Stage Anxiety and owning it.
If you saw me performing with my band The One Night Band, you would have no idea I used to suffer with stage nerves.
In fact, once while critiquing a filmed gig with my teacher many moons ago, I was told I looked like I hated the audience and like I was having a terrible time.
When I was younger I had a lot of theatre training, and performed in many productions, but that seemed different, less personal. There were many more people in the dark audience but also many more people on stage sharing the responsibility of the performance.
Perhaps as I got older I became more concerned about showing off, or failing, and so the nerves got hold of me. During solo performances I wouldn’t know where to look (in the theatre days they told us to look at the back of the room.. But that’s not really very inviting to the audience in the real world!). I wouldn’t know what to do with my hands. How to even walk from one side of the stage to the other. I was rooted to my spot, terrified I was going to forget the lyrics. Panic taking over!
But then something changed, I gigged more and more, and became more comfortable. I spent ages learning the lyrics (although I still always have them on an iPad on my mic stand for a reference). I became less TRAUMATISED by mistakes from the band. That was always a big thing; if one little thing went wrong you would see that in my face!
Laugh everything off, make a joke of it if you need to after the song. The audience are only human after all, they make mistakes too, and like to be part of the experience.
Another huge thing that helped me was the band. They’re just such great guys, and while they’re all my rocks, there is something about my guitarist Max that just totally calms me down (or makes me MAD, but that’s another story.. Maybe I’ll write an article about doing residencies in the south of France with 3 boys who snore, fart, and sleep talk)
I’ll admit, It feels different if I do a duo slot with my pianist and the rest of the guys aren’t there to laugh with me or dance with me if we’re having a terrible time. But I still own it, I still enjoy it, and I just get up, and get on with it. You need to have faith in what you’re doing. I don’t mean to sound bigheaded, but I know I’m good, and if you know that then you can just assume the audience are having a good time! And if that helps you to have a good time, great!
Here are some things I really had to learn to do, and looking back that seems so weird now!
I had to learn to move around the stage
I had to learn to look people in the eyes
I had to learn to speak between songs
I had to learn to brush the mistakes off. (You know, most of the time if you do anything with confidence the audience don’t realise. Sing a wrong lyric, while the audience are singing the right one and THEY will second guess themselves!)
If you suffer with stage nerves, try doing all of those things. They’ll seem big at first, but trust me, they’ll actually make you feel better! These days I use a wireless mic, and go and sit next to the one man who refuses to dance, put my arm around him and just sing in his face. Or I have a twerk off with the bride, or stand on a table at the end of the room or start a conga line. I AM RELENTLESS. It’s fun, different, and gives you something else to do other than panic!
If you’re about to go on stage, breath, do that pre-gig pooh, and just enjoy yourself. It’s infectious! And isn’t that really what life is all about?!