Although 15-year-old Dakota Hayden has been singing since the age of three, he didn’t sing publicly in front of his first large crowd until performing at Owensboro’s Got Talent just two years ago. Since that memorable a cappella performance of Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man,” the humble singer-songwriter has come out of his shell and is currently vying for the No.1 spot on Shine YouTube singing competition.
Now in its second season, BRANDON TV’s Shine is a weekly “web series that follows a group of undiscovered artists as they learn to write, sing and sell their own music.” Each week, viewers are asked to vote for their favorite artist on the YouTube platform using a team hashtag. During a two-night special on Nov. 20-21, after being featured with three other artists, Dakota advanced to the Top 15.
Just two weeks prior, the show made the following post on their Facebook page.
“Teen heart-throb, Dakota Hayden, came in ready to impress,” the Nov. 9 post read. “He sang his original song, ‘Already Gone,’ written about the loss of someone close to his family. Get out the tissues because this song will take you there.”
Local vocal coach LaTasha Shemwell began working with the young country artist after being moved by his Owensboro’s Got Talent performance. When Shemwell received the email from Shine looking for talented singer-songwriters, she knew right away that Dakota was the perfect fit.
“I had a lot of great students, but he was the first one to come to mind,” Shemwell said. “He had the boyish look and that voice, and he was getting hungry about songwriting — he’s just the overall package.”
Shemwell sent the show a 90-second clip of Dakota singing Little Big Town’s “Boondocks” which then aired on the first episode of Season 2.
“It was a great experience for him to network and identify his look and craft a bit more,” Shemwell said. “I feel like he has a chance to go all the way.”
While the Ohio County High School sophomore now dreams of taking the same stage as country legends George Strait and Chris Stapleton, he said he hasn’t always felt that way.
“When I was at Sorgho [Elementary School] in first and second grade, I would have to stand somewhere where they couldn’t see me sing,” Dakota said. “And now, I want to be on the big stage. My passion for music has grown exponentially.”
Dakota’s love of music and songwriting has grown so much that he said he currently has an arsenal of about 15 original songs.
“When I come home from school I’m singing,” Dakota said. “When I’m sitting at school I’m thinking of lyrics for a song — it’s just what I love to do.”
Shemwell agreed that she has seen that same growth in Dakota’s vocal talent, yet she said his strength of character continues to remain the same.
“I’ve seen tremendous growth and confidence since we’ve started working together,” Shemwell said. “He’s a hard worker and he’s humble at heart — so that’s going to take him far in life.”
New episodes of Shine can be seen on Wednesday nights on YouTube’s BRANDON TV. To follow Dakota’s journey or to see where he is playing locally, visit his Facebook page.