SALT LAKE CITY — Merrill Osmond and his son Justin have always been close.
“My son Justin, he has 90% hearing loss. And what he had to face growing up — going to school and the bullying that went on in his life — just drew me really close to him,” Merrill Osmond told the Deseret News in a recent interview.
Through 12 years of speech therapy, Justin Osmond learned to speak and even play several musical instruments. And for the last 15 years, he's traveled the world to help the deaf and hard of hearing through the Starkey Hearing Foundation and, later, the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund, which he launched in 2010. These experiences have led him to a career as a motivational speaker.
“I was the shyest kid in high school. But now I love facing and overcoming my fears and being able to give back as a motivational speaker,” Justin Osmond said. “I used to be socially awkward growing up because of my deaf accent. I was always so worried; I wanted to sound normal, like everybody else. So I want everybody to know we’ve all got fears, we all have limitations … but we also have potential.”
Most recently Justin Osmond and his father, who has faced his own challenges in the entertainment industry, are sharing their uplifting stories and messages in “Sound Advice,” a new video podcast in collaboration with KSL. The bite-sized episodes air weekly and give the dynamic father-son duo a chance to strengthen each other as well as their listeners.
“I suffer with a lot of anxiety and depression, (and) we have a brother who has (multiple sclerosis), so we’ve talked about that,” Merrill Osmond said. “We basically just talk about things that have been going on in our lives that might be able to help someone.”
“There’s a lot of people out there that are feeling very hopeless. (The podcast) is all about trying to lift the soul,” Justin Osmond said. “We believe that if we can make ourselves vulnerable, it gets others to do the same.”
The lead singer of the Osmonds, Merrill Osmond has struggled with anxiety and depression throughout his life, but until the podcast, it’s been hard for him to talk about those issues in his extensive career.
“We believe there’s a destiny to everything, and I think this podcast is one of those little things that happened at the right time,” he said. “I’m 66 years old. I’m looking at another few years, and then I’m going to be pretty well out of the (entertainment) business. So this is the perfect time for me to be able to speak about the things I’ve been through.”
Watching his father tackle these issues head-on while working in the entertainment industry has been a source of strength for Justin Osmond, who over the years has developed the motto, “I may have hearing loss, but hearing loss doesn’t have me.”
“I’ve always admired and respected my dad,” he said. “And I’ve always loved watching him perform.”
The feeling is mutual.
“As his dad, to see (Justin Osmond) hold an audience like he does, with his stories and what he’s personally been through, is just amazing,” Merrill Osmond said. “It’s been a joy … and we hope that this will last quite a long time, so we’re able to tell the kind of stories we’d like to tell.”
“Our goal is to bring a message of hope and to let (people) realize we’re just normal people. We have our own set of problems … but here are some remedies and some solutions that we’ve done that have helped us,” Justin Osmond said. “And hopefully, they will help and we can make a difference to the people that may be watching and listening to this podcast.”