The band PrettyMouth quit playing from October 2016 until March 2017, in part because Marie Litton, the group's lead singer, was suffering from complications with her scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that can cause debilitating pain if untreated.
“I’ve had it my whole life. I probably should’ve gotten a lot more attention for it when I was a young child, but I think that, you know, my parents aren’t 100 percent there. They got divorced. My whole childhood is just a giant mess, and I don’t think that was a huge concern."
When asked how bad it is, she’s blunt: “Like, I’ve lost...I don’t even wanna play music anymore. That’s horrible. If that’s all I care about, and I don’t wanna do that. Fuck, I need help.”
Litton has been a recognizable face in the Denver music scene for seventeen years. Lately, she says, “I feel a bit pushed to the side, like there’s so many new people here, and I have to fight for my place.”
Add to that her health issues: “I had had all these other health problems, probably because of the scoliosis. Once I became kind of an adult, I was like, ‘My back, like, ‘"Am I dying? Do other people’s backs feel this bad?" And it was so awful and I didn’t know what to do. Doctors were like, ‘Oh, yeah, you have scoliosis. Go to a chiropractor.’”
The effect it’s having on her body is profound. “I just found out this month that I have it in my upper and lower back. The upper is smashing my lungs...so I can’t breathe properly, and my stomach doesn’t work properly. My lower back is smashing my intestines. My tailbone is blocking my intestines. I’ve had so many digestive problems. I weighed 84 pounds at one point; I thought I was dying. My tailbone and my lower back is just smashing my intestines and my ovaries.”
Litton wanted to quit it all. “It just became this monster. I’m just drinking and just a mess, because what else am I going to do?" she says.
Less and less interested in working on music and unable to function as a bartender at the Goosetown Tavern, she finally found a solution.
“I’m just throwing money away on chiropractors. The chiro that I was going to left out of town. He moved, and I was like, ‘I have to find somebody that is actually willing to get to the bottom of this, because I can’t live like this anymore.’”
A friend she serendipitously met suggested Dr. Jennifer DenBleyker, a chiropractor with a history of successfully treating scoliosis, a disorder for which there is no known cure,
DenBleyker is confident and Litton is hopeful that with steady treatments, she'll be healthy. “Um, probably [with] a year [of treatment], I’ll probably still have to go get adjusted, but I think that I’m gonna be pain-free. I don’t know what this is like, but [DenBleyker] thinks that I’m going to live pain-free.”
She's about to go through an expensive, five-day-a-week program: maintaining chiropractic appointments, spinal treatments, muscle work, sustaining her life till she’s able to fully return to work again. She's left wondering who’s going to pay the nearly $3,000 per month she would otherwise earn.
“I was just like, ‘I can’t afford it, I’m gonna die, blegh, I’m just gonna drink,’” Litton remembers feeling. But Drew McClellan, Litton's boyfriend and the lead singer of both Gravity Tapes and Grammar School, had other plans. He refused to accept her decline as inevitable. He said, “People out there care. These GoFundMes work. Your community loves you.”
Litton is obstinate, though. “The thing is, I’m an artist. I don’t ask for anything. It’s so hard for me to ask for anything. I feel punished. I’m like, ‘This is my body. I have to live in it, and it’s my problem. It’s nobody’s freaking problem but mine.’
Finally, McClellan convinced her to raise the money. Between their friends, family, co-workers and random strangers with big hearts and deep pockets, they’ve raised $4,000 of the $20,000 they’ll need to get through the year of treatments.
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Litton and PrettyMouth have decided to come out and play for the local scene while raising funds for her ongoing healing and showcasing songs from the group's new album, which is set for release this summer. There are two singles already on the group's website and Bandcamp page, "A Night Shade of Red" and "New Rival."
Litton said in a previous Westword write-up that music is an antidepressant. When asked if that’s still true, she answers, “It’s all I have.”
Says Litton: “I thought I was done, but I’m not done yet. If I can do this for a year and can actually have a pain-free life, I’m gonna be a monster. As much as I’ve actually accomplished, being in this kind of pain has really held me back from being able to do a lot of things, so I think if I can get through this, then who knows what I’m gonna be capable of.”
Litton will host her benefit show on March 31, at 7 p.m. at the Goosetown Tavern, with PrettyMouth, Dead Orchids, the Milk Blossoms, Pink Hawks and Lil Thunder. There is a $10 suggested donation.