After nearly losing his voice, Paul Janeway from St. Paul & The Broken Bones has lots to be thankful for
Lead singer Paul Janeway of St. Paul & The Broken Bones isn’t shy about peacocking on stage.
If his mighty voice isn’t enough to grab your attention -- his whimsical, cape-like outfits certainly will.
But the prospect of never performing again, let alone entertaining crowds in his flamboyant outfits, was in jeopardy after he had an emergency appendectomy in late May.
“The surgery itself was fine. But during the incubation, the balloon on it scratched up against my vocal cords and I was very close to deciding what my next career was going to be,” he said. “It was pretty intense.”
Since then, Janeway has recovered and is touring with his eight-member, Alabama-based rock/soul band. The gang will headline The Freeman Stage in Selbyville on Sunday, July 28.
Can you describe what the balloon was used for?
They put a tube down your throat to put you to sleep. There’s a balloon at the end of it, and going in, the balloon goes down. Once it gets in there, it expands your stomach so they can operate. When they’re done operating, they deflate the balloon and it goes back up past the vocal cords. That’s what I meant about the balloon.
When the balloon scrunched up, it scraped against my vocal cords. What’s weird is I thought I was fine. We played in Chicago. I sang and got through it. I was a little tired. But then that night I was like, “Uh oh, something’s wrong.” We flew to Raleigh and I was trying to sleep it off in Raleigh and it got worse. I was very fortunate to get through it. The surgery itself was fine. It is an invasive surgery, but it’s like the least risky, invasive surgery out there. My stomach and everything was fine. But of all things my vocal cords got scratched.
That's like a photographer who gets arthritis. What can they do at that point?
In my case they should’ve done an epidermal. But it’s an emergency surgery. You don’t have time to say, “Let’s make sure his voice is okay.” I kept telling them, “y'all can chop off my hand. You can chop off my foot. But my voice is the one way of how I make my living.” It was a wild adventure. In the meantime between that, we found out we were opening for the Rolling Stones. I was in the hospital finding that out and was like, "I guess that’s good." It was a wild, wild, time.
What was going through your mind when you learned singing might not be an option anymore?
It was terrifying, because you can’t do something you love doing. It’s weird because you don’t ever want to be controlled by a job. I would like to think I could walk away from this and say, “OK, that was great,” if it was taken away. I don’t think that’d be what I’d do. But you get real contemplative and think about what really has meaning in your life.
What was something you realized that really had meaning in your life?
I’m not very good at maintaining friendships. I’m really bad at it. When you go through stuff like that, you kind of say, “Who are some people [who are important in life?]” So I made a real effort to stay connected to people who I feel like mean a lot in my life, and not necessarily through music, but just in my life.
At the end of the day, I always say this [career] could be taken away with one terrible interview. I don’t think this one is it [laughs], but you know what I’m saying. This can be taken away swiftly. So you want to try to stay grounded and really think about what’s important. With maintaining friendships, I’m just not really good at it. It’s not a skill of mine and it’s been that way since I’ve been a kid.
Where does the inspiration for your wardrobe come from?
It’s a mixture of all sorts of things. For me, it comes from artists I’ve seen in the past to even professional wrestling. It’s all across the board. I think what I don’t want is boring. I want something that’s going to pop. I think it was Dick Clark who said, “If you dress like the audience on stage, you’ll probably be apart of them one day.” There’s also the mindset that I’m wearing an outfit or costume that I’m going to work in. I’m not a grunge person. On any job I’ve ever had, you had to wear a uniform. And that’s what you do. So that’s how I look at it.
It seems like you’ve been wearing a lot of kimono/cape-like outfits lately. What do you call them?
There’s a guy in Nashville that makes these. I don’t know what I’d call them. It’s like a gigantic vest or a cape, sort of. But it’s more expansive than a cape. He’s done clothing for Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. I think I was probably one of his first male clients, which I thought would be interesting and kind of fun. Those [capes] are pretty wild. But like I said, I get tired of doing the same thing over and over again. We did suits for a while, but I felt like it was time for a change.
What’s a fanciful outfit you’d like to wear in the future?
Something that lights up. I think I have a pretty good idea of what the next thing is going to look like. That to me is the fun part of doing this, which is the creating. Whether it be the wardrobe, music or the stage show, all of those things to me are the beauty in all of this. I think that’s where I’m headed. I don’t know exactly what it’ll look like, because I’ll have to get with somebody. But I know a few people and I’m pretty excited about it.