Banstead musician beats deafness to become singing star
A YOUNG musician is striking the right chords with appearances on the X Factor and The Voice – despite being half deaf.
James Vickery had to have voice coaching when he was 11 to help him speak after he was born deaf in his left ear.
The coaching helped him discover not only a louder speaking voice, but also his ability to sing.
Now the 18-year-old Banstead resident, who has just come second in the Open Mic UK contest, has sung alongside this year's X-factor winner James Arthur and can count pop stars Jessie J and Tulisa among his mentors.
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For James, his deafness has actually helped him with his music.
"It helps a lot with singing," he told the Mirror.
"It means I can hear myself. Often you see singers put their finger in their ear to help hear themselves.
"I don't have to do that."
Having studied music at Ewell Castle school and Reigate College, James, who names Stevie Wonder among his idols, struck out for stardom last year.
He featured on the X Factor, reaching the bootcamp stage, where he sang alongside eventual winner James Arthur, before being cut from the contest.
He admits it was tough to see less-talented singers who made better TV going through at his expense.
"I won't lie, I was upset," said James, of Commonfield Road, Banstead.
"I was so tired. I hadn't had any sleep for a few days, but I couldn't have done any more.
"At the end of the day, it is a TV show and that is what you sign up for. Rylan [Clark, from X Factor, who was branded one of this year's comedy acts who went through to the live finals] is really lovely."
But setbacks in the X Factor and BBC's The Voice – where his audition was not televised – have not deterred the teenager.
He came second of 9,000 contestants in the 17-to-22-year-old category at this year's Open Mic UK competition on January 19.
Since then, James has been contacted by record labels with a view to signing with them in the future.
Armed with just his guitar, he is now working on a first solo album of songs that he describes as "acoustic with a hint of jazz".
"It is all about exposure," he said. "This is all I want to do."
The national competition offers singers and rappers the chance for to compete for prizes including cash and recording studio time.
Entrants can perform original or cover songs in one of three age categories.
After progressing through two regional heats, the final is held at London’s O2 arena.
For his final performance, James tackled a new challenge – rapping and singing a cover of We Cry by The Script.