U student ignites YouTube fan competition for Wyclef Jean

Senior Dan Sederstrom will open for Jean as a result of his “Sweetest Girl” cover.

Andy Mannix

Maybe Tay Zonday best summed up the unprecedented state of musicians’ access to free mass publicity: “This Internet thing’s wild.”

But Tay Zonday of “Chocolate Rain” fame isn’t the only University student to recently gain national recognition through YouTube.

on the web

To see University student Daniel Sederstrom’s cover of Wyclef Jean’s “Sweetest Girl,” as well as read about the opening act contest, go to www.wyclef.com/openingact.

Architecture senior Dan Sederstrom – known better to his fans as “Daniel Switch” – was the spark that ignited a nationwide talent competition in which winning contestants get to be the opening act for musical artist Wyclef Jean on his current tour.

On Feb. 15, Sederstrom and English junior Ryan Kopperud will grace the stage of a University of San Francisco auditorium. But their odyssey to Internet notoriety began more than three months and 81,000 YouTube views ago in a Minneapolis living room, with a guitar and a video camera.

Sederstrom had already been uploading video recordings onto YouTube of himself performing acoustic covers for about a month.

“The purpose of going on YouTube was kind of to create this buzz or gain a certain amount of support,” Sederstrom said. “And then once my originals were done, then I would have people that were more welcoming.”

Early in October, Sederstrom decided to record his own rendition of Wyclef’s “Sweetest Girl.” For a portion of the song originally sung by Lil’ Wayne, Sederstrom turned to Kopperud – his roommate, fellow musician and friend of about 10 years.

Kopperud said he and Sederstrom have been “knocking around creative juices” for years, so he was happy to sing for part of the video, even though it strayed from the type of music he was accustomed to performing.

So the two friends sat down in their dimly lit living room and recorded the song. Sederstrom said it received a positive response from YouTube viewers.

Then, on Jan. 16, Sederstrom received an e-mail from Kathy Baker, senior director of digital marketing for Columbia Records.

“Wyclef saw your acoustic performance of ‘Sweetest Girl’ and it inspired him to invite fans to perform during his concert dates,” Baker said in the e-mail.

The e-mail went on to explain the contest – selected musicians who submit videos of themselves performing “Sweetest Girl” would be asked to perform the song in cities on Wyclef’s tour.

“As you can see we embedded your clip on the page because it was so good,” the e-mail continued, just before inviting Sederstrom to open for Wyclef at a tour date of his choice – an invitation that seemed too good to be true.

“Right away when I heard the message, I was really skeptical,” Sederstrom said.

But after verifying the e-mail address from Sony BMG, Sederstrom said he realized the e-mail was legitimate.

“After that, it was kind of like a sole realization of ‘This is real,’ and I was kind of freaking out,” Sederstrom said. “I didn’t know what to do. I was hopping up and down; my roommates were throwing me up in the air.”

Baker said Wyclef brought the idea up at a meeting after watching Sederstrom’s and some others’ versions of the song on YouTube.

“This is definitely the artist’s request,” she said.

She also said it’s the first time she’s worked on a promotion like this.

Wyclef “follows fans online very closely,” she said, and Sederstrom’s version was “one out of three or four that really stood out.”

To raise money for airfare and a hotel stay in San Francisco, Sederstrom and Kopperud said they are organizing a fundraiser performance on campus, though they haven’t worked out the details yet.

Although he is not sure what will come next, Sederstrom said he is ready for the future.

“It’s all happening so quickly already,” Sederstrom said. “Bring it on if it keeps coming quickly.”

Kopperud said he doesn’t think the experience is going to change things much for him, but he is excited to see what his friend is going to do next.

“Dan is at the very beginning, which is really cool because there is more to come from this,” he said.