Compassion is a daily source of inspiration for Dylan Gerard, whether he’s on the job as a CNA at St. Vincent’s Hospital or performing in front of four of the most famous faces in music on The Voice. Gerard made it through the first round known as the Blinds singing the James Arthur song ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’.
“Before I walked out there, I was extremely nervous and I was just trying to calm myself down. I told myself, ‘This is a once in a lifetime opportunity so just go out there and have fun and do the best that you can,’” he says. “But the beginning of that song is at the lower end for me, and that’s hard for me to sing whenever I’m nervous. Honestly, that’s what made me the most nervous, but I knew if I could get through the beginning of that song, then I’d be okay.”
Gerard leaned on background in musical theatre to overcome the nerves that hit as he walked out on the empty stage. “It is probably the only thing that made singing up there without a guitar easy for me. I’m so used to playing and singing with an instrument, but I didn’t want that added distraction. I felt like I would focus more on playing and not as much on singing,” he says. “Trying to figure out how to move and connect with the audience, I did have to fall back on some of the things that I’ve done before like Ren in Footloose or Curly in Oklahoma or Danny in Grease. It’s a little easier when you’re someone else’s persona in a show. You have to tap into what you want to look like and what you want to be visually. I’m a pretty reserved guy. I don’t do too much when it comes to being animated and performing, so I had to tap into a part of me that I guess I don’t necessarily show a whole lot of.”
He was almost through the first chorus when it dawned on him that he might not turn a chair. About that time, two of them did. Gerard was looking past judge Blake Shelton into the audience when he says he noticed some movement out of the corner of his eye. That’s when he saw Jennifer Hudson facing him. “From that point on, you’re riding a high and just singing and trying not to overdo it. It was amazing,” he says. “It was a relief for sure.”
Adam Levine and new addition Jennifer Hudson turned almost simultaneously. During deliberations, J-Hud jumped right in and offered some impromptu coaching advice right there on stage. Gerard seemed hesitant at first but took the Oscar winner’s advice and raised the key up a notch. She also gave him some pointers on switching between his full voice and falsetto. No pressure there.
Levine countered, telling Gerard, “Going between these two parts of my voice is the thing that I’ve been working on my whole life. I think that’s one of the hardest things as a male vocalist to accomplish. Look, it doesn’t hurt that I’m also a dude. The approach is different, the keys that we sing in are different, so keep those things in mind. I got you.”
It wasn’t an easy choice, says Gerard, who chose Team Adam. He went with Team Adam because he’s a fan of his work in Maroon 5 and the two share a similar vocal style. “I said to myself, ‘If I am fortunate to have somebody turn, then I would hope it would be Adam.’ But it did make things a little tougher when I was feeling the excitement and the passion from Jennifer. She kind of jumped into coach mode right off the bat there. It definitely took some deliberating,” says Gerard.
“I struggle a little bit in my high end, switching between my head voice and falsetto, and he understands the male voice so I felt like he could lend himself to my development in that aspect for sure. I like his direction, I like his style and I like what he’s done with his career. I admire him in that sense and I always have. That also lent itself to my decision. Ultimately, from the beginning I wanted to be on Adam’s team, so I just followed my gut.”
Gerard has followed his gut both onstage and off after a serious car accident almost cost his sister her life. Both Gerard and his sister Sara Beth Summer were involved in music. The two often appeared in community theatre productions throughout Jacksonville, and Gerard enjoyed moderate success with his band Don’t Sigh Daisy, opening for Switchfoot, Young the Giant, and fun. In 2013, Sara Beth was in a serious car accident on I-10 and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
During the weeks following the accident, Gerard stepped away from music and focused his attention on helping his sister overcome her injuries. He noticed the number of people who contributed to her care on a daily basis, all of whom played an integral part in her recovery. Gerard decided to go back to school, determined that a medical career would allow him to give other families the same level of compassion.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of my backstory that was shown. It was definitely one of the hardest, trying times in my life. Not a whole lot of traumatic things have happened in my life. I was teaching biology at the time, and I didn’t know if I really wanted to be a teacher anymore. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. She got in her accident, and it just kind of opened my eyes into this other world in the medical field. Being there to help her out and seeing all these different people there, whether it be nurses, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioners, people that just come in and have a conversation with you, everyone. It was a life-changing, life-shaping moment that lead me to want a career in the medical field and giving back what had been given to us.”
Gerard started playing in restaurants to earn extra money, doing a lot of cover songs and redefining his approach to music. “It helped me learn so many different songs and styles, trying to emulate how other people sing,” he says. “I don’t know if I could have done as well as I did in that blind audition without developing into the singer I am now.”
The amount of support, love and well-wishes he’s received since his audition aired has been “insane,” says Gerard, but no one is rooting for him more than Sara Beth. “I honestly didn’t expect to have so much support from my hometown in Macclenny to Jacksonville to people I don’t even know. My sister is one of my biggest supporters. She told me once or twice, me following through with this is inspiring to her, but the way she is handling everything in her life, she is the one who inspires me the most. It’s overwhelming in a good way. It makes this a lot easier to enjoy and be in the moment.”
The Voice airs at 8pm Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC. Gerard’s version of ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’ is available on iTunes.