Yeah, it’s a daily thing. It’s not something that they can really cure because it’s a neurological problem. It’s a partial paralysis on the one side. When I was diagnosed with it, they told me that most people never really sing again, or they don’t sing the way they used to. It’s not really curable, but the only way to combat it is through vocal training and you have to work with speech pathologists and also voice teachers and vocal coaches for the singing aspect of it. So yeah, it’s a daily thing, an hour to two hours every day of training. If I slack on that at all it goes backward pretty quickly.
It seems like you could risk over-stressing your good vocal cord in trying to just maintain the stamina of the bad one.
I’ve had six surgeries just to repair collateral damage, from—you put it very well—just forcing or overdoing it. So I’ve had six surgeries to repair hemorrhages and cysts and all kinds of things that have happened as a result of that. I was diagnosed with it in ’91 and it’s just been an ongoing battle. In recent years it’s been a roller coaster ride, honestly, until about three or four years ago when I started working with a vocal coach named Ron Anderson who really taught me a whole different way to support my voice and how to find those right muscles and how to train those and tune those and get the other ones out of the way. That’s the real trick, the training, because there’s a lot of different ways to produce sound. If you’re not exercising the right muscles you’re just spinning your wheels. Unfortunately it’s hard to find those because they’re the weakest ones.
Was there a moment when you consciously thought that you would not sing again?
I think when I was first diagnosed with it I was in denial and I didn’t want to accept that it was a condition that they just couldn’t give me a pill [for] or perform a surgery and fix…. I wanted someone to tell me that it was something that they could fix. Obviously, when you go to every major specialist in the country and they’re all telling you, “This is your situation,” eventually you accept it.