I stood there not sure what to do next. My lead vocalist just left the stage in a puddle of tears half way into our set, the rest of the band were very late, had not arrived yet, and the audience of some thirty work colleagues were looking at me expectantly… trying to look cool, but my heart is thumping, hands sweating… what to do?
As an aspiring musician I have always been held back by a debilitating shyness, or when it comes to performance then I guess it’s called acute stage fright. My heart starts racing and pounding, my hands and fingers start shaking, and my breath becomes erratic, and it’s quite obvious that there is no way I can play the guitar and sing my song. So I tended to be a private musician, playing for my own creative expression.
I remember a really disastrous experience once when there was a teaching meeting and they asked me to prepare some music, and I had been working on a really cool new song, and when they called me up I came to the centre of the large room, surrounded by people… I thought ok this is the moment, when I shine. But instead I sucked! I stumbled, fumbled and mumbled my way thru the song and when I finished there was complete and utterly awkward silence. I wished that couch could have swallowed me whole. I must have sounded terrible! Those kind of experiences don’t help at all. Looking back i should have prepared a sing-a-long, but oh well, so much for hindsight.
What did help was joining a band. A friend invited me to join a choir he was starting, and this was a great experience, besides making friends and having fun making religious music, i had to also up my game, and improve technically which meant practise and composure… also i got exposure to live performance in a situation with backing music and many vocalists and so the guitar was not prominent so I could kind of disappear in the background and that suited me just fine. I also didn’t have to worry about making mistakes as they weren’t so noticeable. Sometime later I made a friend at work who sings and we started writing songs together, beautiful simple poetic songs, we just clicked from the word go. Eventually formed a band, with drums, bass and keys, and I found that in the band even though the songs were acoustic guitar driven and i had to be on point, the spotlight was not on me, it was on the lead vocalist, and so I could relax, compose myself and get into it, and enjoy the music, and the stage fright was disappearing with every gig. I still used to get very nervous, and still had shaky hands int he beginning but it cleared up. Essentially as a musician you want to communicate freedom to people not inhibition and fear.
But now, here I was at this work function, standing on stage with my guitar, silence… except for the mic making those feedback squeals, everyone looking at me. We were doing a very emotional song that she wrote for her brother who passed away, and half way thru she broke down crying, and someone took her to another room to recover herself. Note to self: don’t do that song again. I could take a seat and wait for her, but… I don’t know what came over me, really out of character, but I came up to the mic and I… played and I sang my song.
“I don’t ever want to be, lost here without You. I don’t ever want to feel, lost here without You. La la lala laa laa laa… I don’t ever wanna beeeee… Stuck inside a memoryyyy. I don’t ever wanna feeeeel. Lost inside a fantasyyyy, yeaaaah yeah!”
And I was good, they loved it. It felt amazing! Sitting here reminiscing about it I remembered that ‘Art of Living’ seminar which I gate crashed a few months before. I told them about my music and my fear and with help I set myself a challenge to play my music for an audience and the target was within six months. I didn’t think it was gonna happen, and I had completely forgotten about that, but quite unexpectedly, almost six months later… it happened… I did it!