Tag Archives: stage fright

Full Circle

It’s funny, I never set out to be a performer.

I grew up in a musical family but I was a pretty shy kid. I was more comfortable with my animals than people. I was happiest creating, not so much presenting.

Fast forward to my first apartment and a guy who liked me, who happened also to be a drummer. Somehow it is always the drummers who get me.  Anyway, it was a hot summer day and my door was open to let in some air. I was lost in playing my guitar and singing. I never knew how long he had been standing at the door before he finally let me know he was there. I was mortified!! No one had ever heard me play or sing my stuff, and I was good with that.

Somehow this guy gave me enough nurturing and encouragement to step outside the safety of my apartment and give a band a go. We worked hard, held auditions, and eventually we moved in together, mostly so we could have an attic to rehearse. We played some shows to pretty good responses and a whole new world was born. I went from going to shows, to playing shows, and found the stage a double edged sword that I adored and feared.

One thing led to another and I kept finding myself in bands, getting nudges from audience goers to go solo. I hadn’t really thought of that, I was protected in a band. I never truly saw myself as a front person, even though it was a fantasy, I thought I was too fat, I was sure I was not pretty enough, and definitely not showy enough. Yet every time I would step away from performing, something would take me back, somebody would come around with an opportunity, a possibility, and make me feel as though I couldn’t, shouldn’t, walk away from it. I have had some amazing highs and lows winding my way back and forth across this country.

Now, I find myself back to square one, shy and uncertain, riddled with stage fright like never before. I have to sing and play, there is no question about that, but for now, it’s back to creating more, performing less, as that double edged sword seems to have a single edge now.

*originally written March 7, 2015. Again, too afraid to publish it. Deciding today, not to live in fear anymore. Tic toc, tic toc.

Failure

What is failure? When I look in the dictionary, my picture isn’t there, yet I have been wrestling with the whole idea lately.

Since June I have been in 3 competitions, and none of them came close to what I had hoped. I played at the Towne Crier Invitational Open Mic Finals Round. There were first, second and third place prizes. I did not place. After the show several folks paid me very nice compliments, ‘you were my favorite’, ‘you should have won’ etc.

In July, after the encouragement of a few friends, I decided to try out for The Voice in NYC. At the end of the audition, our whole group was sent home, no callbacks. Again, the compliments, ‘you were amazing’, blah, blah, blah.

Then in August I was invited to the Big Stage Competition at Infinity Hall in Norfolk, CT. First, second and third prizes all went to other competitors. And the compliments came again, ‘you should have won’, etc. etc.

So, am I doing something wrong? Is it enough to have just gotten that far? What can I learn? Is it a sign I am not good enough? I went back and analyzed each performance and found things I could have done differently. Would it have made a difference in the outcome? Who knows? But it has given me some good insight to how I have been operating.

At the Towne Crier, I said very little on stage. I gave the songs everything and that was it. I saw some pictures after and in every one, my eyes were closed. Not very much for an audience to connect to I suppose.

For The Voice audition I think my song choice was too obscure. I did Overlap by Ani DiFranco. I had tossed around doing Beautiful by Christina Aguilera, but thought it seemed too obvious since she’s been a judge on the show. In the end I think it might have been the better choice, but it may not have made a bit of difference.

Lastly, at Infinity Hall, I tried harder to do a bit more stage patter, and make more eye contact. This was an audience that truly did not need that, so I could have just stayed more in the song.

In all 3 situations I over-thought everything. I wasn’t true to myself, I was trying too hard to decipher what I thought ‘they’ wanted. Rather than just be me. So it has left me with regret. Not that I didn’t win, but that I was not completely in my thing and walk away proud regardless of the outcome.

*this was originally written September 10, 2013 but I was too afraid to publish it. Shocking.

Michigan J. Frog and Me

Still learning how to be me. In the comfort of my home, it’s pretty easy. But when I head toward the stage it becomes a daunting task, even after all these years. To be my truest self in front of a bunch of strangers is the most unsettling thing. I keep thinking it should get easier.

I stand up there with words and music that come from my soul, and put it before people I do not know, for their approval. What a bizarre activity when you really think about it. My deepest motivation has been to give something, to share something real, in the hopes that the audience and I might be transformed together. Lofty eh?

A fellow musician friend of mine shared with me why he stuck to doing cover songs. He said, ‘If I do covers and they don’t like it, who cares? But if I do my originals and they don’t like it, then they are rejecting me.’ Well put. That is how it feels.

For me it’s always been a crap shoot. Some nights I get lucky, I win because I didn’t get the better of myself, and other nights well, it’s a whole other story. I mess up my playing, I forget the words, I completely f*ck it all up. Why? Because I’m my own worst enemy. I am a believer in the power of our own thoughts and words to create our reality, apparently I still need to hone this skill!! Tuesday night, I created a heckler at Club Helsinki. No other performer heard from this guy but me. I opened my mouth to speak a bit before I played and from the shadows I hear, “just sing”. Yea. OK.

And I let it ruin my whole experience. I let it take what little confidence I had going in. I let it follow me home and take me down a dark road. Until I finally stopped it cold by realizing that this is what I let happen over and over and over again. Now that I’ve taken responsibility, I look forward to creating a new scenario for myself going forward.

Towne Crier Invitational Finals followup: Well, it was close but no cigar. It was a good crowd, receptive and attentive and I felt that I gave a good performance but I certainly did not go in like a competitor. That might have helped since it was a competition. I’ve never taken the attitude, “I’m the best”, because somewhere along the way I must have decided that would be ‘bad’, it wasn’t ‘nice’. I’m realizing now, that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with, “I’m the best me!”. Another lesson learned. It’s been a good week for that.

I’ve never fit in, and generally I’m ok with that, but when I make it matter, when I try to fit into someone else’s idea of who I should be, I crumble. I’m kind of like that Warner Brothers frog….

*originally written June 7, 2012.