That’s reality for this 23-year-old singer-songwriter. After bouncing around Atlanta from Buckhead to Midtown to North Druid Hills, this Tucker, Ga., resident has gone from playing open-mic nights at Eddie’s Attic to scoring a major record deal. Throw in 600,000-plus views on his YouTube page, where he regularly posts cover songs, and Atlanta is playing home to a serious pop-music talent.
Born in New York City to musical parents, Hagelin dreamed of performing from the moment he strummed a guitar at age 12. With the goal of reaching triple-threat status, he enrolled in The School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center and, upon graduation at 18, headed south to dance professionally at Carolina Ballet in Raleigh, N.C. But dreaming big, Hagelin set his sights on a new city. “I moved to Atlanta on a dollar and a dream,” says Hagelin. “I sought out open-mic nights and booked myself for performances four or five nights a week. I knew I had to get my face in front of audiences as often as possible.”
Enter 18LoveMusic CEO and music industry vet Greg Johnson, who caught Hagelin performing at P. Diddy’s former restaurant, Justin’s. “I had been dancing with the Atlanta Opera and was painted from head to toe in gold. It took me so long to wash it off, I almost missed my shot at performing for Mr. Johnson,” explains Hagelin, laughing. But the golden boy seized the opportunity, and things took off from there: Johnson signed him and developed his sound and style for two years before taking him back to his birthplace to meet Herbert at a Lady Gaga show at Madison Square Garden.
Now, the rising star—who cites Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars and Michael Jackson as inspirations—is revving up for his major label debut, slated for release at the end of this year. “The album has been a labor of love for over a year now and will be well worth the wait,” he says enthusiastically. Catch Hagelin chillin’ at Bistro Niko and ARIF Lounge in his free time, and don’t miss his debut single, set to hit airwaves this summer. @nickisthetruth