Conn Curran Trio
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Conn Curran Trio

Salt Lake City, Utah, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF

Salt Lake City, Utah, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2010
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Orem High grad Conn Curran to sing jazz at Lehi outlet mall opening
Published on Nov 14, 2012 10:34AM
Some children fear the shadow of a parent’s success.

But Salt Lake City jazz singer Conn Curran embraces his father’s accomplishments and draws inspiration from it.

Orem High graduate and Utah Valley University alum Curran, 29, is the son of Doug Curran, a member of the legendary vocal group The Lettermen in the 1960s and 1970s.

“I have learned so much and am still learning from my Ole Paps,” Conn said. “He has helped me to be a better person [and] how to be a gentleman just by watching the way he is with my Mom, and how to treat others with respect and kindness. Since I was a kid, he has picked up his guitar at most family gatherings and him and my Mom would get us all singing together. He has really helped me with my voice techniques, and with his experience singing for … The Lettermen he has always kept me from getting a big head — he is the most humble person I know. He taught me how to play some Brazilian guitar styles, [as well as] a bit of Portuguese. Actually, we sat down just last night and played and sang together, just me and him.”

Curran is following in the footsteps of his father and unburdened by any shadow.

On Saturday, backed by the Rob Bennion Jazz Band, Curran will perform during the three-day grand opening of the Lehi retail center Outlets at Traverse Mountain.

Curran answered questions posed by The Tribune about jazz, his inspirations, and the undead.



What attracts you to jazz?

I love a lot of genres of music, but jazz has so many things that attracts me to it. I grew up listening to Brazilian bossa nova with my dad, and I fell in love with it. Then I started singing along to Harry Connick Jr. and also Nat King Cole from an early time in my life. Jazz puts me in a good mood.

What do you plan on performing at the grand opening of the new outlets?

Well, first off we feel like even though it’s only November, we want to perform a lot of Christmas songs. Rob Bennion has arranged a lot of great classic Christmas hits into his jazz style (which will be on our Christmas CD for purchase at the event). We will also sing a few covers such as “Black Hole Sun” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in a jazz format just to throw everyone off in a fun way.

Why do you sing both jazz standards and songs by grunge bands?

I love the old jazz standards. There is a reason those songs are still around [because] they are musical gold. I feel very lucky to be able to sing songs that are timeless. As to singing standards like “Black Hole Sun” from Soundgarden, it is so much fun to see a reaction from an audience member when they realize that I am singing a song like that with[the] voice I have. Its just fun to bring people back to songs that were popular in their era. It brings them right back to that period in their lives.

What inspires you?

Plenty of things inspire me. As for writing, I am inspired by love. As to everyday living and breathing, I am inspired by my late sixth-grade teacher Mr. Victory Ormsby, who showed me that I could do anything, and do it well. As to music, I am inspired by many artists and genres, but especially I get inspired every time I listen to a group called New York Voices.

If a person dies and then springs back to life, do they get their money back for the coffin?

Ummm … yes? I sure would hope there is a return policy.

Describe a perfect day.

I feel like I have a perfect day a few times per month. Being the youngest of eight kids, most are married besides myself, and most have kids, so there’s a lot of us. Every month we have at least one birthday to celebrate. We all meet up at my parents’ house in Orem and have dinner together. We are all loud, we all love to sing, and we all love to laugh, especially when my oldest brother Quinn is present. I get to hang out and enjoy the company of my nieces and nephews, most of my siblings, and my parents. That is my kind of perfect day.

What do think of being a musician in Utah?

I think being a musician in Utah is a very common thing. It is intimidating to see how many talented musicians there are here. I think it is a little different in each genre, but jazz hasn’t been the most sought-after or popular music here. I would love to help make it more popular. I have had a lot of support since growing up here, and I love being a musician here. - Salt Lake TRibune


By day, Rob Bennion serenades newlyweds and suit and ties with suave renditions of Top 40 hits à la Imagine Dragons and Lorde. By night, he’s churning up reworks of 50 Cent and Jay-Z in dance clubs.

Suffice it to say, he’s a man of many hats—and reading the artist’s biography may be a bit disorienting. So, to iron things out, I spoke with Bennion himself, on being the band leader of jazz trio with singer Conn Curran, one-half of DJ duo Robot Dream, host of Gracie’s Throwback Thursdays, and “the whitest kid you can imagine.”

