I find performing live to be pretty terrifying, for the most part. It’s always harder after a long break from performing, and easier when you’ve played a few in a row and are in a bit of a groove.
I started my tour last month with a brilliant gig at Tiny Rebel Cardiff, and on the day I found myself feeling terrified and anxious. Of course there’s all the emotional stuff that comes up – what if they hate it, what if no one turns up, what if my mind goes completely blank and I forget how to play this song (that happened to me once, a long time ago; it was mortifying). But there’s the physical symptoms too – I feel my voice shake, my breathing becomes shallow, and I feel like I’m going to throw up. At its worst, I have found myself hoping that a great accident will befall me before I get to the venue, so I don’t have to play (anxiety is so melodramatic!). Luckily, the Cardiff show went really well, and I had a great time.
I’m proud to have never cancelled a show from fear, as tempting as it can sometimes be. Here are some of the things that help me overcome my intense pre-show anxiety:
- Taking deep breaths. A short inhale and a long exhale helps slow your heartrate and calm you down. I’ve used the app Calm to help me count my breath, or I’ll just do it along to the beat of the music that’s playing in the venue (breathe in for 5 counts, hold for 3, breathe out for 7).
- Distracting myself. When I’m sat quietly waiting to go on stage, I can ruminate and worry, so I distract myself by making conversation with someone, playing a memory game, or immersing myself in a task, e.g. updating my socials.
- 2 bananas to settle/fill my stomach, followed by a glass of wine. Honestly, it works.
- I imagine a protective circle around the front of my piano, that only allows good energy out and in.
- I try to remind myself that everyone is on my side. An audience wants to be entertained, and they’re rooting for you to do a good job.
- Lastly, I try to remember that authenticity is more important than perfection, in all things but especially in performing music – so, as long as I sing from my heart, no one will care much about any little mistakes.
What helps you when you have to do scary things? Let me know your tips!