Few artists on The Voice have worked the stage as hard — or as thoroughly — as Dez Duron. “I’m an entertainer, man. My favorite thing is to sing live. The music just kind of flows through me, and I can’t help but move,” says the Season 3 Top 8 finisher. “I thrive off of the audience response. I thrive off the beat. When you see me moving around, it’s just an outward expression of what I’m feeling inwardly.”
Of course, as Duron explains it, “entertaining all of the audience’s senses” ups the degree of difficulty as far as staying on pitch, which is why he spends a lot of time practicing by running and singing at the same time. “It’s important to me to be an elite performer, not just a vocalist,” he adds. “I always want to be taking it to the next level. I’m never really satisfied with where a performance is. I want to get better every chance I get.”
TVLine caught up with Duron to discuss what he did to improve his skills between The Voice‘s second and third seasons, where he’d previously performed one of his more memorable numbers (“Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”), and whether or not he felt the judges’ frequent emphasis on his looks detracted from him being taken seriously as an aritst.
TVLINE | We were reminded several times on the show that you’d been to the Blind Auditions in Season 2, but didn’t get any of the judges to turn their chairs around. Did you go home that day determined to come back for Season 3, and what did you do in the interim to prepare yourself?
It certainly wasn’t my initial intention to come back to The Voice, but I stayed out in L.A. to learn about the music industry. I took voice lessons, learned the guitar, took piano lessons. I also got in the studio and made a lot of music. I [also] did an ad campaign for American Eagle, which was a fun time. Then I got a call from casting to let me know that [I was allowed to audition again], which I wasn’t even initially aware of. I thought it would be a good career move, and it ended up being a great decision.
TVLINE | So you get to the Live Playoffs as part of Christina Aguilera’s team, and you end up with a country song, “Wanted,” by Hunter Hayes. How did you feel about covering something that far outside your genre?
I knew it was a great song with a great melody, and the soul of the song sat well with me. I did a lot of different genres, but the finished product always stayed in one main vein, which is soulful, passionate music. By the time we got through with [“Wanted”], it didn’t feel very country.
TVLINE | You got a lot of feedback from the coaches, even Christina herself, along the lines of “Ladies love Dez,” or “Oh Dez, you’re melting hearts out there.” Obviously you’re a good-looking guy, but did you ever feel like that took focus off your singing?
I was never mad about girls screaming at the shows, or stuff like that. It’s actually something I’m used to, and always enjoyed, but I just kept in mind that [the coaches] couldn’t see me in the Blind Auditions, and the reason that I got there was because of my voice, and the reason that I came on the show was because of music. I didn’t really pay attention to much of the outside stuff. I’m actually super grateful for all the support from everybody on Twitter and Facebook. I love reading the comments and commenting back.
TVLINE | So you don’t feel like that kind of feedback from the coaches stymied you in terms of being taken seriously as an artist?
One of the things this show has taught me is that people are going to talk and have their opinions no matter what you do. You could sing a Michael Buble song, you could sing a Frank Sinatra song, you could sing a Justin Bieber song. Everybody’s going to vote for what they want, so I focus on the music. I feel like me and Christina put together great performances that I’m proud of.
TVLINE | Fair enough. I feel like you really hit your stride starting with Top 12 Week, when you did “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” What was it about that performance that really clicked?
You know, that’s a song that I’ve sung in the car my whole life, and always wanted to sing live for an audience. It’s one of my favorite songs. It’s one of my favorite arrangements. And it’s reflective of what I want to do as far as making my own music — bringing in these classic melodies with relevant beats underneath them. It was an honor to do a song made famous by Lauryn Hill and Frankie Valli. I’m a big fan of both of them.
TVLINE | You had a nice moment with “Feeling Good,” too. Were you aware that reality singing competition junkies like myself had seen Adam Lambert kill that song on Idol and then Melanie Amaro do it on X Factor in recent years? And if so, did that worry you at all?
I absolutely wasn’t aware of either one. When I was researching older versions of the song, I remember seeing Melanie’s name and Adam’s name in the search list, but I never watched their performances. I wanted to adhere to what I grew up listening to: Nina Simone, Anthony Newley and Michael Buble, whose version I did. Even in the competition, I wasn’t focused on the other [Voice] contestants. It was all about doing my best.
TVLINE | Going forward, how will you merge your pop/R&B sensibilities with the crooner side we saw your last couple weeks on the show?
Good music is good music. Both of those styles have a huge place in my heart. I love the urban sound. I love pop music. And you know, the crooner sound is just really old pop music. And there’s definitely a way to mix those. Look at Bruno Mars; I feel like he’s a modern-day crooner. Amy Winehouse found a way to mix those jazz and pop styles, too. I’m definitely going to be doing pop music with a twist — a soulful twist.
TVLINE | Tell me a little bit about your final performance — Justin Bieber’s “U Smile.” I felt like you gave the original track a serious upgrade — stylistically and vocally. That didn’t really get talked about in the feedback that you got from the coaches, but tell me how you made it your own.
You know, it’s a great song. I’m a fan of Justin Bieber. He works really hard. He’s good at what he does. He recorded that song when he was probably 15, or certainly a lot younger [than he is now]. I’m 22, so I knew we had to change it up and make it me, make it a little more grown, and I think we did a really good job — me, Christina and Paul Mirkovich and the band. I loved what we came up with. I had a blast out on that stage, and it sounded completely different from the original.
TVLINE | Do you feel like having made it this far on the show, you’ve put any doubts to rest about whether leaving Yale to pursue music was a good idea or not?
I left Yale because I felt in my heart it was what I needed to do at the time. I needed to chase this dream and The Voice just gave me the courage to do what I needed to do. My family would support me right now if I was singing on the side of the street and nobody knew who I was, and what gives me confidence that it’s the right thing to do is the peace that I feel in my heart and the joy that I get out of making music. Even when I got no chairs [to turn] last season, I knew I was in the right place. I didn’t need to make the Top 8 to know that music is what I’m supposed to do.