To Conquer Stage Fright.

You already know my day job, but I’m also really into music. I mean, seriously. I’ve been pounding away on my acoustic guitar and singing since I was about fourteen. Writing and playing music is what hauled me through some of my darkest days, and ever since I penned my first tune I’ve been grappling with horrendous stage fright.

The first time I walked onto a stage, I was in kindergarten. My task was simple: wear my silly paper cutout snowman outfit and my cardboard top hat and sing a silly winter song in front of my peers and their parents. I wasn’t alone, my entire class looked just as ridiculous as I did. The only problem was, my hat didn’t exactly fit.

As I took the stage in my red and white polka dot skirt, my faux hat suddenly decided to fall down over my eyes.

Naturally, the sight of a chubby kindergartener in a snowman outfit with her paper hat down over her eyes was too much for the audience to take, so they laughed. I didn’t realize at the time that I’d just livened up the piece and made all the adults really enjoy themselves — I thought they were laughing at me. I spent the rest of my time onstage struggling not to cry, never realizing the joy I’d brought to the audience by making an ass of myself.

Having gotten over that, my mother persuaded me to participate in Coley’s Point Primary’s annual talent show. She promised she’d play guitar and we’d sing “Tiny Red Light” together. They’d love it. I was nervous, but figured since I wasn’t going to be in a ridiculous getup and my mom would be with me, no one would dare laugh.

I was a bundle of nerves on the day of the show, and then my mom didn’t show up.

I bravely mounted the stage, prepared to go a capella. The bright lights hit my face, blurring the audience below me. I looked out into the darkened faces, noticed just how many people were there, and decided to turn tail and run.

No, really, my sister was there and she distinctly remembers me going up, looking out, eyes widening, and then running the fuck off the stage. It must have been hilarious.

The first time I actually followed through on a performance, I was about fifteen or sixteen years old. I’d written maybe ten to fifteen original songs and decided to participate in Beaverton Idol (which naturally took place during the height of the “Idol” craze). I played three original songs and was the only contestant to play an instrument. The “audition” process was arbitrary — everyone naturally got in. On the night of the show, for some reason I decided to wear jeans and a blue hoodie I’d owned forever. I played my first song and made it through to the second round, then played my second song.

The second song was “Empty”. You can listen to the song here, but the lyrics are obviously about a very painful time in my life, written from the perspective of my abuser. Call it coping. One of the judges, a male, told me it wasn’t really the right forum for a song like that. I stood on that stage and responded, “Stuff like this is important and if we don’t talk about it, nothing will ever happen to change it.”

Should’ve seen his face when the audience supported me. Priceless.

Anyway, I didn’t win because I didn’t look the part (one of the judges had actually written that on the sheet). A couple years later I funded my own EP and recorded it in Markham in the summer, so fuck them they don’t know me.

My stage fright always backs off the instant I hit the stage, it’s getting from my apartment to the stage that’s the hard part. I’m always terrified of judgment until I’m up there. I try to tell myself everyone in the audience is a friend and I owe it to them to play well and be personable in between songs. I’m trying a new method of combating stage fright by forcing myself to be myself on the floor at work. Singing, saying weird (albeit somewhat appropriate) things, anything I can do to make myself more comfortable with strangers.

It seems to be working because on May 31, I took the stage in Newmarket to support a friend who’s raising money to go to the Dominican Republic and perform charity work and build houses. I had fun, I talked in between songs, and I sang my fucking heart out. I was nervous, sure, but not to the point that I ran away. Nah, I rocked that shit instead.

So this week, my personal growth assignment is to continue riding that wave. The confidence boost I got from performing in front of my friends should last me until I get comfy playing in front of strangers. I’m heading out to Dave’s On St Clair tomorrow night to take part in their open mic night. And for anything music-related, I have a website HERE that you can check out.

Stage fright is going to be a thing of the past, I can feel it.

And now, for the photobomb, courtesy of my bestie Jo!

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Sorting out my life by writing about it.

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