Eliminated The Voice contestant Nick Hagelin began ballet at a young age and eventually landed a four year contract with the Carolina Ballet Company, where he met his wife. When the contract ended, he decided to give up ballet and pursue his other love – music – in Atlanta. Nick and his wife gave birth to a son, Bash, who was born with the bone and joint disability arthrogryposis.
Near the time of the birth, Nick got a deal with Interscope Records and moved to LA to record an album. The Voice lore had Nick giving up the contract after the label encouraged him to downplay his family life. But in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Nick painted a more nuanced picture of what actually happened between him and the record label. The singer also talked frankly about his The Voice journey, shared the song he WOULD have sung if he had advanced to next week’s semi final, and much more.
Nick had been a member of Team Pharrell Williams during the Blind, Battle and Knockout rounds. But after being eliminated, Christina Aguilera resurrected his run, bringing him back as a wildcard contestant for the Playoffs. Nick explains the difference between the two coaches’ mentoring styles.
A pretty chatty guy, Nick lifts the curtain a bit on what goes on behind the scenes of The Voice. Despite losing Tuesday’s Inst-Save to Team Blake’s Paxton Ingram, Nick has a positive outlook on his elimination. Read on for more.
What is Nick’s game plan going forward? I’ve been a singer songwriter since I was 12 years old–I started writing and recording music. Just really excited about getting my new original music out there and continuing to promote it with touring and music videos. That was one of the hardest parts about this process was having to sort of stop that flow of new music. Now I’ve got all this pent up creative energy. I’m ready to get to the studio, and get out on the road.
How will the new music compare to the music he has already released? It will just be better, better and better. My voice has grown so much–so much wonderful experience. It’s an emotional experience. I’m really tapped into an authentic place in my relationship with myself and my music. I’m excited about expressing that with some new EPs and hopefully an album soon.”
Will the different genres he performed on The Voice affect his current songwriting? My lane is soulful pop music. I’m a big R&B fan. My original music will probably have a little bit more of that R&B flavor than what I had gotten a chance to do on the show. For the most part, what I loved about the song choices and everything I did on the show really stayed true to my singer/songwriter roots. Everything was really rooted in pop music. That’s where my original music will continue to live in that pop zone–definitely trying to bring a little soul to the new project. I’m really excited about it.
When he went up against Paxton for the Instant Save, what did he think his chances were of staying or going? I was just so calm and had released, probably weeks ago, any attachment to exactly how far I would make it in this competition. I felt like I was in the company of these amazing singers all around me. The fact that I even made it that far was just so exciting for me. Last week before I sang Ed Sheeran I had the real peace and calmness come over me. I was praying to find that same place last night. It was actually Paxton’s performance, which was so amazing, and so moving, that put me in that peaceful state. Just watching him I was completely absorbed by him. He’s such a close friend of mine now. I was really thrilled to be there, thrilled to have another opportunity to sing. As far as my chances? I don’t know. I wasn’t too attached to it because historically America rarely saves the same person two weeks in a row. But I also knew that I acquired this wonderful support and a fan base. I was really happy for whatever name was called. [Paxton] so deserves to be in that Top 8. We’ve all sort of won already in our own ways.
How did his two coaches Pharrell Williams (before the live shows) and Christina Aguilera (who chose Nick as her come back singer for the lives) differ as mentors? They really did have very different coaching styles. That became apparent to me as soon as I started working with Christina. Pharrell is very, at least with me, very big picture. He’s full of really poignant phrases and metaphors and ways to connect to your artistry to yourself, your spirit and make sure that who you are as a person, was being expressed through your music. Early in the competition that was good for me to work through some of the jitters of being in a competition. He helped me connect to a more authentic singing voice and opening up more–not being afraid to be loud and overcoming years of habits I had from eating in corners of restaurants and trying not to bother people. Christina’s approach was very pragmatic–such an incredible vocalist. Christina has the ability to give you melody, give you these adlibs, tell you when to sing, when not to sing. I’ll be the first person to say that I was probably one of the least strong singers on her team. To come back and immediately realize ‘Wow, she’s going to have this very practical vocal advice for me’ was really really good for me. A big part of why I was able to continue in the competition was because of how much growth I was able to achieve every week working with her. She would give me these ideas and I was able to implement them. It was really a wonderful experience working with both of them. The cool thing was that Pharrell is so communicative with all the contestants, especially as you move further along in the competition. He continued to bless me with those little Pharrellisms and nuggets of wisdom. Pretty much after every performance I would run into him during the week he would still impart upon me his wisdom. I had the best of both worlds moving through the competition.
