As the pandemic first took hold of the world in March of 2020, so many felt that the walls were closing in on them. For some, their anxiety went sky high. For others, a sense of doom or an almost paralyzing feeling of sensory overload, where things were either happening far too fast or far too slow.
It was similar to the mirage of feelings Cory Singer has felt his whole life.
"A lot of people come up to me and tell me that they wouldn't have guessed that I am autistic," Singer, 26, tells PEOPLE days before the exclusive premiere of his new music video for his heart wrenching song "Someone." "
I've been bullied a lot because of it. Sometimes I feel like an outsider in a way. But as I have gotten older, I've learned to embrace it," he adds. "I'd rather feel different than normal. When you are different, you are remembered."
But there is far more that Singer will be remembered by than just living with autism. Because it was during the pandemic that the aspiring singer found an outlet on TikTok to not only educate people on his developmental disorder, but to share a mix of humor and music to promote a sense of positivity that the world desperately needed.
Of course, music has long served as an outlet for the New Jersey native, who was considered non-verbal until the age of 4 years old. He grew up on the musical sounds of legends such as Stevie Wonder and Journey, and in the fourth grade, he started doing theatre.
"I always wanted to be in a school play as a kid," Singer remembers. "I kept doing it until people started to notice I could actually sing. I like putting myself out there. It's almost a high when I go on stage."
In 2013, Singer found himself on another stage of sorts, starring on Bravo's singing competition show The Kandi Factory and ultimately winning the grand prize, a song penned by Grammy-winning artist Kandi Burruss entitled "I Can Do Anything."
But it wasn't until 2020 when Singer found himself with a new outlet and a growing fanbase, as he began to share his day-to-day happenings on the almighty TikTok. And in doing so, he found a new way to reach out to others during the often-suffocating days of quarantine.
"It was all very therapeutic to me," he admits, who has been formally releasing music since 2018. "I love to create. It's another one of the reasons I love TikTok. It another kind of high for me. To create content is like a dopamine rush."
And yes, most of that content is darn funny.
"I read Christopher Reeve's book (Still Me) years ago and it always just stuck out to me how it said even in terrible times, there is humor," Singer says quietly.
But humor has a tendency to run its course, even for someone like Singer, who constantly finds himself battling with a slew of challenges in relation to his autism.
"Socially, it is very challenging," admits Singer, who himself contracted COVID last year and had to spend five days in the hospital. "I have a hard time with social cues and knowing when the person is not interested in listening to me anymore. It's odd always being viewed as different. It can be a very lonely place"
And its these real core feelings that are behind the lyrics of "Someone," a song that speaks of Singer's own personal plight to find someone to not only love, but someone who can look past his differences.
"I got very self-reflective when I wrote that song," remembers Singer of the song whose music video premieres coincidentally on World Autism Awareness Day. "I never wrote anything about the struggles I have had with autism. So, I put my thoughts on paper and the melody on paper. Then, I went to bed and then, I woke up and wrote the song."
And now, the sheer power of that song is becoming that much more apparent.
"I don't think about it a lot, but when I do, it's because I get these messages on TikTok from people who say that hearing my story and hearing my music is helping them," he concludes. "It's rewarding to write a song and have so many people get something out of it."
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