When life seems to turn and conspire against, what is it that makes some people fight on and others surrender? Some would say faith, some would say personal belief and others would say pride. I happen to think it comes down to determination, will and desire. I also happen to think those three facets are what make up the human spirit.  

This past weekend I spoke with singer/songwriter Robin Stone. Her particular story is one that is steeped in a near lifetime of adversity, yet for the many, many times it would have been so easy to roll over and surrender, Robin endured. Simply put, her story is a testament to an indomitable spirit that will not quit.

“I just grew up in your typical chaotic, broken home,” Stone said of her Cleveland childhood. “My father left when I was eight or nine, they got divorced, mom was an alcoholic and she passed away when I was fairly young. We grew up with not a lot of money and it was just a situation where there wasn’t a lot of family to depend on.”

Then Robin found music, but initially, even this seemed to be stacked against her. “I first wanted to play violin, but you had to buy one of those and it wasn’t something we could afford but the school had a couple of cellos and I could basically borrow one of theirs so that was how that happened,” she said.

In college Stone picked up guitar and once melded with her writing poetry (her self-described “artistic coping mechanism”) songs began to come out. At the time she was studying pre-med and the defining moment came when she was faced with the decision to pursue music or become a doctor. And though she finished school with a degree in kinesiology, ultimately music won out.

Fast forward through a storied music career to May of 2008. Following months of hoarseness, Stone realized something more was going on with her voice. She tried to sing through it. A battery of tests at Cleveland Clinic rendered a diagnosis of a very rare auto immune disease called Sjogrens, in January of 2009, and that she had a tumor on her vocal cord, earlier thought only a cyst. “They told me there wasn’t a cure for it and I just wasn’t on board with that so I started looking into alternative medicine routes. It has been a long road but it seems to be working,” Stone said. “This had developed into an illness that kept me from doing even basic day to day things.   I knew I was in bad shape. After that I went through a lot of voice rest, IV treatments and natural detox supplements to try to control the environment in my body so they could see what they were dealing with. They said if they decided to do surgery on my throat at the time, it would have ended my career. I just took it with a grain of salt and decided to see what happened with alternative medicine. But since the alternative treatments I haven’t had it physically scoped yet, but other tests indicate that it’s gone, which is phenomenal. The environment in my throat is supposedly good, I am waiting for the rest of me to catch up.”

Though still hoarse at the time of the interview, Stone was coming off a show the night before and gearing up for one at the House of Blues that night. She said of her current vocal state: “The swelling has gone down a good bit and last night I did OK. Tonight’s set will only be about an hour and a half so I should be fine. I hope by next week I could be OK with a three-hour set and I hope to just keep improving from there.”

Amidst several setbacks (band and studio changes, health issues) Stone is finally hard promoting her latest outing, Bad Girl, 15-tracks of neo-soul, R&B and pop that Stone terms “summertime, feel-good music.” She went on to say: “The album spans three to four different genres, but it definitely helped us take the next step toward where we are heading now…but I think I see it as a precursor to good times and better times certainly health-wise and musically-wise.”

Despite the personal victories of the album’s release and her improved health, it is again Stone’s spirit that won’t allow her to rest on her laurels. Even facing a relentless tour schedule, studio time for new material and her ever-present health concerns, she can still muster the determination, will and desire to do what she loves most.

“Definitely performing,” she said. “The stage is my home and performing is where my heart is.”

Indomitable spirit indeed.    

By: Chris West –

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