I am on a plane back to Los Angeles after attending the Northeast Folk Alliance Conference (http://www.nerfa.org/) , as many of you already know.
At the conference I had the opportunity to perform on their mainstage. The best thing about that is that nothing is competing with the attendees attention. That’s the only thing scheduled.
Consequently, a whole bunch of people who had never heard me do what I do, got to hear a fifteen minute set of me talking a mile a minute and trying to fit in three songs before they shut off my sound.
Yes, I did the show in the allotted time, but I was very uptight about having to do an effective show in that kind of time. I have found that when I am on the stage, even after an hour of warm up I still need about twenty minutes in the spotlight to completely relax and do the show I am capable of doing.
The pressure of the time allotment coupled with the fact that so many folks that were important to me were going to hear me for the first time, left me feeling uptight and inadequate.
Amazing isn’t it? I have performed on stage probably ten thousand hours and in the past decade have not embarrassed myself even once, but still, knowing what can go wrong with the sound, the lights, my voice, my guitar, my health, and/or an audient that cannot be dealt with left me nervous and less than comfortable.
The upside is that I’ve been doing this so long, I could do my show without anyone seeing how much anxiety I was truly experiencing while doing it.
That’s what all that time in the spotlight has done for me. And you couple that with the amount of practicing that I have done over the past couple of years and I had the tools to deal with my anxiety.
I am talking about it so that everyone who performs will know that no matter how many times you perform, if you are passionate and committed about it, you are going to be nervous.
There was one other thing that contributed to my anxiety at my showcase that I neglected to mention. I am usually close to an audience; never more than ten feet or so and can usually see the faces in the first row.
The stage Saturday evening was probably thirty feet from the first audience, but because of the excellent stage lighting, I couldn’t see that. All I knew is that I was not feeling inside myself the “thing” that I always feel from audiences.
When I came off stage, I was actually disappointed and discouraged about what I did up there, but keeping to my promise to not let anyone know that I am unhappy about a performance, I did not let on.
I don’t think it is wise to tell someone who just enjoyed a show that you didn’t think it was very good. No point in that.
And the feedback was remarkable. Everyone loved it. John Platt from WFUV (http://www.wfuv.org/ told me that it was “masterful”. I was thrilled. And I realized that we artists really can’t tell what’s going on.
We, as artists, are so busy trying to deliver the goods that we aren’t really a good judge of how it is perceived. We are always considering what we are capable of, what happened at the best show we ever did, and / or that one guitar note that just wasn't "right".
So keep all this stuff in mind next time you are auditioning or showcasing. It’s all in your head. Do the work, practice, be prepared and depend upon the professionalism you have developed. And you have. The more you play, and the more you see others play, the more professional you should become.