Charlotte, N.C. — Nao Barber, a finalist in American Idol’s 2013 season, has a giant voice that will stop you in your tracks.
A couple of blocks from the rowdy Occupy the Democratic National Convention protests, South Tryon Street is hushed at midday, the calm before the convention storm.
And then, out of nowhere, Barber starts singing.
Eight years ago, the street singer was shot twice in the chest — once with a .38 and then again with a .28 gauge — sitting outside of a friends house talking. The doctors told him he’d never sing again.
“I had to start working on my voice,” Barber told HOH.
Barber wasn’t a stranger to speech therapy. From kindergarten to seventh grade, he struggled to overcome a stutter. When the doctors warned him that after he recovered he might have a stutter. Barber bucked against the diagnosis.
Then, last year, Barber started singing a capella on Charlotte’s streets. Every day he would sing for a few hours. After a year, he had saved $23,000, most of which he says went to benefit homeless charities.
“I think that’s why American Idol wanted me,” he says. “For my story.”
He’s a soft spoken young man, tall with his long dreds tied up in a t-shirt and hidden under his cap. He tells us how his speaking voice quieted after the shooting, but how his singing voice started to boom.
“Was he a great singer before he was shot?” we ask.