Dec 2020 Metro
Ever since she was a little girl Zoe Nutt, from Nashville, Tennessee, has always wanted to be a singer. But faced with progressive deafness from the age of eight, she was convinced her disability meant her dream career was out-of-reach. Now, aged 27, Zoe may be almost completely deaf but she’s also celebrating the launch of her second studio album after overcoming her hearing loss to fulfil her dream of having a career in music. She finished her new album How Does It Feel despite waking up completely deaf halfway through recording it.
Her hearing never came back, so in a bid to save her career Zoe hit pause on recording her album to have a surgically implanted hearing device fitted. However, whilst the device, a cochlear implant, did allow her to hear sounds again it, also meant Zoe had to re-learn how to hear. Songwriter, Zoe, said: ‘I had my heart set on being a singer so when I woke up and was unable to hear, my whole world came crashing down on me. ‘I always thought I wouldn’t let my hearing get in my way but when I went into the studio completely deaf, I felt lost. I couldn’t even hear my guitar if it was right up to my ear. ’It wasn’t the first time this has happened, I have had several episodes where I’d wake up and realise I’d lost a chunk of my hearing but this was the worst, it was stopping me from doing what I want to do. ‘After I had the surgery I had to re-learn how to hear all over again. I am mostly deaf now but the cochlear implant helps me to hear sounds, so a lot changed with my singing after that. ‘I don’t hear like normal people and there are still some sounds that I still can’t hear. So when I’m recording there are parts of the music that I have no idea what they sound like. ‘I just have to trust people who tell me it sounds good and trust myself to make the music.’
Zoe, who has sensorineural hearing loss, says she has struggled with the condition for as long as she can remember. She went completely deaf in her right ear at the age of eight and as she grew up regularly experience episodes of extreme hearing loss that lasted up to a month at a time. Zoe had surgery in 2018 to have a cochlear implant fitted.
But Zoe didn’t let this stop her from following her passion for music. She studied classical voice singing in college before completing a major in songwriting. ‘Growing up being a professional singer seemed way out of reach for me’, said Zoe. ‘I saw it as an untouchable career path even though I loved music from an early age. ‘I decided that I wanted to be a songwriter and perform my songs when I was in college despite the frustration I had with my hearing. When something bad happens to me and effects what I want to do, it just makes me want to do it even more. I have never wanted to let my hearing get in my way, that has always been my attitude.’ Zoe wrote her very first music whilst at college and whilst battling frequent episodes of hearing loss. She released her first album, Like You, at the age of 23 in 2016 before finishing her studies. It was when she graduated and started working on her second and hopefully breakthrough album in 2018 that her hearing problems got so bad they put her life’s work so far in jeopardy.
Speaking to Metro.co.uk from her home in Nashville, Zoe said: ‘I was in the middle of the recording process, and suddenly, overnight, I lost a huge amount of my hearing. ‘There was one month where I essentially couldn’t hear anything at all. It was terrifying. ‘I went to see my doctor and that’s when I realised I could be on a timeline moving towards total hearing loss. My best choice was to get the cochlear implant surgery in my right ear and wear a hearing aid in my left. ‘A lot changed after that. I had to change the way I hear and change the way I made music.‘When I got back into the studio I realised that what I was hearing was different to what everyone else was hearing. I had to learn to put a lot of trust in my classical music training, the vocal techniques I had learned and the people around me.’ A cochlear implant is a ‘robotic ear’ that bypasses the normal acoustic hearing process to replace it with electric signals which directly stimulate the auditory nerve. It has a microphone, a speech processor and a transmitter and artificially produces sound for the ear.Without it Zoe may not have been able to finish her latest album, she said. How Does It Feel was released in July following its turbulent two-year production. The 10-track record was inspired by Zoe’s experiences of loss, discovery and and hope. Unable to tour due to the coronavirus pandemic, Zoe says she has been busy writing music once again and has begun work on her follow-up album. Zoe’s album ‘How Does It Feel’ were inspired by her experiences with hearing loss
She’s hopeful of being able to hit the road with her band in 2021 if US coronavirus restrictions allow. Zoe added that she hopes her story will inspire other aspiring musicians to follow their dreams regardless of whatever hurdles stand in their way. She said: ‘I was low on confidence growing up but despite what people might thing, I have shown it is possible. ‘I tried to see it as a fun challenge to be even more creative. ‘I don’t tend me see myself as an inspiration but if I can inspire some people then I’d be proud of that.’