Pop sensation Ed Sheeran recently revealed how rapping to Eminem’s music enabled him to overcome his speech impediment. Three city-based performers share how they conquered this challenge
Ed Sheeran performs on stage. Pic Courtesy/Instagram
Aristotle had it. So did Elvis Presley and James Earl Jones. Recently, Grammy Award-winner Ed Sheeran revealed his struggles with speech impediment on The Howard Stern Show. Triggered by a traumatic medical procedure in his childhood, the singer acquired a stutter which affected his confidence. It was rapper Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP that helped Sheeran cope. “By learning that record, and rapping it back to back, it cleared my stutter,” he shared with Stern.
While it may be caused by many reasons — from genetic to psychological — stuttering is more common than people think. But in a highly communicative social world, this can cause some challenges. We spoke to an opera singer, a stand-up comic and a composer who found a way past it to build a career in the spotlight.
Learn ways to control it
While it manifested in my childhood, I was stammering well into my early 20s. Interestingly, I never stammered when I sang. Now, I have learned that no one stammers while singing. I would often stutter at the beginning of a consonant or a vowel. This caused me trouble with introducing myself, and I would dread my first day of school. So, I was extremely quiet in my formative years, and that has become a part of my personality for which I am grateful. I grew up with a lot of love in my family. My parents got me to go to speech therapy. I remember doing breathing exercises for a couple of years. It was quite instrumental. In some ways, I owe my singing to my stammering. With my professional training, I now know what I need to do when I am anxious. I can control it. Although, it is not easy, I practise twice as hard by breaking my lines down to each vowel and consonant, and working on breathing patterns in conjunction with the same. I think the world has changed for the better today. A lot of these issues that were problems earlier are now normalised, and that is how it should be.
Amar Mucchala, 44, opera tenor
Stand-up was therapeutic
Although my parents were really patient and took me to speech therapy, nothing really worked out then. Growing up with a stammer, I was also bullied a lot. I suffered a massive lack of self-confidence I was also unsure if I should pursue stand up as a career. Watching Drew Lynch — a comedian with a stammer — on America’s Got Talent, gave me confidence. I began to write jokes only about stammering to address the situation. Thankfully, it went well. It was therapeutic in a sense. I would change the words to help myself speak fluently. For instance, if I have a problem with words starting with G; I would phrase it differently. Facing your fears is important. Doing stand-up regularly and interacting with strangers on stage has helped me. I realise that some people will make fun of me, but I can’t let that bring me down. Thankfully, I found supportive people to back me. Learn to accept it. People have to learn that everyone has some impediment. You learn to live with it, like you live with a scar that heals.
Rueben Kaduskar, 35, stand-up comedian
Artistes are more understanding
We need to understand that stammering is not a problem. We have to be open to the fact that everyone has their own quirks. I was bullied in school, but you can’t blame the kids. They only know what they see in front of them. As I grew up, I slowly started to realise that I am more than this. You have to find your people. I got through it mostly because I have incredible support from home, from my parents and my friends. Once I started composing, I met musicians and artistes who do not consider this to be a big deal. They wait for me to finish. Look at it this way, I get to sing and make music for a career, so I guess you can’t have everything! I don’t stammer when I sing. When I keep a beat while talking, I do not stammer. As long as you don’t say anything back to interrupt my flow. At some point, you need to stand up and take charge of your own life. I am fully aware that I have had a lot of privilege in being able to do what I want to do, but I will say that it wasn’t, and still isn’t easy on some days. It largely boils down to accepting yourself as human beings like anyone else. Only then can we take a step for ourselves to do something about our speech, if we need or want to.
Aditya N, 31, composer and musician
of all children suffer from some speech impediment according to a 2022 research by The Stuttering Foundation
Stars with a stutter
Hugh Grant, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe
>> Winston Churchill
>> Ozzy Osbourne