By Mary Whitfill, editor-in-chief
It took music industry professionals months of poking and prodding at Dustin Christensen, a Northeastern University (NU) alumnus, before he decided to test his luck and vocal chords by auditioning for “The Voice,” NBC’s singing competition series. This Monday, Christensen made it past the first round of eliminations and will compete for another week after a dramatic coaching change.
“At all the gigs I was playing, [it] seemed like it was a constant theme that somebody would come up to me and say, ‘You know, you should go try out for ‘The Voice,’” Christensen said. “When I finally got the offer to audition, I just was like ‘You know what, I’m going to show up and see what happens.’”
Christensen graduated from Northeastern with an MBA in 2012 after earning an undergraduate business degree from Utah Valley University. Despite his business-oriented education, the 35-year-old always knew he wanted to pursue music as a career.
“I’ve kind of always done performance, you know. I started [playing piano] when I was three, and I started writing songs when I was in junior high. I had my first band when I was in ninth grade,” Christensen said. “After I got my MBA degree, I started writing songs primarily.”
In January, the Utah native signed a publishing deal with Carnival Music in Nashville and has been writing songs for the company ever since. Christensen’s family expressed no surprise at his growing success in the music world.
“It’s exciting to see him pursue it on that level. We never had any doubt that one day we were going to see him on TV or at some big award show,” Blayne Christensen, Dustin’s father, said in an email to The News. “He’s had so many incredible people tell him he needs to be doing this like Miranda Lambert, Bob Ezrin, etc. It’s something we knew was coming at some point whether it was ‘The Voice’ or something else.”
Each season of “The Voice” begins with a round of blind auditions, wherein each contestant performs for the set of four celebrity judges who have their backs turned. The judges, Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani, can turn their chairs at any point during the performance, indicating they want that musician on their team.
All four judges turned their chairs for Christensen, giving him his choice of coaches. For the aspiring musician, Shelton, a nine-time Country Music Award winner, was the obvious choice.
“I think Blake and I get along on a personality level the best,” Christensen said. “I got the sense from Blake that he just got what I wanted to do as an artist.”
After the blind auditions, each judge coaches his or her team members and the competitors move on to the battle rounds, going head-to head-with another member of the same team. After the vocal battle, the coach must choose which of their artists will advance, while the losing artist can be stolen by another coach.
“The battle rounds are so intense,” Shelton said at the start of the show. “It may be the toughest part of the competition because [the singers] are so good – and they always bring it.”
On Monday, Christensen competed in his battle against Barrett Baber, a singer-songwriter from Arkansas. The former roommates dubbed themselves the “#Bronado” and smiled at each other while performing a lively rendition of Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis.” Christensen lost the battle to Baber and was stolen by Maroon 5 frontman Levine. He will compete next week as a member of Team Adam.
“I’m a weird animal, I guess, in that I grew up doing rock bands, and now that I write songs and stuff when I’m in [Los Angeles], I’m doing electronic and pop and rock songs, and then when I’m in Nashville, I’m writing country songs,” Christensen said. “It’s this weird melting pot for me, and I think Blake was the country side of that melting pot and I think Adam is the rock n’ roll side.”
After five eliminations in the first week of battles, the top 40 contestants on “The Voice” will return to NBC on Monday for another round of cuts. When it comes to what song Christensen will sing next, his parents have a few requests.
“Pat [his mom] would say ‘New York, New York’ by Frank Sinatra since it’s her favorite, and I’d probably say ‘The 59th Street Bridge Song’ by Simon and Garfunkel,” Blayne Christensen said.
Follow Christensen on Twitter @Dustinonline.
Photos courtesy Tyler Golden, NBC