"I was always singing to myself, but I never ever performed and I never told anyone I liked to sing. So it was a definitely a new adventure going in to audition for Glee," the 20-year-old tells TVGuide.com. "Everyone's like, 'So when did you start singing?' I'm like, 'My first Glee audition.'"
Suffice it to say, the cat is definitely out of the bag. Artist, a trained competition dancer since the age of 5, is now turning heads for his impressive pipes, in addition to his fancy footwork, as Jake Puckerman, one of the glee club's newest additions and the bad boy half-brother of ex-New Directioner Puck (Mark Salling).
So how did a trained jazz, tap, hip-hop and ballet dancer end up on McKinley High's biggest stage? "When I was a senior, I got accepted into the Julliard School for Dance, but ultimately decided to move to L.A. to act so that was a fun conversation with the parents," Artist says with a laugh. "I truly have some of the greatest parents ever. They've been so supportive of me from Day 1 with anything that I've ever wanted to do so they were actually surprisingly really, really good about it."
A self-proclaimed big fan of Glee — and Jane Lynch in particular — Artist remembers feeling "massive" pressure when he went into audition for the show. But he felt he had luck on his side. "I found out the character's name was Jake, so I was like, 'OK, it's meant to be,'" he recalls.
Despite his lack of formal vocal training, Artist won the role thanks in part to his performance of The Fray's "Never Say Never" — the same song with which Jake auditioned for the glee club. Now, Artist's singing skills will be put to the test again on Thursday's episode (9/8c on Fox) when Jake must duet with fellow New Direction rookie Ryder (Blake Jenner). "All of the New Directions are making up their own superheroes, and Ryder and Jake do the exact same thing and they have to sing a song together in their superhero costumes," says Artist, whose character dresses as Mega Stud. "I will be in spandex and tights so you know it's going to be pretty hilarious."
However, the collaboration between two of glee club's newest members won't be all smiles, seeing as Ryder won the lead in the Grease musical over Jake and then kissed the object of his affection, Marley (Melissa Benoist). "He just saw Ryder kissing his girl so I think there's definitely going to be some initial tension with those two," Artist says. "All of a sudden there's another person in the mix and it's definitely shaking things up. Now it's time for Jake to step things up and fight for his girl."
Those fighting words come not so long after Marley
spelled sang out her feelings for Jake earlier this season, only to see him shack up with evil Cheerio Kitty (Becca Tobin). But he's now back on the market and determined to use the glee club to win her over. "This is a girl who he is really falling for and he's not used to dealing with his feelings," he says. "Jake is totally in the glee club for the long haul."
So why is the school rebel and well-known womanizer suddenly so smitten with just one woman? Artist likens Jarley's chemistry to another famous couple in pop culture. "It's a little bit like Tarzan and Jane," he says. "He's this angry, rugged guy and she's the innocent one that brings him back down to Earth."
But just because Jake finally knows what — or should we say who — he wants, that doesn't mean courting Marley will be an easy task. "This whole episode is a rollercoaster of him dealing with his emotions. I think it's a really, really great turning point for him as well," Artist says. "You're going to see lots of different sides to him through all of these relationships, not only with Marley, but with others at McKinley. There's a lot of sweet moments for Jake in this episode."
Artist has also reached out to his cast mates behind the scenes, particularly the other newbies like Benoist and Tobin, to deal with the experience that is Glee. "Chord [Overstreet] was saying when he came on the show, he was the only new person there, so he had to go through all of it by himself," Artist says. "But with us, there's a whole little group of us so it's been really fun having that experience with them."
That experience includes adjusting to being recognized in public, and more specifically, at the Starbucks drive-thru. "I remember the employee opened the window to hand me my drink and she just froze and stared at me," he says. "I got really scared because only one or two episodes had aired so I never thought that that's what it was for. I was panicking a little bit. I was like,' Is she OK? What is going on?' She was like, 'Oh my God! Are you on Glee?!'"
However, Artist says Glee's hectic schedule has helped him deal with his newfound fame. "The great thing about Glee is that with the singing and dancing and shooting, we're constantly so busy that I barely even have time to check Twitter and call my parents back," he says. "I'm used to the crazy rehearsals so I love it and I think I thrive on it."
In addition to the song-and-dance routine, Artist is also working on his comedic skills, much like Lynch's memorable quips. "There's some funny one-liners for Jake in this episode so hopefully people will enjoy that," he says. "We'll see how my comedic delivery goes."
Glee airs Thursdays at 9/8c on Fox.