Pop lothario Nick Hagelin doesn’t need a gimmick to win over listeners – the Atlanta-based crooner is as real as they come. Armed with an acoustic guitar, a dulcet voice and chiseled looks, the 23-year-old sings it from the heart, using feel-good music to directly connect with fans by spinning romantic tales set to danceable rhythms.
Using the studio as his form of therapy, the blond loverboy is stacking up soul-kissed pop records in preparation for his label debut. Incorporating influences ranging from Sting and Stevie Wonder to Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G. into his music, Nick is creating feel-good gems versatile enough to soundtrack a night out on the town and warm your heart, with each song inspired by the hopeless romantic’s relatable adventures in love.
Nick is ready to burn up radio with the release of his debut single “I.C.U.,” a party-starter focused on falling for a stranger who’s chilling on the other end of a nightclub. “It’s about going to a party and you’re there to have a good time and then all of a sudden, you see that one person that just puts you on tunnel vision,” he explains of the catchy tune. “And for the rest of the night, there’s only one thing that’s on your mind and that’s connecting with that person and dancing with them.”
The thumping “Take Off” digs deeper into his romantic past, where Nick sweetly coos about catching a flight in time to make it home to his girl. “People Go Wild” is even sexier, boasting crisp harmonies and chugging guitars that will have club goers hightailing it to the dance floor.
“It’s all about good pop music, great melodies and up-tempo dance grooves,” says Nick. “I just think that music is the most incredible medium for expression, especially for me personally, because at the same time that I get someone’s mind thinking about something with my lyrics, I can get their body moving with the groove.”
Though he’s spent the past few years honing his chops on the performance circuit, Nick has followed a surprisingly unconventional path that cements just how far his talents run. Growing up in Teaneck, New Jersey, Nick was immersed in music as an infant, with his church singer parents fostering his appreciation for and love of the arts.
As far back as pre-K, Nick was gunning for the spotlight, joining three of his classmates in a band called The Dinosaur Four. By the time they hit sixth grade, the quartet reformed as a trio, with Nick penning lyrics during class instead of focusing on his schoolwork. “I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a rock star,” he states, “but my band was pretty much the most exciting thing in my life when I was a teenager.” Nick spent much of his time teaching himself how to play the guitar, taking only a few lessons at a local shop and studying music theory at his high school.
But while he chased his musical dreams, he also had his sights set on other areas of the arts. A trained ballet dancer, Nick would shuttle between New Jersey and New York City where he would tirelessly train during 10-hour rehearsals and audition for acting gigs on the side. With his pop star aspirations in the back of his mind, he accepted an offer to dance at the prestigious Carolina Ballet after graduating from high school in 2005, signing his contract and moving down to North Carolina at the age of 18.
Nick spent his days at the Ballet, but never turned his back on his passion for music. At night, he would perform at local open mics, learning how to perform live while catering to the audience – but not without a few trying gigs. “I finished a song and you’d hear crickets chirping and forks clinking on plates,” he recalls. “I’d turn the page in my songbook and just play another one.”
Undeterred by a few lousy shows, Nick built a steady following and was encouraged by his girlfriend at the time to participate in the North Carolina Songwriting Contest in 2007. He ended up winning over the judges and was awarded first prize, using his prize gift certificates to build a makeshift home studio and press 1,000 copies of his first solo album Nice to Be Here.
“Marmalade,” one of the 11 tracks on the independent release, ended up in the hands of Grammy-winning producer 9th Wonder, who got in touch with Nick and began recording hip-hop-inspired cuts including “People Go Wild” in his Raleigh-based studio. A friend coaxed Nick into taking a trip down to Atlanta to meet with super producers Bangladesh and Sean Garrett who showed him love and encouraged him to reestablish himself in ATL.
First, he had to sever ties in North Cackalacka. Nick made the tough decision to hang up his ballet shoes in June 2009, retiring from his lifelong dance career to chase his aspirations to Atlanta. Heading down south on “a dollar and a dream,” he arrived in ATL in September 2009, once again performing at open mics and keeping a roof over his head by taking up one-off dance gigs for Atlanta Opera and Georgia Lottery.
Soon, his buzz began to build. Nick ventured to Barley’s Sports Bar & Lounge in downtown Atlanta to play during their Tuesday night open mic. After wowing the audience and stealing the show, the establishment offered Nick his own recurring gig on Thursdays, putting him on the radar as one of ATL’s rising stars.
“I made the impression I was really trying to make,” says Nick, who reached out to producers and writers to get back into the studio. He soon linked up with Greg Johnson, who signed Nick to a label deal and put him back into the studio. Spending around 50 hours per week recording new tracks, Nick was given complete creative control over his project, making sure he’ll get listeners bustin’ moves while relating to his sensitive, romantic experiences.
“I love to get people to feel good about love, because if you don’t feel good about love, you’re never going to find good love in your life,” he says. “I just hope that my music can allow people to connect with each other and have a good time together. This definitely isn’t my break-up album. This is definitely young love, and there’s a lot of romance in the music.”