Written by Emily Smith
If one word could sum up the past several years for Dylan Dunlap, it would be “growth.” It’s hard to believe that his first performance, a cover of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” was around 5 or 6 years ago. Dunlap was still getting used to being up on stage. He tells us, “I legit hid behind the piano.” Nowadays, Dylan can be found creating his own music, opening up for bands like OneRepublic and performing around the world.
In 2015, Dunlap took a monumental leap by auditioning for the popular TV music competition The Voice where Dylan put himself out there in front of millions of viewers. Dunlap, however, was less prepared than desired. “I had the worst tunnel vision about being showcased to millions of people, so I really didn’t think through things too well,” he recalls. “After all, I ended up singing ‘Talk Dirty’ by Jason Derulo…sometimes I cringe thinking about that.” Despite the audition – and ultimately going home coachless – he thinks positively about the experience. “I feel like I’ve been on this wild journey to discover my own voice. As much as I love covers, I am now incredibly passionate about the original material that I have to offer.” Overall, Dunlap looks back on his short time on The Voice as a necessary experience for him to truly kickstart his career. He says, “I needed to hit rock bottom after getting let go from the show and I needed to pick myself back up a few days later to continue my dream.”
Now Dunlap is fully immersed in performing and writing his own original material. Often time, he starts off with the instrumentals of a song. “Maybe it’s because I have scored hundreds of different instrumentals since I was 11 years old, but I really love setting the mood first,” he says. Once he perfects that sound, he moves onto the lyrics. “I allow my brain to process how it all makes me feel, which eventually inspires the words.” He has not developed a routine with his band before performing live, but with future tours, he’ll definitely have the opportunity to think of some. “Knowing me, [it’s] probably going [to] involve the act of driving to the nearest Chipotle,” he jokes.
Currently, a favorite song of Dunlap’s to perform is a stripped down version of his anthemic single “Clockwise.” This single holds a lot of meaning for Dunlap. A favorite verse of his is, “I want to be young and dumb, feel invincible/ Chasing any direction, but it’s never that simple.” For Dunlap, this reflects his struggle with mental illness. “I struggle with disorders that make most days an absolute nightmare to get through for no reason whatsoever and it can be hard to cope with it all.” Despite some of the hardships he has to deal with when it comes to these disorders, the lyrics emphasize how important it is to stay true to oneself. “The most important thing to realize is that we shouldn’t try to change who we are,” says Dunlap, “We are perfectly imperfect and we are enough.”
Dunlap passionately advocates for mental illness and uses his platform as a musician to raise awareness while helping others who may struggle with the same disorders as he does. Conversations about mental illness are not that frequent in the music industry, which is one thing Dylan hopes to change. This is all very personal to him. He explains, “A couple years ago, I discovered that I’m on the autistic spectrum, and ever since, I’ve essentially rededicated my efforts as an artist to being as transparent as I can about it.” By opening up about his own struggles, he hopes to reduce some of the stigma associated with mental illness and help fans feel less alone if they too are struggling with something similar. “I want them to feel like they have a voice and someone actually gets them in this crazy messed up world.”
Throughout his time making music, Dunlap has gone through various challenges. Besides dealing with mental illness, one struggle of being a musician, especially an indie musician, is finding ways to pay the bills and not let his insecurities get the best of him. Luckily, he has undying support from his friends and fans and has a love for his work that helps him power through any sense of doubt. One quote that inspires him is “I love this more than I’m insecure about it,” which is something he said about his work while giving a “crazy rant about mental health” as he puts it.
For other up and coming musicians, Dunlap has one piece of advice: “Do everything you can to find out who you are and just be it. Find a voice. Express it and don’t worry about the money, or the Instagram likes, or even the fact that you might succeed or you might fail.” This is something that Dunlap abides by as well.
Dunlap in the future simply hopes to keep building a community and reach more fans with his music. As for new music, there may or may not currently be a new single in the works!
Dylan’s Opening For OneRepublic!
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