Kids can be cruel. Just ask Harrison Craig.
Bullied throughout his schooling years because of his severe stutter, the Victorian found confidence – and solace – in singing.
When he sang, the stutter disappeared.
At The Voice blind auditions in 2013 his rendition of Josh Groban’s The Vow turned all four judges’ chairs and, under UK mentor Seal’s guidance, Craig went on to win the title. He was 19 and suddenly had a platform to shine a light on bullying. He ran with it.
Craig is rehearsing for his Kings of Vegas – The Lounge Sessions show when Weekender calls. He is polite, personable and fond of a joke. Cheeky, too. One gets the feeling that if he hadn’t stuttered, he would have relished being the class clown.
Occasionally he pauses mid-sentence and takes a deep breath. When he speaks again, it is slower in pace and you can tell he is concentrating hard. Then it passes, and he continues as before.
The shy schoolboy is now a confident and extremely talented young man. His debut album More Than A Dream achieved platinum status and his second album L.O.V.E remained in the top 10 charts for six consecutive weeks.
His unique tone and crooning style has won him fans worldwide.
“It has been a full-on, crazy journey so far. I don’t like to use the word journey but that’s what it is,” Craig says.
He feels at home on the stage and idolises those performers who were at their peak in the 1920s through to the ’50s.
“I grew up with mum playing a lot of Nat King Cole – almost too much Nat King Cole, to be honest,” he says, laughing.
“I went through my Nanna’s record collection a couple of months ago and I found all these little gems, even from her parents’ era, which was like 1901. And they had, like, Fred Astaire and all this amazing music and then I went through to 1940s and ’50s and there was a Dean Martin original pressing that cost just $1. Amazing.”
Craig’s latest record, Kings of Vegas, and tour is a celebration of his musical background and his beloved Las Vegas.
The two-hour concert will showcase hits from the likes of Mel Torme, Nat King Cole, Bobby Darin, Frankie Valli, Elvis Presley, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr, Tom Jones, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Barry Manilow and The Righteous Brothers. Then there are the hits of the new “Kings of Vegas” – Elton John, Billy Joel, Rod Stewart and Michael Bublé – plus a string of Craig’s own hits.
“I know Vegas has changed a lot since the days of Sinatra and The Rat Pack. It’s a lot more commercial in the way that things are plastic nowadays, and are kind of disposable,” he explains.
“It is more commercial than it once was but I think it adds to the aura and vibe.
“You travel past Fremont Street and you just see this incredible time warp appear before your eyes – the Flamingo, the Golden Nugget, the California Hotel – all these incredible venues that helped create this era.
“That’s what it was all about. Incredible music and incredible places and a great time.”
“It’s tough being a kid because you don’t know enough but sometimes you know too much and that can change your life. You need to walk that thin line."
Craig even stayed at Sinatra’s house in Palm Springs during his trip, and was given a 1967 Ford Thunderbird to drive.
“Vegas, to me, is the pinnacle, the place you go if you really want to kill it,” he says.
“But you have to put your own spin on it, your own interpretation, because you don’t want to be just a tribute act. You have to put your stamp on it or else it’s not really worth doing.”
Proof of just how far he has come is the children’s book he has written, Harrison’s Song, released earlier this month. Craig wants to change lives and doesn’t give a hoot if his ambition sounds in any way corny.
“The book is very important to me because I had challenges in my life and no resources to help me understand that. I just had my mum, and she’s an incredible woman, but there was no way for her to help me through that process at school where I was teased and feeling like an outcast,” he explains.
“It’s tough being a kid because you don’t know enough but sometimes you know too much and that can change your life. You need to walk that thin line.
“Kids are the future so you need to prioritise them and go ‘OK, how can I give them the best chance to do what they want to do?’ It’s important for me to talk to them in a way they can understand and that they’re comfortable with.
“I’m pumped to be travelling around the country talking to different schools and groups. I want them to be able to go ‘Hey, this guy here has done some really cool things but he was teased and ridiculed at school. That means I can do cool things too’.
“I want to change the world. I know it’s a huge task but I know I can do it.”