Shuffle: New Album Marks Continued Healing for Shelby Olive After Voice Injury

May 23, 2019

Northeast Ohio singer-songwriter Shelby Olive is releasing her second album since she overcame vocal cord damage that nearly ended her music career five years ago. 

"Bad For Me" comes out May 31 and continues a comeback for the 23-year-old Stow native. 

Olive started singing when she was a teenager with a ukulele, posting covers of her favorite artists to YouTube. Last June, she posted a video of a song she wrote begging LeBron James to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It's amassed 83,000 views on Facebook.

'Writing lyrics and ideas became all I could do without being able to sing them'

Losing her voice
She was working on her own music while she was a student at Kent State University when she learned she had vocal cord damage. It happened during high school when she was playing "Captain Hook" in a speech and debate performance of "Peter Pan." It went undetected for several years. 

"I did this horrible, raspy attack voice like gravel. The piece was 10 minutes, but I performed it four times every Saturday and at least five times a week practicing for a whole year," Olive said.

In 2015, she had surgery on her vocal cords. 

"I could not talk for a full month. I had to use a whiteboard when I communicated with people and also an app that I would text to speech," she said. "I started therapy, and it was another two months before I could talk reguarly. Writing lyrics and ideas became all I could do without being able to sing them."  

Learning to take care of her instrument
This past year, Olive got a full-time K-5 teaching position, which she says has caused a little bit of voice damage. 

"I've been doing therapy for the past four months, which involves larynx massages and techniques to rest and help my voice heal," she said.

'I've had to pull back and become a new singer again, which is strange after singing since I was 12'

But she says it doesn't really affect her singing.

"It's really my talking voice. When I sing, I have learned good technique, but when I talk, especially when you're in charge of children, you're talking louder than you're used to. I've had to start teaching exclusively on a microphone," she said.

Olive says she's had to re-learn how to sing, working with Kent State's vocal teacher, Tim Culver.

"So much of what I was doing was compensating for the damage. So I was overworking my muscles. I've had to pull back and become a new singer again, which is strange after singing since I was 12," she said.

Since her recovery, Olive released "Make Sound" in 2018. Next week, "Bad For Me" comes out. She says she feels like she's finding her sound. 

"It's got a lot more heavy, pop-rock vibes. I don't know if it's a real genre, but I would classify it as musical theater pop," she said.

Her monthly tip jar
Olive is using the site Patreon to help support her music career. Fans of her music can sign up to make monthly financial contributions. In turn, they get exclusive content or merchandise. 

"I call it a monthly tip jar. For $1 a month, my patrons get a demo that's unreleased of something I'm working on. They get to hear it before it's released," she said. "Then there are higher tiers. It's a way for me to give back to my audience that's supporting me and also have a little bit more of an income. "

She plays an album release show next Friday at Musica in Akron.