So last weekend, in addition to performing at the Triad Theater in NYC, I played several sets at the North East Folk Alliance in Kerhonksen which were very well received.
After one of them, a fellow named Wolfe came up to me and wanted to talk about pre-stage jitters as well as the anxiety one feels while performing. He wanted to know if I remembered having that experience.
It made me laugh out loud.
I’ve been performing for nearly fifty years and I still get pre stage jitters as well as anxiety while I’m performing.
I told him that my left leg trembles so much when I begin a show that I fear that the audience will see it and think I’m having a fit. Here’s what I do to address all that.
Just as a golfer has an approach to the ball, I have an approach to a concert performance. I do the same things every time the last of which is to sit in a room by myself and play in the dark until show time.
When you have a routine that you do, every step that you do brings you closer to being in the moment. And every time you do the routine, it becomes easier to get to that space. It’s like practice, the more that you do it, the easier it gets.
And finally, I demand that no one come in and see me before the show; that no one bother me in any way as I attempt to put myself in the place I need to be to deliver a good show.
I use to think that you had to be so courteous that your own needs had to be ignored, but in terms of a performance, I disregard that social responsibility. It’s about the performance and I know what shatters my focus and what an impact that has on the performance, so no one comes in before the show once my routine has started.en
When you play in an ensemble there is wiggle room, when you play solo there isn’t. you are the entire show and if you aren’t focused then the performance and the audiences chance of enjoying the show are diminished.
Once I am on stage, I breath deeply and begin, even though my leg is shaking and has been doing that for decades, I focus on the sound of my guitar, the groove, the pulse, the music.
I let it take me away and then I start singing. I listen to my voice, I feel it in my throat. I imagine my entire body being filled with the music and it resonating with every single person in the audience.
In a few minutes, it’s all about the show and the music and I don’t even notice when my leg stops shaking.
Do not focus on the shaking leg, the inner voices, the lack of confidence conversation that some part of you is having. Focus on what you are doing. Be right there in the music moment. The rest will take care of itself.