For people with speech disorders such as stuttering, putting themselves out there for all to see is often the last thing on their mind. Instead, the temptation is to avoid contact with people outside a supportive circle who know of and are familiar with their impediment.
But performance often brings out the best in people and helps them overcome their obstacles, and a person who seems scared and speechless in their daily life can find their voice deep down when they need to.
That was exactly what happened when 18-year-old Harrison Craig hit the stage of “The Voice” in Australia.
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Originally hailing from Melbourne in Victoria state, Craig has faced a lifelong battle with stuttering, which continues today. Given that kids can have a difficult time handling difference, the kinds of things that Craig had to endure at school are not difficult to imagine.
“Having a stutter growing up was quite a challenge. My whole primary school I got picked on quite a lot,” he explained to “The Voice Australia.” While Craig received speech therapy on a regular basis, he knew that nothing he could do would make his stutter disappear completely overnight.
Instead of withdrawing from the world, Craig devoted his energy to music, a place where he could express himself without all the difficulty of tripping over words. “I started singing at the age 9,” Craig said. “Since then I’ve been singing my heart out.”
— The Voice Australia (@TheVoiceAU) June 18, 2014
Thankfully, Craig didn’t have to travel the long road alone. With the support of his little brother and mother, there was always a supportive audience at home for his musical aspirations.
As his mom, Janine, said on The Voice, “He’s passionate about it, he loves it, and to achieve even to this level makes me so proud.” What impressed her most of all was that her son had “put it in a lot of work” into making his dream become reality.
When the time came for Craig to go up onstage to sing in front of the judges, he was understandably nervous. Not only did he have to impress such musical luminaries as Seal and Ricky Martin but he also had to look beyond his stutter to connect with the audience.
“What I feel that I have to do is pour my heart and soul into that song, make the coaches feel what I’m feeling,” he said. Hoping that his voice “wouldn’t fail him,” Craig strode onstage determined to give it all he had.
As this young man started to sing the opening bars of Josh Groban’s soaring “Broken Vow,” he already had the crowd on his side with a big cheer erupting from all sides. The judges were clearly curious and craning their heads to hear more. It didn’t take long for Craig to persuade Seal, who hit the buzzer and turned around to admire this young contestant’s stage presence and heart.
Next to fall under the charm of Craig’s melodious voice was singer Delta Goodrem. Then it was Joel Madden, lead singer of pop-punk band Good Charlotte, who had to hit the buzzer and was clearly blown away by such a big vocal presence from such a young man. Last but not least, Ricky Martin closed his eyes and floated along with Craig’s rendering of the moving song before joining the rest of the judges.
At this point, Craig’s little brother and mother were crying and jumping for joy at their loved one’s success. But after the song, Craig still needed to do the thing that had often been most difficult—talk in front a huge audience.
Getting a standing ovation from the judges and the audience definitely helped him overcome his fears. “It’s voices like that that make guys like me want to coach,” Seal exclaimed. While he faltered a bit when responding to Seal’s first questions, he soon found his stride. “Ever since I could talk, I’ve actually had a stutter. It’s kind of great to get up here and perform so passionately.”
Pitching himself to Harrison, Seal said, “It will be my job and my privilege to bring out the greatness of you. I don’t care if you stutter […] as long as you keep singing like that.” As Joel Madden told Craig, “Maybe you might stutter offstage, but you don’t stutter on the stage. You own the stage.”
Delta Goodrem and Ricky Martin were equally eager to get Craig on their side, knowing that this teen was going places. “We’ll find really good music to free yourself from whatever you have within you,” Martin said. But despite all the others’ appeals, Craig went for Seal and never looked back.
Harrison Craig is The Voice of Australia 2013!
Craig would go on to win Season 2 of The Voice Australia and has had a successful recording career since then. Most recently, he published a children’s book called Harrison’s Song, which takes on the story of a little boy struggling with a stutter who finds his passion in music, a story he knows by heart.