Posts Tagged ‘twyfordstock’

Overcoming stage fright: an anecdote

January 4, 2008

I am not a natural performer. I got my first guitar when I was about 14, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t play in public until I was 21; even then, it was an unamplified performance in the corner of a loud pub. I hated my voice, was certain my guitar-playing was lousy, and didn’t particularly rate my ability to remember the lyrics of whatever I was singing.

I did, however, have a huge back-catalogue of songs I’d either written or learnt to play. And, thanks to a bunch of friends who only owned right-handed guitars, an ability to play upside-down if necessary. Which stood me in good stead when, in an unfamiliar pub one pre-festival night, the local rock star – Charlie – heard that I played a little, conjured a beat-up six-string from behind the bar and insisted I play a few quiet tunes in the corner.

Charlie played at the festival the next day and, after 20 minutes or so, calmly announced to the 100-strong crowd that I was going to play a few songs while he took a break. At the time I was furious that he hadn’t, say, mentioned this to me. In retrospect, it was just as well; otherwise I’d have been staggeringly drunk as well as terrified.

I don’t have a good explanation for what happened next. What happened next was that I got up on the stage and rocked. Had Charlie still been on the stage, I would have blown him off it. The audience stomped and cheered and laughed and well, I’ve been a part-time rock star since then.

I learnt several things that day. Firstly, that the only hard part is getting on the stage. If you have even as little talent as I do, it’ll combine with adrenaline once you’re up there and see you through. Secondly, people are much readier to laugh at a singer than at a comedian. You can get away with the lamest jokes in a song (I point at the Saddam Hussein line in Tangled Up In Bob) and, perhaps because the joke is unexpected, you can get a laugh. And third, you don’t need a license to sing. You just need someone to persuade you that you either want or have to.

Any time I feel frightened of playing, I imagine Charlie at the mic putting me on the spot. I know that whatever crowd I’m facing, it’s not as scary as the first crowd. And if I can come through that ordeal with a round of applause and a few drinks bought for me, I’m perfectly capable of doing the same thing again.