It’s hard to believe that just six years ago, Paul Kapeleris didn’t consider himself much of a singer. So much so that when he told his mum he would be singing for the HSC, she responded tentatively, “are you sure?”
“My mum is so loving and so supportive, she was trying to be kind about it, but I wasn’t a very good singer,” he says.
Fast forward to 2019, and it’s a very different story. Paul received a standing ovation in the Australia’s Got Talent (AGT) auditions in July, and has also been named Ambassador for Vision Australia’s Carols by Candlelight.
Every Christmas Eve, the Kapeleris family, like thousands of Australians across the country, tune into the large scale festive event, and they can’t believe that Paul will be centre stage at the Myer Music Bowl this month, admitting it “took a long time to sink in”.
“I found it very difficult to accept that it was really happening. I was on the high of the show (AGT), and then this happened and I was like wow!” he told Neos Kosmos, the excitement audible in his voice.
The 23-year-old Sydney-sider was born legally blind, and has just five per cent vision.
Life has been far from easy, with Paul open about the bullying he faced through school, but says he is grateful he got through it and is stronger for it today. Since then life has completely changed, with strangers stopping him in the street to take a selfie, and messaging him with praises of support, looking upon him as an inspiration.
Had you told Paul where he would be today, he says he wouldn’t have believed it for a second.
“I never dreamed of it happening. To be told that I would be singing at 23 is like what? Let alone the incredible things that have happened because of it,” he says.
It was a music teacher that unknowingly got the ball rolling, recommending that Paul listen to American country band the Rascal Flatts.
“I was like you don’t know me, you don’t know what I like, so I never listened to them. Then months later I was listening to this country music station, just had it in the background, and their song came on, Come Wake Me Up, and it just really affected me,” he recalls.
“The lead singer, his voice was so mesmerising. I thought I want to do this, this is incredible, I want to make other people feel as amazing as I feel.”
And that’s exactly what he has been doing since. The AGT stage was a huge step up from performing for assessments and school events, an experience that has left him hungry for more.
Being legally blind, while he cannot see the crowd’s reaction, he says performing for a crowd is very much multisensory.
“I didn’t know I got a standing ovation until afterwards, but it was very much what I could feel and hear. I could hear the applause, the cheering, I could feel the vibration on the stage …. It was a wall of noise, and it made me feel really warm and fuzzy inside to know that I affected people that way,” Paul says.
The talent is excited to get into the studio to bring to life all the songs he has been writing over the years, and is welcoming the abundance of opportunities coming his way.
“As long as I get to perform I’m happy,” he says.
With his Carols by Candlelight appearance just over a week away, Paul’s family couldn’t be prouder of how far he has come.
“They shout it from the rooftops,” he laughs.
“They’re telling everyone ‘watch him on the carols, watch him on the carols!’ It’s a bit embarrassing when I’m present, but when I hear about it afterwards it’s really sweet and makes me really happy to know that they love me so much and they’re proud for what I’ve worked so hard to accomplish.”