Nick’s backstory was compelling and endearing. Did he ever worry that viewers were voting for his story rather than his talent and vocal ability? I don’t care why people are voting. I’m just so grateful that I’m expressing myself and presenting myself authentically in my music career now. Whatever it is about me that’s appealing to people, that’s a wonderful blessing to make that connection. Whatever that connection is can be translated to a lifetime relationship with new fans. If maybe they were compelled to latch on to my story, it’s up to me to deliver better music and better vocals as my career goes on and make them fans of that, or vice versa. Maybe they like my voice and then my story brings them some sort of inspiration or light. I was just so grateful for the platform that provides me the opportunity to share both. People seem to latch onto both things. At one point, [a Voice staffer said] as we were picking songs that perhaps I had outgrown my story on the show. We weren’t leaning so heavily on that every week. Whether that was true or not, that was a nice approach–to make sure we were picking songs that were appropriate and powerful for me as a musician, and not focusing on what was good for my story. It was cool to have such a long run and get to that point.
How did he feel when he was called back by Christina? Did his approach to the show change when he was given a second chance? Absolutely. To be eliminated during Knockouts was kind of a blow for me emotionally after having invested so much time during Blinds. It’s really an intense period of time preparing for the Battle and the Knockouts. I was pretty bummed when I went home. But then…I had this amazing experience where I was playing a private party for my wife’s birthday in Atlanta and Usher came to the party. I ended up singing with Usher for two hours. That helped me to reassess everything–you know what? My life is going to go on, my career is going to go on. Here I am singing in this very natural environment with somebody like Usher. The Voice production crew came back and they show me this video from Christina. It was like this amazing resolution for me. Now I get to go back to the show after having gotten over it. When I came back I was doubly focused. I think the big shift for me–I no longer felt like I was competing. I felt like this was a second chance to showcase myself as an artist and a singer. It’s only going to work now as me. It’s not about how I compare to other people. You spend a lot of energy comparing yourself in the early rounds. When I came back and I knew Christina put her faith in me, I was trying harder and wanting to come from a really authentic place.
Is there anything he would change or does he have any regrets about his journey on The Voice. I was torn between two instant save songs last night. I was considering singing “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight, which lyrically was so appropriate for what I was going through–about a man coming to LA and then going back home to Georgia, which I’ll be doing later today. “Change the World” is one of my favorite songs of all time, I sort of lean in that direction. That’s the only thing I’m thinking about today. ‘I wonder if I would have been more emotionally invested in the lyrics of that Gladys Knight song last night.’ I can always sing that on another show at another time! But, nah, I had no regrets.
Did he have plans for next week as far as song choices were concerned? I was planning to perhaps sing “Die a Happy Man” by Thomas Rhett, sort of putting my own spin on that. Maybe that will show up on my YouTube channel in a couple weeks.
How has Nick’s son inspired him throughout The Voice journey? He’s doing great. I don’t know if you saw on The Voice or on my page, but he ran into Christina Aguilera backstage last night and he popped his little leg up which he broke two weeks ago and asked ‘Would you sign my cast?’ She was sweet enough to sign that. It was a nice parting moment and the fact that The Voice re-posted that picture was really really sweet. That’s something that probably couldn’t have happened next week if I had gotten eliminated along with 3 other contestants. The coolest thing was the outreach from all these families with various special needs family members that were so inspired by him coming out on prime time TV and walking up on to that stage [during the Blind auditions] after the doctor said he might never walk. He was born and people were talking about wheelchairs for him in college and here he is at 5 years old taking a bow and Pharrell encouraging everyone to stand up. When he was born it was hard to find those kinds of stories of hope in recovery for his condition. I remember Googling and trying to find any sort of ray of hope. I would find these pictures and latch on to them–seeing kids doing well. That refocused me from the beginning about pursuing this career–very selfishly wanting to promote myself. Instantly, when I get on this huge platform, it’s [about] his story and the hard work he’s done, and everything he’s overcome in his 5 short years. He shines so brightly. After those early rounds we’d be out in Atlanta as a family and people would come up to Bash and say, ‘You’re on The Voice’! They wouldn’t say anything to me because he was the real star of it all. He was further motivation for me to continue to share his story and everything our family’s been through in hopes of bringing inspiration to families. That’s was such a prayer of mine when he was born–‘I just wish there was more hope out there for this condition. More success stories to latch onto.’ I feel like Bash has really provided that. He’s really accomplished more than anyone ever thought [he would], so I always want to make him proud, and show him what daddy can do as well.
