How confident are you as a performer?
One of the most common questions I am asked as a singing teacher and vocal coach, is how to be more confident in front of an audience.
The short answer is: get out there and do it! Confidence comes from certainty. You will feel confident when you are certain that whatever is making you nervous will go away. Which will probably never happen.
Maybe you love singing, but you find the idea of singing to an audience terrifying. If that sounds like you, you are in good company! Having toured internationally, performing to audiences of thousands - sometimes with my heroes in the audience - I know what it’s like to feel nervous!
I remember being so nervous before one gig that I phoned my mum TWICE on the way from the green room to the stage!
When we are excited, our adrenal gland is stimulated. We start to shake and we feel jittery. The same happens when we are nervous.
How I overcame nervousness to become a best-selling artist.
I am fortunate to have played hundreds of gigs - I lost count of the number of times I have performed a number of years ago. I was always nervous to differing degrees but I’d never experienced stage fright.
Until one night in Camden, North London. We were about to perform a sold out gig at the Jazz Cafe. I was nervous. I was very nervous.
My brother, who had never seen me perform before, was in the audience with his friends and my mum was there with a family friend.
The Jazz Cafe was PACKED. I couldn’t sit still. I paced up and down backstage, wiping the sweat from my hands, checking my phone for non-existent messages. I kept repeating over and over how nervous I was. I’d been nervous before, but this was different I just couldn’t shake the feeling of dread - I knew I was going to mess up. My heart was pounding. I felt sick. I couldn’t remember the lyrics to any of the songs and I couldn’t catch my breath.
It wasn’t a panic attack but it was the worst case of pre-gig nerves I had experienced in thirteen years of constant performing. This was definitely going to be the worst gig of my life.
Exasperated, my bandmate stood in front of me, looked me in the eye and said “Cazza, it’s not nerves, it’s excitement!”
I stopped dead in my tracks. I took a breath. My heart slowed. The shaking subsided. The sweating eased.
That one sentence changed my entire relationship with pre-gig nerves.
I had been performing on and off since I was a child but at that moment I realised I was doing what I truly loved, what kids at school had teased me for all those years before. This was the reason I had missed family gatherings and putting my daughter to bed night after night, much to the disgust of countless strangers. I stood upright, a huge grin replacing my furrowed brow. He was right! I WAS excited!
I was excited to have sold out a legendary venue! I was excited to be performing to my brother for the first time! I was excited by the buzz in the venue! And I was excited to have the opportunity to help people have a great night out!
The nervousness I felt before gigs was my fuel. I needed it to energise me, to serve the audience and make sure they have a good time.
Years after that realisation I still feel nervous before and after gigs. The difference now is that I choose to use my nervousness to my advantage. I LOVE singing and I LOVE performing. I am still very critical of my performances but NOTHING will stop me from doing what I love!
Why let performance nerves stop you from doing what you love? Your audience is waiting and you owe it to them - and yourself - to give them your best!
So the next time your nerves are getting the better of you, why not choose excitement instead of fear?