Six years ago, the band, “Army of Me,” was reaching fans around the world with a hit song, “Going Through Changes,” off a new album on a major label.
It seemed like a bright future awaited the Washington, DC, band. But in reality, it was all just about to fall apart.
Lead singer and songwriter Vince Scheuerman says the band worked hard to build a following and got the notice of a major label and manager. Their album was set to be released in April 2007.
But just a few weeks before, as the band was performing at the music festival South by Southwest in Austin, Tex., Scheuerman noticed he was having trouble with his voice. By the time they left Texas, it was gone.
His doctor would diagnose him with a polyp on his vocal chords.
"It's basically like a blister," he says. "Your voice is totally messed up. Literally, there was nothing I could do. Physically my voice wasn't there."
He was ordered to take six weeks off from singing, a frustrating recommendation given the record was coming out and the band had to do promote it.
"Radio interviews and TV shows we were supposed to play on...we had to cancel all that," he says.
It would go from bad to worse. One night, Scheuerman sneezed - and broke a blood vessel. It caused a vocal hemorrhage.
"You never think that a sneeze could be that dangerous," he says. "A hemorrhage could be a career-ending thing. If you keep pushing or do anything while it's bruised like that, you can permanently mess up your voice."
His doctor warned him if ever wanted to sing again, he wouldn't be able to talk, sing or even whisper for a month.
"It was really confusing like, 'Really?' I worked this hard to get to this point where it feels like my dream is about to come true and right then the rug got pulled out," he says.
Surgery followed, along with more rest time and rehab. Army of Me tried to play shows, but Scheuerman's voice just wasn't there.
In the summer of 2008, "people started to lose faith," Scheuerman says.
"I had band members quit, our manager decided to let us go..or let me go, really, the label dropped us," he says. "At the end of that process, I was really just left on my own with, 'Man, now what?'"
It was a dark time; Scheuerman doubted whether he'd ever be able to sing again, let alone make a career with music. But a few good friends and supporters encouraged him to keep going.
"It didn't feel to me inside that it was time to stop," he says. "It's a funny thing, this whole music thing, it's like something that you kind of can't imagine life without it."
He later hooked up with a group of musician friends and together they played under the name "River James," for which Scheuerman wrote songs. Although it was over almost as soon as it began, Scheuerman says it was a good outlet for what he was going through.
But when these band members parted ways, Scheuerman was left once again on his own, and he began toying with the idea of going solo.
Surprisingly, he also decided to sing again under the "Army of Me" name.
"I used to think of 'Army of Me' as 'I can make my dreams come true if I work hard enough and I'm talented enough, and I can make it happen. I'm an army and I can do it,'" he says. "But when I saw a lot of stuff that was out of my control, I didn't believe that anymore...Then, I think about all the friends and supporters who kept me going, and then I thought, 'Wow, Army of Me - it's me, but I have this army of people around me, who support me, and they're part of my army.'"
Scheuerman's just released a new album called "Searching for You" as Army of Me. It includes songs like "Modern Times," "White Flag Flies," and "In My Blood."
He recently played a house concert in Milwaukee, and hopes to be back in the area soon.