In 2013 I attended my first Treefort Music Fest in Boise, Idaho. It was the second year of the legendary music festival and utterly unforgettable, including the frigid temperatures. In what would become my favorite discovery of that year’s festival, I made my way through the packed house at Tom Grainey’s to catch the set from Boise’s own Stoneseed. At the front of the stage, sharing vocals were Ty Clayton and Lindsey Hunt. The harmonies and presence were intoxicating. Interwoven with the acoustic stomp, it was a string-driven, organic sound unlike anything I’d heard.
Six years later, after the gypsy jazz that was Stoneseed faded from the light (but not our hearts), the sound gave way to Lindsey Hunt’s highly anticipated ten-track debut record Images. The stunning, “visceral experience and cerebral arrangement” was met with an intimately memorable live show at the Visual Arts Collective in Garden City.
Shortly after the release of Images and the album release show, while driving home, Lindsey Hunt experienced an event that would change her forever; what she calls her first “attack.” A loud ringing noise in her left ear made her immediately dizzy and unable to drive. Calling her husband, she went to the urgent care and was immediately sent to the emergency room. Coupled with the feelings of a panic attack and fear she was having a stroke, the emergency room medical staff noticed she had nystagmus of the left eye. Her left eye was not tracking things as it should, which was directly impacting her inner ear canal. It is believed there was a rupture in the cochlear organ or a weakness of the membrane that caused this initial event. The fallout was months of panic attacks for Hunt. Her brain was unable to make sense of what was happening.
Lindsey was bed bound for three weeks after the first episode. Unable to drive for the first month, it took her brain time to attempt to recover and create a “new normal.” Through May of 2020 she attempted to live with the change, believing and hoping it would resolve itself on its own, but resolution wouldn’t come. Describing it as a feeling akin to “being under water” and a loud ringing in her ears, the change exhausted her and she experienced unexplained vision issues.
By the time Lindsey sought help, the COVID-19 pandemic had consumed the world. Self-advocating for her health she sought an ENT in June of 2020. It was at this point the doctor believed she may have Meniere’s Disease. Meniere’s is a rare disorder/disease and symptoms occur when endolymph, a fluid in the inner ear, builds up and disrupts the process the body uses to manage balance and hearing. While doctors still don’t fully understand why the endolymph levels rise, the endolymph is a translator. It interprets outside airwaves and sends signals to your brain and inner ear that allow you to hear and maintain balance. Excess endolymph in the inner ear can cause the signals directing hearing and balance to become scrambled where the brain struggles to manage. Efforts to elaborate on the cause and severity of her Meniere’s resulted in almost immediate changes to diet and lifestyle. No alcohol, no sugar, no caffeine, and limited sodium intake were immediately implemented.
Meniere’s is a lifelong diagnosis that will leave Lindsey Hunt with continued hearing loss and diet changes, requiring her to manage her electrolytes and monitor for potential bilateral symptoms. While it isn’t certain where it comes from, she believes it may be related to a virus. Going back to the album release show of Images, those in attendance will recall she was not feeling well that night. Though not entirely sure, she believes she taxed her nervous system at the release and this may have played a role in her diagnosis revealing itself. The virus she had may have caused the initial weakness or ruptured part of the cochlear organ.
As 2020 progressed, with the change in diet and the addition of physical therapy for the inner ear, the results were not coming. Hearing tests showed a 29% loss in her left ear. COVID shutdowns in place and frustrations mounting, she went back to her primary care physician in mid-2021, attempting to consolidate the litany of tests and findings, seeking a path forward.
In August of 2021 Lindsey saw Dr. Eric Wilkinson, a NeuroENT versed in the struggles of Meniere’s patients. Review of the tests revealed Hyperactive Meniere’s which presents itself in an opposite way from traditional Meniere’s. Her right ear was working overtime to compensate for equilibrium issues and sound sensitivity.
The constant struggle of attempting to convey specifics of the unknown brought about frustration and confusion as the tests were not lining up. She did everything she could to communicate to the professionals, but the weight of self-advocating for one’s medical took a heavy toll. The test results showed the opposite of what she had been describing. The relief came when, by the time she met Dr. Wilkinson, she had a diagnosis within two minutes. A relief overcame her and “a wall of energy [released] at that appointment…I almost cried.”
