Back in March we reported on the problems Russell Moore was having with laryngitis, and how he had brought Dustin Pyrtle in to help sing his parts with IIIrd Tyme Out. His doctor had put him on complete vocal rest to overcome severely swollen and inflamed vocal chords, and he spent almost two months without singing or speaking.
But all is well now, and Russell tells us that he is back singing, and more confident about his voice than he has been in many years.
“I’m feeling good right now. We were just in Driftwood, TX at the Old Settlers Music festival, and I felt as strong those two days singing as I ever have. It was a good boost for me to realize that the doctor was right and no permanent damage was done, and now I’m looking forward to the rest of the year. I had been dreading pour tour schedule when I was dealing the laryngitis, seeing how busy we are this year, but now I can’t wait to get out there and sing.”
Speaking on the phone yesterday, Moore’s voice was relaxed and smooth as he talked about his lifelong battles with allergies, the ordeal of staying mute for weeks, and the regimen of treatment he’s taking on to prevent a recurrence.
“January was a really busy month for us, and an important one with all the Cracker Barrel media events. I was singing a lot, and talking a lot in interviews. Before my voice completely went, I had a few weeks of profuse coughing. I don’t know if it was from a cold that wouldn’t let go, or allergies of some sort.
I’d had this problems a few years back, but it wasn’t as bad as it was this time. It was all the same symptoms, and would get better during the week when I was off. When I’d go out to sing, the first day would be OK, but after that it would go right back to laryngitis.
It took a long time to heal up because I needed constant rest – weeks of rest – and that was scary. I was afraid that I had done some sort of permanent damage, but my ENT assured me that there were no polyps. I even watched the screen when he did the scope. The top third to a quarter of my vocal chords were red. They looked like raw meat.
The doctor said the chords were really swollen, especially on the left side. They needed to go through a healing process to get back to normal – scab over and then heal. He told me that I would just have to be quiet for a while, and I told him that I was a professional singer, and depended on being able to sing. And that other people depended on me too.
Matter of factly my ENT said, ‘You can be quiet for a few weeks, or you can look for something else to do for a living.’ Man… that hit hard.”
So quiet it was, starting in mid-January. No talking or singing – not even whistling.
Russell said that Dustin was a quick study, and between he and IIIrd Tyme Out bassist Edgar Loudermilk switching around vocal parts, the band was able to make all their commitments. Moore could just play guitar and smile.
“It was very difficult to not talk. I carried a pad and pen and used it when I needed to. But when I felt the need, and I couldn’t write fast enough, I did actually talk enough to get my thoughts across to everyone.
I went through 2 steroid packs, and two steroid shots in my hip, to aid in getting the swelling down.
I used to take allergy shots years ago. I’ve been off of them for a while, but the last couple of years I’ve noticed it was getting worse. So after this last round with laryngitis, I decided to go ahead and get retested. I had two nurses in there, one on each arm, injecting potential allergens just under my skin. They kept saying, ‘Wow… oh my gosh… are you feeling OK?’ because I was lit up. Almost every thing they tested for came up positive.
They gave me a steroid shot before I left the office, fearing I would have an asthmatic reaction to the testing.
The doc wanted me to come in twice a week for shots, but there was no way I could keep that schedule – some weeks I wouldn’t be able to make even one. So he prescribed serums I can take as sublingual drops under teh ton due, and I’m starting that today.
I’m also taking a new nose spray with antihistamines and steroids which I use twice a day, and Singulair until I get up to the maintenance level on the drops.
But it seems to be working. Normally, when the Bradford pear tree in my yard blooms, I have several days of itchy, watery eyes and sneezing. So far this year, no allergy problems at all. A couple weeks ago, we had a pollen count in Atlanta over 8,000. Everything was coated with pollen, but I was fine. They have absolutely done the job.”
The first time Russell tried to sing with the band was at the Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival in late March, and he said that he got off to a rough start.
“The first half of the first verse my voice was popping and cracking. It sounded like a big block engine that had been running around town and needed to be blown out. But every show since my voice has gotten better and stronger every time I hit the stage.”
And just in time. IIIrd Tyme Out is scheduled this weekend at MerleFest and the Family Style Bluegrass Music Festival in Roxboro, NC, with next week bringing shows at HoustonFest, Mr. B’s and the Boxcar Pinion festival.
Thinking back over this brief bout with silence, Moore reflected…
“One thing’s for sure, I learned a good lesson. Abusing anything with your body is just not worth it.”
You can keep up with Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out’s schedule on their official web site.