Fri | Sep 20, 2019

RJRGLEANER Honour Awards | For Entertainment (Special Award) : Dalton Harris - Sang His Way Into The Hearts Of Jamaicans

Published:Tuesday | January 15, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Dalton Harris
Dalton Harris performing after he was declared the 2010 Digicel Rising Stars winner.

The following is an updated version of an article recognising Jamaican singer Dalton Harris as the recipient of the 2018 RJRGLEANER Honour Award, Special Award in the category of Entertainment. Stating that there have been numerous misconceptions about his life and experiences, Harris has taken the opportunity to speak with The Gleaner and tell his story in his own words. Look out this week, in The Gleaner, for more from the winner of the 2018 X Factor, UK edition.

Following an impressive and inspiring run on the wildly popular The X Factor UK competition in 2018, Dalton Harris was named the winner - an achievement that was celebrated by Jamaicans far and wide. Not only did Harris demonstrate expert stage skills with captivating performances both at home and abroad, but he did so with endearing humility, which stole the hearts of music fans across the world.

Harris is the recipient of the 2018 RJRGLEANER Honour Award, Special Award in the category of entertainment, for his contribution to music through tireless work and his monumental success in winning the United Kingdom reality television music competition, The X Factor.

"To receive this award speaks to hard work through music, without lowering my morals or values, or standards, or singing certain topics that are popular," Harris said, adding that the award is an endorsement to his tenacity as an artiste.

"It means that platforms like Digicel Rising Stars are working for youths, but it alone cannot break the glass ceiling. The support and respect should be there for young artists before they are embraced internationally," he added.

Harris, 25, is in the United Kingdom preparing for the X Factor Live Tour, which kicks off in Nottingham on February 15.

He notes that the arena "is a huge accomplishment for a Caribbean native, especially at my age".

"That never happens," he told The Gleaner. "Only (the) BeyoncÈs and (the) Rihannas, and extremely successful people do arena tours for months, and I get to headline my own at 25 - again defying the odds. This needs to be the story for people to learn and normalise," Harris said.

Harris, who won the Digicel Rising Stars competition at age 16 in 2010, dazzled with his performances on the 2018 X Factor. One of the judges, Robbie Williams expressed surprise that Dalton wasn't already chart-topping pop star.

"I'm baffled that you haven't already got six albums under your belt, or that you're not sat here on this side judging me and telling me how to be better," Williams said of Harris, who did not see immediate success after his Rising Stars win.


Obvious Talent


Nadine Sutherland, one of three judges on the 2010 Rising Stars panel, said that Harris demonstrated obvious talent as a teen, and has come of age.

"I keep on saying to people that Dalton Harris' story is something for a Jamaican movie. I mean it has all the ingredients for success. This little boy, when I met him, I always tell everybody, he was a weird looking kid. And he just could sing," Sutherland said.

"His singing took him from some dark situations. But he was tenacious, he wanted to better himself."

Anthony Miller, perhaps the most feared Rising Stars judge, had his fingers crossed for Harris' success. However, he believes that there should be no comparison between Harris' international and local achievements.

"This person was a teenager back then. Now, we're seeing what he's capable of; it's stunning. Producers out here are going to say, 'damn, I should have been paying closer attention'."

While competing on X Factor, Harris sailed through the rounds with songs like Purple Rain by Prince, Listen by Beyonce and Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word by Elton John. His voice danced between octaves each time he touched the stage, pulling standing ovations from the audience and judges on numerous occasions.

Then on December 1, he gave all Jamaicans an early Christmas present when he walked away as the X Factor UK winner. This made him the first foreigner to win the original series.

Harris told The Gleaner that this journey to stardom has been shaped by his numerous life experiences - negative and positive. The singer, who grew up in humble circumstances, said that "every person that left a scar on my body - all 20 something of them", has helped to shape his life.

"It was horrible, but I believe that it pushed my mental scope and clicked something in my brain that made me want more to escape the power of their words," Harris said.

On the positive side, the talented singer singled out television producer Sharon Schroeter, record producer Donovan Germain, studio engineer Paul Christie, and another Rising Stars winner and recording artiste Romain Virgo as some of the persons who have contributed to his success.

Schroeter, he said, has been there for him since 2010. He said that she "has grounded me and supported me like I was her own child".

Germain, he said, gave him the "invaluable resource of a studio so I could lock myself in and metamorphosis into what I am now".

He said that Virgo has always believed in him, and Television Jamaica, on which Rising Stars airs, has never said no to him if he needed a slot to showcase his material.

In highlighting Christie's contribution, Harris said that the engineer "put up with my schedule. I would be recording from 10 in the morning until 10 at night, sometimes".

He said: "They thought I was crazy but I was eager to get better. He supported me all the way and I love him for that."

Harris has extended his gratitude to Edwin Allen, his high school, which he said helped him mould his craft and taught him a level of discipline. He has also acknowledged his sister "for always giving and never expecting a single dime from me"; his teachers that helped him "afford lunch or bus fare"; Ms Rochester, who got me my first paid gig when I was 12 at a rally; and the Lewinsons "who accepted me into their home when I had nowhere else to go and treated me (like a) human."

Said Harris: "I am grateful for my experiences because they moulded my character. (I am grateful) for my supporters in Jamaica and internationally, they give me hope, and finally, music, for saving my life and, most importantly, my mind."


The road to greatness


The boy from Sanguinetti, Clarendon, has come a far way from the days when he felt hopeless. His feet are firmly on the road to greatness, and he is convinced that his story can inspire youngsters to dream big and to keep fighting.

"The lowest point of my career was in 2017 when I lost my voice for three months and was not able to work or earn or make a sound. I underwent therapy and surgical attempts that cost me millions. I was depressed and felt hopeless. But I never once thought of throwing in the towel," Harris said.

"I would encourage any upcoming musician or singer to venture out internationally and not limit themselves and their capabilities to just Jamaica. There is an industry that actually works in the bigger world that teaches a discipline other than celebrity behaviour, and surface hustling. The world is huge and free. Nothing is easy, though, and be prepared to work extremely hard and fail, then continue," he added.