CC: It seems like a large part of your musical background was rooted in jazz. What prompted you to explore DJing?

RB: I do a lot of events, performing at weddings and corporate events, and towards the end, they would ask the jazz band (trio Conn Curran) to play something like 50 Cent’s “In Da Club,” and that kind of turned into me getting turntables. Now I do half-and-half.

CC: Wait, someone actually requested you to play 50 Cent as a DJ or as a jazz band?

RB: As a jazz band (laughs). I was like, “Well, we can't really do it with a saxophone, a bass, and drums!”

CC: So from there, you started DJing and realized you had a passion for it?

RB: Actually, let me rewind a little bit. I was making mix tapes in a special way when I was in grade school. Instead of just doing a mix that had various songs on it, I was actually remixing with cassette tapes. Like, I would play little snippets of songs and create messages to get girls to ask me to junior high school dances (laughs).

CC: Has playing jazz influenced the way you DJ, and vice versa?

RB: Because I have an understanding of music theory, when I mix stuff together, I’m able to do it in a more musical way. But it’s all the same thing, whatever instrument you’re using or genre you’re doing, it’s really just creating music, so it really doesn’t feel all that different for me.

CC: It seems like a very uncommon niche you’ve created for yourself, though. Did you draw your inspiration from somebody who did the same thing, or did you simply mesh together your two fortés?

RB: I first started seeing bands performing with that mixture when I was in Dallas in 2005. Then I actually lived in Japan for a year. There wasn’t this stigma against mixing pre-recorded music with live instrumentation, whereas it felt that way here in the States.

There’s this band called Break Science, which is an amazing DJ-plus-drums outfit, and they were kind of our early inspirations when I got together with Bart [Olson] to create Robot Dream in 2009. The concept behind [our] name is that it’s a mixture of man and machine. We do a lot of down-tempo events with a dream chill as opposed to the club stuff, which is the robot stuff, I suppose.

CC: I like your cover of Imagine Dragons of “Radioactive,” by the way. Generally, why do you choose to cover the more popular songs as opposed to the classics?

RB: Well, you go out on a Friday night and you’ve had a hard week. You’re not really interested in getting up and moving up to some song that’s too complicated. I’ve found that people really just want to hear the songs they know. Also, I have complete creative control. Like, I could play whatever I want as long as I have a recognizable vocal line. So if I put Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” on top, people can still get into it.

And that’s the beauty of being a DJ. Like, I played for a Hawaiian luau a couple weeks ago, and the entire night, I was playing either Hawaiian music or reggae music mixed with popular music. Like, I did a reggae Lorde cover (laughs).

CC: So you got to tap into your Hawaiian and Rastafarian sides!

RB: Yeah! I actually went to high school in Hawaii, so I felt a connection there, even though I’m like, the whitest kid you can imagine, ever.

CC: So while we’re on the subject of DJing, tell me a little about Throwback Thursday. What was your mission behind it?

RB: We started out at Gracie’s on Thursday nights for the Twilight Concert since 2012, and it got to be big. I think a lot more people are going out earlier in the week, so Thursday’s like the new Friday night. With Throwback Thursdays, I’ll be playing Calvin Harris mixed with Madonna or Journey. We’re performing everybody’s favorite songs from the past decades, and I mix it in with new music, so people of all age groups can relate to it.

CC: Okay, I’m curious about this. To make a sweeping generalization, I feel like there are two types of DJs – the kind where the music is the act, and they want to be at the fore of our attention, and the kind that steps back so people can soak it in on an indirect level. Where do you feel you fit in with that?

RB: That’s something I was self-conscious about at first. You see Diplo, Martin Garrix, or Skrillex, and these big top 10 DJs in the world standing on top of the DJ table, jumping up and down, screaming into the microphone, and that’s not me at all. It’s funny; for some reason, certain types of girls in the club, they walk in and they’re like, “Okay, I’m being hit on on every side but I want that guy right there behind the DJ table” (laughs). I’m so focused on the music that it’s often difficult to tear myself away and realize there are people in front of me. - Salt Lake Magazine


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Still working on that hot first release.

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