What does his son think of him being on TV and being featured on the show? He loves it! He’s a big fan of popular YouTubers and YouTube families and YouTube kids. A big goal for him is to get a golden subscribe button on a YouTube channel. He’s into it! Every day he asks ‘How many followers do I have today.’ I’ll pull up my phone, record him doing something and he’ll say stuff like ‘Leave your comments below!’ He’s definitely a well trained little spokesperson–definitely think he’s going to have a great career–whatever you want to call it–ahead of him. His light is super bright. He’s all about being in the spotlight. He was a little bummed we didn’t make it to finals because he wanted to wear his tuxedo. We told him ‘This is just the beginning. There will be lots of other fun opportunities just like The Voice.’
Could Nick elaborate on the record contract he walked away from. Was it a moral and ethical decision because the label didn’t believe his family image was marketable? Or was it because he wanted to spend more time with his son? To be honest, it’s been spun a little bit more in that way. I don’t think intentionally. That’s just how it has been phrased–that I walked away from it. That’s not really what happened. It was a great run. We recorded a lot. Then the people that I signed to at the label ended up leaving and going to other labels. My A&R, my executive producer–everyone that brought me in the building ended up leaving the building after I was there for about a year and a half. The thing with a major label deal, is no matter what it looks like on paper, if you don’t have someone advocating for you, pushing for a promotions budget, pushing for sessions to be booked, it’s just not going to happen. When my executive producer and my A&R both left the label, there really wasn’t a home for me anymore. Things kind of fizzled out slowly and we went our separate ways very cordially. I think that because of me trying to embody some sort of pop star image, and the music I was trying to make, it just wasn’t authentic. I wasn’t writing and creating from an authentic place. I was trying to be some super cool guy. I don’t know what it was but it was just not translating to good music. That was part of why we never could get behind a single, and a song was never released. It was a lot of factors. My son was very young at the time too, so we were dealing with a lot with me being back and forth from LA. He was about a year old. It worked out serendipitously that it did not work out in LA. I was able to come home. And it was at that time that I re-evaluated my approach to my music career and kept trying things, but everything was still remaining stagnant. It wasn’t really until The Voice that I came out of the closet as being married and having a kid. My blind audition was one of the first times I shared that part of my life. I don’t want to continue to continue to say or posture like I walked away on some moral high ground. I think it worked out for the best. I learned a ton during that process. Even though the music wasn’t so great, I got to work with some of the best writers and producers. I had sessions with Diane Warren and Toby Gad, Sean Daniels and the Underdogs. I just absorbed so much. It was like going to rock star college. It was just an amazing period of my life. The music wasn’t super good because I wasn’t writing a lot–it wasn’t very real for me. Now I can call upon those wonderful relationships that were established at that time and try and do it again. This time the music is going to be awesome.
What is the talk backstage? Do the contestants believe the perceived front runner, Alisan Porter, is going to win The Voice? Is he personally rooting for anyone to win? The talk backstage among contestants is NEVER about who is going to win. Especially this far in the competition because we’ve just seen so much stuff happen. Everyone thought that Ryan Quinn was going to be here now–make it to finals. When you see people like that, or Abby Celso–when you see people go home you start realizing you have no idea how this stuff is going to play out. I’m a huge fan of Ali and I think she’s brought an incredible energy to this competition and really set quite a bar. But then in the last few weeks we’ve watched other people like Laith and Adam really get to the top of those iTunes charts. Adam’s gotten those multipliers a couple times now. Adam’s just one of my absolute favorites on this show for so many reasons–as a person, as a musician I think he’s one of the most well-rounded and deserving contestants on the show. Bryan Bautista has had this huge upswing right now. I think his Beyonce performance was like a huge moment for him. It’s really hard to predict these things, and that’s why we don’t sit around going ‘I think you’re going to win or she’s going to win.’ I think the competitive nature of it fizzled out after live playoffs. When half the people that you’re there with [leave]–it’s so emotionally jarring that it’s hard to get attached to any outcomes after that. Ever since the Top 12 I think we are all rooting for each other. We’ll see what happens.
The Voice 2016 – After the Elimination: Nick Hagelin