Ok, so I've got only a few moments to throw this little update together for you, because I just recently joined one of the cooler clubs in NYC, I finally have a bicycle up here in my flat, and I am going to ride from Sunset Park in Brooklyn, where I sleep, all the way to Greenwich Village, to the club I work at a few days a week. The place is called Terra Blues, by the way, and is a pretty bad-assed place, the only spot in the Manhattan where you can find real blues music seven nights a week, all year round. But, anyway... I've got my bike, and now it's going to take a little longer to get to work. I'm also getting a little delayed today because I have to get to the pharmacy on Bleecker Street before the doors open at Terra. Why the pharmacy? Well, here's where the "worries" come in.
Over the last couple months, I have noticed a little tenderness in my voice. Not really a strain, but a little weakness. The notes are all there, even the really high ones, and they are pretty strong, mostly, but there is a degraded feeling, in the sense that my vocal stamina has been reduced drastically and, well, my singing as well as my speaking hasn't been up to par. What does this mean? Flash back to a few years ago, and maybe I have mentioned these events here in this blog or not, so I'll break it down to the short story.
Due to acid reflux (yes, stupid-assed acid reflux) burning my esophagus and, in turn, continuing up into my throat and severely burning my vocal chords while I slept, they were in a state of inflammation. They were very sensitive and couldn't stand up to the usual load of work I was giving them. Now, if anyone had heard my singing between 5-10 years ago, they'd remember that I was a belter, a howling crazy person. I was push my chords to the limit with Secret Sound (an old band) or with the Trio (with Josh Zandman and Tommy Anton) and nothing ever happened until the acid started to get to me. Once the burning in my throat started up, and I kept singing as hard as I could as often as I could, damage started to occur.
Fast forward a little bit to when I got my surgery about 4-5 years ago. I am seeing a very good doctor named Gwen Korovin who had done the surgery removing a polyp and a node that had developed. She sorted me out and then sent me off to see an amazing vocal coach/therapist named William Riley. Between the two of them, I was back on my feet, singing where I should have been and, suddenly, I found myself working more than I had ever done on these overseas marathon gigs. I kept up with my acid reflux prevention regiments, taking meds and eating selectively and at the proper times. No more musician's diet consisting of a sausage and cheese omelet without chewing it on a stool at the Ocean Bay Diner at three in the morning. No more overstuffing myself with heartburn-inducing goodies. I had to take care of myself if I was going to keep this all up.
So, fast forward to the last couple months. The regiment is gone and I am not treating myself the way I should be. I have gotten rid of the meds because they were expensive and I didn't really need them any more. Basically, I let myself slip, and luckily for me, it didn't cost me anything. Why? Because I caught things in time...
Feeling a little off, as I had mentioned above, led me back to the doctor. My reflux problem was taken care of, but over the last year or so, my confidence became "overconfidence" and I started to slip in things. Warming up my voice, eating right, sleeping right, etc. to the point that when I sat in the doctor's chair on Monday the camera didn't see anything too alarming like a polyp or a node, things that would cripple me vocally and emotionally, but what we did see were vocal chords that were not happy, ones that were inflamed. My refluxing had returned!
Fortunately, this can be sorted out easily. Spend a few weeks on meds (Nexium worked the last time), eat right, sleep right, relax, the whole thing, which is lucky, because I've got this European tour coming up in less than a month that, honestly, I almost had to pull the plug on. How lame would that be? All these great shows in Germany, as well as some of my first performances in England in years and years, over ten of them at least! All because of overconfidence.
Now, I am back on the right track, riding my old bicycle (which was bought in Nashville years ago and will be getting its own little story here in Chorus and Verse soon) into Manhattan before work to pick up my new Nexium, getting back into a regiment and the whole thing.
The important thing to get out of this is for singers, but also for all musicians and performers. We are not just artists. We are athletes. We need to treat our bodies as athletes do or else they won't work at their highest potential. No joke.
Anyway, on a lighter note, I've caught some really great bands lately. Quincy Mumford and the Reason Why let me sit in with them at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park a couple weeks back and after I got off the stage they played this really cool song called "Feel". It's a new one and I suggest you request it at any of the upcoming shows they are doing.
Finally, I was able to listen to Amos Lee live. A good friend, who's name has graced this blog in the past, Andy Keenan, is playing pedal steel and banjo in his current lineup. They've got some great shows coming up including a tour down under. Amos is a fantastic singer and writer.
Also, I suggest you come out to Terra Blues on a Sunday night sometime in the future to catch Junior Mack and the Pioneers. If you like your blues with a little soul and some killer guitar playing, this is your show. They play every Sunday.
So anyway, this was more than a mouth full. Thanks for reading this whole epic blog. If you've got questions or comments, please get in touch at [email protected]!