For many songwriters, the fear of playing in front of people becomes this giant grizzly beast that seems to level up every time you back out on sharing your song. “No, I’m ok”…the beast grew stronger. “Not tonight, maybe next time”…stronger and stronger. It only takes so many times convincing yourself “no”, that eventually your mind will go on auto-pilot and not even fight. People will stop asking or encouraging you to play since you never do, and now you’re stuck in the exact opposite place you wanted to be. Silent in the back with no song. Whether it’s up on a stage with tons of listeners or a small gathering with a few close friends, that beast is waiting for you to hesitate so it can scare you off. While the battles that songwriters face can be fought in wide variety by use of coaching or mantras, at some point, every songwriter on the victorious side has taken a breath, grabbed their stuff, and just firkin wailed. They wailed on the beast staring them down telling them “you’re going to blow it”, “no one is going to like it”. They wailed on the audience with the songs they worked so hard on and wanted to give to the world. Some songwriters will face this challenge throughout their career, even the legendary ones. Did you know that one of Van Morrison’s most memorable performances was drenched with an internal battle of stage fright? Lucky for us, he was almost always able to get past it and bring his passion and talent to our eyes and ears.
When Metalcore band Norma Jean was first getting started, they decided to play shows with their backs to the audience in order to avoid any eye contact. It’s hard to imagine a band like this making wonderful, crushing noise and having any ounce of timidness to contend with, but everyone has their own fight and they fight it in their own way.
It’s all about putting yourself out there. Expect criticism, expect trolls, but find the real behind the feedback you get, and enjoy the admiration from the people you value the most. It’s easy to stand in the crowd and listen, but to give those people something to listen to is a wonderful gift. Be brave, be honest, and make some noise!