Throughout the taxing process-of-elimination/if-then search for a diagnosis, the stress was, understandably, taking a toll on Lindsey’s mental wellbeing and strength. Diagnosis in hand and orders to take Betahistine, vitamin B2, and magnesium glycinate supplements, as well dietary restrictions, the results began to take shape and a new sense normalcy was on the horizon. As she puts it “I have vestibular and ocular migraines that are coupled with the Hyperactive Meniere’s disease which means I can hear heartbeat-like sounds in my inner ear canal and I also have issues with my vision being impacted where everything looks like a giant blob, or sometimes I see things that look like they are floating dots in my eye. These all happen if I stray from my diet, don’t take my supplements, don’t manage my stress and sleep levels, barometric pressure shifts affect me, and fire season is brutal. There are times still where I can’t drive because for whatever reason my ears decide we are going to have a day where we feel out of balance. Sometimes Meniere’s attacks just happen even if I do follow my strict regimen to a T. I have the feeling that my left ear is under water all of the time, constant ringing in the ears, sometimes there are those ‘sonic boom’ feelings that rotate between both of my ears, my vision gets blurry, my brain feels fatigued from equilibrium management, visual input like strobing lights make me dizzy, crazy patterns make me dizzy. I had to actually redo my entire house to bring it down visually and I am a human that loves pattern. I don’t drive on the freeway because I can’t manage peripheral cars moving past me at high speeds…just to name a few of the symptoms that I manage on a daily basis. It is a sensory changing diagnosis!”
In April of 2020, as things were moving slowly around the world, Lindsey began collaborative work with friend and fellow musician Naomi Psalm. Under the moniker Gretch N Rodgers and an album began to take shape. Finding solace in the quiet retreat of her garden the duo practiced together in an isolated safe space. Short practices, including full drums and bass began to impact Lindsey, leaving her exhausted at the outset. The unreleased album was recorded, but not yet released. Only a few singles have seen the light of day so far with a full-digital release slated sometime in the future.
In June of 2021 live performances began to take shape once more. Sets over the course of the Summer and Fall left Lindsey realizing the volume of the shows and strobing lights were an atmosphere she could not manage. Stepping off stage she felt drained and mentally taxed. One of the toughest performances was at Treefort Music Fest in September 2021 where, by the end of the set, she rushed off stage, packed up her instrument, and had a friend drive her immediately home. Her nervous system was on overdrive from the lights and sounds of the performance. Several days later, as she began to feel back to a manageable level, the very real question of whether or not she’d play live again came to the forefront. The surreal experience from the performance, where she was physically present, but mentally absent, left her wondering “why am I doing this?” and “I am never going to perform again after this…I can’t keep doing this to myself.” She was “watching [herself] from outside and knew that [she] could not continue in the same way.” This was the beginning of the end of Lindsey Hunt’s desire to perform.
After the Treefort 2021 performance Lindsey stopped playing gigs. She was left to spend a great deal of time soul searching. This coincided with the hearing tests that would show significant loss in her left ear. She was left feeling lost and depression began to set in. There was no appeal in releasing music or performing.
Then, in the Spring of 2022, while playing her violin, Lindsey ended up writing a song that tugged at the desire to record. With the help of friend and musical visionary Steve Fulton, the path to self-production started to take shape. Tracking a demo in Garage Band, shifted into Logic for capability reasons. The first song titled “Psychic Entropy” came to be. Experimenting in the logistics of production, finding low volume and headphones gave her a path to guide her musical vision, the crossroads of passion and conscious wellbeing finally came together. Mixing distorted beats to resemble how she felt in her “new world,” she found a calm, soothing experience that held true to who she was as a musician and who she could be as a human being. Piano and keyboard controller affected the violin pizzicato “loops,” pairing with beats and bass built in Logic. Framed in what became her home studio, Rob Hill contributed bass for five of the new songs that were working their way toward a new album. Steve Fulton worked on overall EQ at Audio Lab before mastering the album. Explored several times over before settling on a production direction, “Psychic Entropy” would become “If You Make It Out,” the second track of her new album I’m Fine…It’s Fine (self-released 2023).
On April 14, 2023 Lindsey Hunt performed I’m Fine…It’s Fine live at the Visual Arts Collective in Garden City, Idaho to a packed house. Utilizing noise-cancelling headphones and a vastly different setup than she was used to, the process once again became the passion.
Of her journey, Lindsey Hunt says “Our bodies and minds are adaptive. I have to listen a little more intently when my body is telling me something, and I have to honor it when it gives me boundaries. My body has become a barometer for boundaries. I say ‘no’ to more than I say ‘yes’ and it’s not from negative feelings towards anyone, it’s because I am listening to my body’s innate messages and honoring when it says ‘no.’” She describes the new album like a relationship. A relationship of her mind and body, to herself. She continues to learn how to be kind to her inner thoughts and words, knowing she has the power to change those thoughts and rewire them for her own well-being. It isn’t a disease or disorder to Lindsey Hunt; it is a shift in consciousness. Confidently, and rightfully so, she reflects “I can still create, I just have to adapt, create and perform in new ways.”