For most of his life Scott James has never dared to set foot outside his own house. Afflicted with Asperger's syndrome, he was so frightened of socialising that he exiled himself in his bedroom and was known to few people even in his native Stockton-on-Tees.
But that is about to change. Later this month the 21-year-old will become a household name when his stunning X Factor audition is broadcast on television. He auditioned in front of the judges Simon Cowell, Dannii Minogue, Cheryl Cole and Louis Walsh in Manchester last month.
And, in an interview with The Independent Magazine, due to be published this Saturday, Dannii Minogue explains how Scott's rendition of You Raise Me Up, coupled with his life story, amazed the judging panel.
"He came on stage and he was very particular about explaining his condition," she said.
"He told us that because of his Asperger's syndrome and the fact that he'd been picked on, he hadn't left the house in seven years. But he just stood there calmly and told us that his singing teacher had been helping him to build his confidence. Then he started singing. You will not believe his performance when you see it."
His unlikely talent has inevitably drawn comparisons with Susan Boyle, the Scottish singer who gripped the public's attention with her phenomenal singing voice during Britain's Got Talent earlier this year. So far Scott has replicated the achievements of Ms Boyle by winning his way to the final 50 of the ITV talent show. But is it to be seen whether he can be as successful by getting to the show's finale.
Scott's singing talent has been a secret throughout his life. As he never leaves the house, only his parents, Sharon and Ken, and a few neighbours had heard him sing. Then in 2007 his mother decided to have Scott record some of his favourite tracks so neighbours and family members could have CDs of his singing. She took him to the Castlegate Recording Studio near to their home in Cleveland, which is run by Mike Frankland and his partner Linzi Hunter – the vocal coach Scott referred to during his audition.
Mike explained: "He had spent pretty much his whole life in his bedroom until his mother decided to drag him out of the house and bring him to us. The first time we heard him sing we were in tears. He has such a beautiful, strong singing voice. It was amazing to think that only a few people had ever heard him sing.
"It is the nature of people with Asperger's that although their social interaction is not great, they do excel in other areas of life. In Scott's case it is singing and computers," he said.
After coaching Scott's talent, Mike and Linzi convinced him to perform in some of the working men's clubs which permeate the North-east. "To start with he didn't want to sing live," Mike said. "He would do one or two songs then go back into the dressing room. But gradually he became more comfortable in front of the audience."
So comfortable that he took it upon himself to enter the X Factor auditions. After his first audition, the famously hard-to-please Simon Cowell was so impressed he halted the show and went backstage to personally congratulate Scott and Linzi.
She explained: "The audience went mental after his performance and Simon called me up on stage to speak to me about Scott and his singing. After that he personally came back stage and shook our hands and said how brilliant Scott was. He did seem quite concerned about Scott and asked me how I thought he would cope if he got further into the competition. But Scott has just taken it all in his stride."
After wowing the judges with his performances, Scott was put through to Boot Camp – a latter stage of the competition which involves just 50 contestants and, for Scott, a previously unthinkable two-week stay away from home in London. Regardless, he continued to impress judges with performances of Katy Perry's "Hot 'n' Cold" and "There You'll Be" by Faith Hill.
Asperger's syndrome: The facts
* Asperger's syndrome is a disorder within the autism spectrum, in which sufferers typically have difficulty reading and responding to eye contact, facial expressions, and other body language.
* It takes its name from Hans Asperger, an Austrian clinician who in 1944 observed and described children in his clinic with poor non-verbal communication skills, struggled to empathise with others, and who were physically clumsy.
* Sufferers tend to improve as they get older, but during childhood can find it difficult to form friendships as their failure to react appropriately in social situations is often misunderstood as a disregard for others' feelings, causing some people to find them insensitive.
* Some children with the condition develop intense interests with narrow topics and become fixated with patterns and orders of the things around them, as is the case in Mark Haddon's best-selling novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which did much to raise the profile of the condition.
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