Gary resident Kerry James Rodgers Jr. has suffered from a speech impediment his whole life, but found his voice as a singer-songwriter after his mother bought him a guitar for Christmas a few years ago.
Rodgers, who goes by the stage names Kerry Junior, has been finding success as a musician and was nominated for a Chicago Music Award in the Best Indie Urban Entertainment Category. He's up against Chance the Rapper, and the public can vote online through May 28.
"It's a blessing," he said. "I kind of made it believing in myself, and with my fans believing in me."
Rodgers, who calls his fans KJayers, is slated to perform at the Chicago Music Awards in May and the Soul Train Impact showcase at Columbia College in Chicago in July. He's come a long way since his mother, Wendy Sanders-Johnson, bought him am acoustic guitar for Christmas in 2012.
Kerry Junior has been recording music for a planned album, "My Journey," including the single "Mother and I," a song about his love for his mother that he's looking to rerecord and release as an EP before Mother's Day. His agent, Tony Jordan, hopes to get it airplay on Power 92 Chicago. A sample lyric is "Mother, you raised me./Til the end time, you'll always be mine."
The 22-year-old Gary resident, who's very close with his family, wants to call his album "My Journey" because he's been through some struggles in his life, including being born premature and underweight and suffering a stroke when he was 7. He has seizures and stutters.
Kerry Junior, who loved the music of Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake and Ciara, taught himself to play acoustic guitar by watching instructional YouTube videos. He started singing on the steps of the Gary City Hall in 2013, knowing he could reach a political crowd.
Now Kerry Junior plays at open mics across Northwest Indiana and has played on radio stations, including WLTH in Gary. He started out doing covers of Justin Bieber, Timberlake and Chris Brown, but has been writing his own original songs. He describes his style as indie R&B.
"I wrote about life and experience," he said. "I go deep within myself talking about love and heartbreak. I write my own songs from the heart."
You can find Kerry Junior on Facebook or Twitter.
To vote for him in the Chicago Music Awards, go to chicagomusicawards.org or www.martinsinterculture.com/micmsed/CMA/cma-nominees.html.