he says, adding that Ron’s Hamburgers and Chili, The Brook and frozen custard are his foods of choice in Tulsa.

Editor’s note: To download Simon Curtis’ album, visit his website at



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