For “The Voice” fans, Wyckoff native Dylan Hartigan, 22, was a familiar face. A competitor on Season 14 of the singing competition, starring coaches Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Alicia Keys and newcomer Kelly Clarkson, Hartigan was eliminated following the “Live Playoffs” rounds on April 18.
Hartigan’s journey on “The Voice” began after his mother Denise signed him up. Twenty-one-year-old Hartigan sang Loggins and Messina’s “Danny’s Song” as his blind audition tune, earning a chair spin and coach from Clarkson. During the Battle Rounds he performed Taylor Swift’s “…Ready For It?” with fellow Team Kelly member Brynn Cartelli. Although Cartelli won that round, and was ultimately crowned “The Voice,” Shelton stole Hartigan onto his own team, continuing Hartigan’s run on the show into the Knockout Rounds. For this next step Hartigan sang Ray LaMontagne’s “You Are The Best Thing” against fellow competitor Wilkes’ performance of Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb.” Shelton chose the latter as the round’s victor; therefore, leaving Hartigan’s fate on the show temporarily unknown.
“I have so many guys,” said a concerned and indecisive Clarkson to Shelton amid audience cheers, lamenting that perhaps her team is gradually becoming all male.
However, just when it felt like the end of the road for Hartigan, Clarkson slammed her “steal” button as he was walking off the stage, thus bringing him back home to her team and keeping him on the show.
Clarkson is well known as the very first winner of “American Idol” back in 2002. Given that she was the only coach who spun around for Hartigan’s blind audition, Hartigan appreciates that she is now in the judge’s seat.
“It’s a really great feeling,” said Hartigan. “She knows exactly how much hard work goes into getting to that audition point. For her to turn around, that was worth all the effort that I put into that process.”
Although “American Idol” did indeed return this year, now on ABC, Hartigan opted for the NBC singing program instead because he appreciates the show’s message of focusing on talent as opposed to just appearance. Although his appearance seems popular among fans, he acknowledges that it is not everything and that he often feels like he needs to prove himself.
“It’s okay. I understand and I appreciate it. There’s a lot of love that’s coming my way and not a lot of negativity, which is fantastic, but I just also really want people to understand that there is a lot more to me than that. I’m a musician who loves to connect with people on an emotional level and be deeper than just the outer appearance because I really don’t think outer appearance means anything. I’d rather get to know somebody than just think that they’re pretty. That’s way more important. I just want people to appreciate me as a musician,” he said.
It is his charismatic personality that has gotten people’s attention.
“He owns the room when he walks in,” said Shelton on the show.
Inspired by music icons such as Bob Dylan and others who he says step out of the limelight, Hartigan claims the indie folk scene as his music genre style and appreciates when music exudes emotion out of people, even when certain feelings are not so happy.
“I want the world to focus on the lyrics and the way it makes them feel. I like sad music. I like the thought of portraying these sad, negative emotions because every human being has them and it’s important to be able to tap into them. That’s the kind of stuff that I like to make,” he said.
In fact, that was his mindset when it came to choosing songs to sing on the show. Vocal range did not matter to him as much as the song lyrics and quality matching what he would write himself.
“That’s mostly what I do. I’m a songwriter. That’s my love. I have books and books and books at home full of song lyrics that I have written and my voice memos are filled with untitled melodies. That’s what I love to do. I wouldn’t say that I am a great vocalist, but what I like to do is write music,” he said. “When I perform stuff that I write, I am very in my zone.”
Hartigan’s favorite original piece is called “Moonlight,” inspired by one morning when he woke up next to his then-girlfriend and saw tiny “moons” formed on her cheek by the sunlight as it shined through the holes of his coffee bean curtains. He wrote it on the spot.
“It was one of the most beautiful moments I’d ever had, so I wrote that song that morning while I was lying next to her,” Hartigan said. “It pretty much talked about how in that moment I wanted to tell her how beautiful she was and how beautiful everything at that moment was, but also I didn’t want to wake her up and destroy the moment. It’s that battle that we always face where it comes to do we want to make this about somebody else, or do we want to just sit in this moment and love it for what it is?”
Making the triple threat complete, Hartigan also has numerous acting experiences. It all began when he was featured in a commercial and then made his film debut at a young age in The Stepford Wives (2004) as Nicole Kidman’s character’s son Pete Kresby.
“From what I remember, it was fantastic and she was such a sweetheart,” said Hartigan of Kidman. “She was so kind and generous and respectful of me. Even though I was a kid, she treated me like a professional. It was an experience that not many kids get to have and I’m incredibly grateful for it.”
When he is not competing on “The Voice,” the Ramapo High School graduate attends Ramapo College of New Jersey studying music therapy. These days Hartigan is also performing with his year-and-a-half old band On the Pond, for which he plays the lead singer role. Now that the season has concluded, he plans on resuming jamming with them by setting some dates for gigs and maybe scheduling a tour.
With a former band Hartigan has also performed at The Stony Pony in Asbury Park, quite reminiscent of “The Boss” Bruce Springsteen’s origins.
“His energy is definitely still in that room,” he said. “It gives you hope and just knowing that somebody else did it from that spot makes you think that you can too.”
Fans – both in Wyckoff and beyond – need not fear about missing his voice. To hear more from Hartigan, enjoy his performances from “The Voice” on Apple Music or listen to his self-written and produced music on SoundCloud.
By Stefanie Sears
Photo by Tyler Golden/NBC