Tony Craig remembers the night everything changed for his family.
In 2003, Craig, a musician who has been rooted in Fresno for close to 40 years, was wrapping up his performance around 2 a.m. at The Bar off Gettysburg Avenue, when the bartender called him over and said there was a call for him.
On the other end was his wife Jill, who frantically informed Craig that his son, Seth, had a seizure.
“I didn’t even really understand what that entailed, but I can just remember being terrified,” Tony said. “I told the guys in my band that I needed to leave and go to the hospital.”
When Tony arrived at the hospital, he found out what happened to his son, who was 9 years old at the time. In his sleep, Seth had a grand mal seizure, which is caused by abnormal electrical activity throughout the brain and creates a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions. He was diagnosed with epilepsy.
“I remember just waking up and there being an ambulance outside and guys putting me on a stretcher,” Seth said. “I couldn’t move my body and talk.”
It changed the course of his life.
At school, he wasn’t allowed to hang out with his friends during recess. Seth started taking medication and seeing a neurologist, and he said he dreaded spending the night at other people’s homes because of the fear of having a seizure in his sleep.
“I didn’t want my friends to see me ever have a seizure. I was almost embarrassed of it,” Seth said.
Despite the medication, the seizures continued to happen yearly. Tony and Jill Craig were desperate for answers from doctors. At the age of 13, Seth had his fifth seizure. His parents were waiting at Valley Children’s Hospital when the doctor attending Seth pulled them aside and asked Tony if he played music.
The question caught Tony off guard and even irritated him, he said. He wanted answers about his son’s health and felt like the question was irrelevant to the situation. The doctor calmed him down and let him know that music could help with Seth’s conditions.
“She started to explain to me how music can reconnect the pathways that are misfiring,” Tony said.
Tony now remembers that moment being the night everything changed for his family, this time for the better.
From the moment Seth was born, music was part of his life. When Tony took Seth to any music store as a baby, Seth was the center of attention. When Tony’s band rehearsed in the garage, Seth was held by his father while he played guitar. When Tony’s band had a gig, Seth was there to help set up for the performance.
However, Seth said he really didn’t have an interest in pursuing music the way his dad did.
“I didn’t want to play music at all, mainly because that was like what dad did and I wanted to do something different,” Seth said. “I really didn’t have an interest in it all.”
But around the time of his fifth seizure, some of Seth’s friends started a band and asked him to play bass. Seth didn’t know how to play any instruments, so he hesitated.
The answer soon became clear to him. After Tony was told the potential benefits of music from the doctor, he went to Guitar Center and bought Seth a bass to play in the band.
“I brought the bass home and I said, ‘You’re going to have to learn how to read music, and you’re gonna have to learn some theoretical concepts, or I’m not going to let you play,’” Tony said.
Seth hasn’t had a seizure since. Both father and son agree that music saved Seth’s life.
“Music was honestly the first thing that I ever did that really [uses] like the 110% of my brain, and it still does,” Seth said. “If I hadn’t had epilepsy, I probably would not have played music. I don’t think I would have connected with it as well as I did.”
Seth, who graduated from Fresno State in 2019 with a bachelor’s in business, went from playing the bass to also singing and songwriting. After his teen years, during which he was a part of two different bands, Seth was left wanting more after his goal of dropping a record came up short.
He took matters into his own hands as he started performing as a solo artist by the stage name Charlie Steady, which Seth said originates from people comparing him to “Peanuts” protagonist Charlie Brown for his calm and steady behavior.
Now, that same kid who described himself as shy and introverted, and was at one time isolated for his own safety, is dropping music on streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and BandCamp, while also performing in front of crowds as small as 10 people and as big as 2,000 people.
Tony also used his experience with Seth to help other people as an instructor at Guitar Center, where he sometimes worked with people who had experienced similar struggles with epilepsy, autism or blindness.
“I was amazed that people approached me after a month or two of lessons and said that a student has improved in these other areas of their life,” Tony said. “After teaching for three and a half years at Guitar Center, I really changed my mind about the power that it has on a spiritual component.”
Seth achieved his goal of dropping a record in 2018 with the release of “Tenderfoot,” an album about a young, inexperienced person trying to figure out who they are. Recently, he has dropped four singles to help promote his second album, “Magpie.” His next single, “Once Upon a Time I Fell in Love,” with b-side “Out of Control Pathos,” will be released on May 13 via streaming platforms.
“For me, something that started out as a way to help with epilepsy as a kid ended up becoming an integral part of my life, and a way for me to express myself creatively and communicate with others,” he said. “Good things can sometimes come from difficult life events.”