Artist to Artist: Overcoming Stage Fright

I know about stage fright. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst, where you actually can’t perform, I was a 9.5. It’s hard to believe I’m the same person who’s performed at countless gigs, and sang and played in real time on live network television. How did I get here? To see my journey and how I did it, read on, below. The good news is that if I can perform music in front of masses of people now, anybody can do anything!

People tell me they like my voice, and that’s awesome. However, I didn’t sing until I was well into my adulthood, in my late twenties. I was a strictly an instrumentalist before that. I played the piano, and then clarinet and saxophone in the school band. Singing was something I had never, ever considered growing up. I can’t say the thought of singing in public filled me with anxiety, because it didn’t get that far in my mind. Like, how much do regular people think about sky diving? Probably not much, because it’s just not something they’d do. Singing in front of people might have been more terrifying than jumping out of a plane for me. Or maybe about equal. It was off the table, and not even in the room.

Growing up, I never played the piano when people were nearby at home. I for sure never performed for relatives at the house, despite some persistent requests by my grandmother. When I had piano recitals, I was extremely nervous, but I managed to pull them off. I was determined to.

Fast forward over a decade later, I was a young mother with two preschool-age kids. I had taken up the acoustic guitar, and wanted to try singing with my strummed chords. I thought my voice sounded OK, and I thought, “I can do this.” I can work up the skill and nerve to perform. Because why am I doing this if no one ever hears it?

After lots of practice of some cover songs, my husband went with me to an open mic at a lovely little coffee shop in Plymouth, Michigan (the town where I grew up). It was a historic house turned into a coffee shop, with several rooms on the main floor. In one big room, there was an open mic one or two nights a week run by a guy named Shawn.

It was my big moment. If my memory serves correctly, I think I had prepared a song by Jet called “Look What You’ve Done,” and maybe a Rolling Stones or Beatles song. It’s all a blur.

In the room to the side, covering most of the 1800s hardwood floor, there were several rows of folding chairs set up with an aisle in the middle. They were all full with attentive music lovers of all ages. When it was my turn, I was overcome with a mix of adrenaline and pure terror. Typical stage fright feelings, I’m sure. The host, Shawn, was incredibly warm and supportive. His gentle encouragement of all the open mikers was truly beautiful. I felt cradled in a safe environment, and I got up and sang my two songs. Gosh, the feeling when I was done was amazing. I had done it. I had totally blown the mind of the long past 16-year-old me. I had sung in public! And people clapped! Wow.

After that, it didn’t take long until I did it again, and then started booking my own whole gigs.

Not too long later, I found out that Shawn had passed away. I never found out why. Maybe I don’t want to know, because it doesn’t matter. He was relatively young. They say only the good die young, and there is no question that Shawn fit that.

How to reign in performance anxiety

My personal method for overcoming stage fright was/is this: Practice so much your performance is almost on autopilot, without thinking, and then just DO IT. Do it, because you didn’t put in all that practice for nothing, did you? Of course not! You did it for a reason, and now it’s time to deliver. And come hell or high water, you’re gonna pull this off! Because you’re strong. Because you’re not less than anyone else who performs. It’s just a thing people do, and there’s no reason that you can’t do it, too. And if you mess up, who cares? Nobody’s perfect. (But you probably won’t mess up much because you practiced so darn much.)

That’s my thinking about it. Practice like crazy, and then force yourself to get on that stage. Oh, I know all the little eyes looking at you are terrifying. I don’t look at them most of the time. It freaks me out. I do a trick I learned in my 10th grade speech class: Imagine a horizontal line on the wall just above people’s heads, and look at that. Follow that imaginary line around the room, and no one will know you’re not looking right at the audience.

So, that’s how I did it, and how I still deal with the fear when I get nervous (which is usually). People say I don’t seem nervous, and I seem so comfortable on stage. But that’s because I’ve learned how to fake it. My victory was from sheer will and determination – traits anyone can choose to embrace.

Below, here are some professional tips from the experts at Web MD. (Full article here).

Here are 10 tips to help you overcome your fears and shine on stage, on the field, or at the podium:

* Be prepared: practice, practice, practice.

* Limit caffeine and sugar intake the day of the performance. Eat a sensible meal a few hours before you are to perform so that you have energy and don't get hungry A low-fat meal including complex carbohydrates -- whole-grain pasta, lentil soup, yogurt, or a bean and rice burrito -- is a good choice.

* Shift the focus off of yourself and your fear to the enjoyment you are providing to the spectators. Close your eyes and imagine the audience laughing and cheering, and you feeling good.

* Don't focus on what could go wrong. Instead focus on the positive. Visualize your success.

* Avoid thoughts that produce self-doubt.

* Practice controlled breathing, meditation, biofeedback, and other strategies to help you relax and redirect your thoughts when they turn negative. It is best to practice some type of relaxation technique every day, regardless of whether you have a performance, so that the skill is there for you when you need it.

* Take a walk, jump up and down, shake out your muscles, or do whatever feels right to ease your anxious feelings before the performance.

* Connect with your audience -- smile, make eye contact, and think of them as friends.

* Act natural and be yourself.

* Exercise, eat a healthy diet, get adequate sleep, and live a healthy lifestyle.

* Keep in mind that stage fright is usually worse before the performance and often goes away once you get started.

Singer-songwriter Angela Predhomme’s music has been heard by millions through television, film, radio and streaming. Her soulful songs have been featured in the popular Hallmark movie Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane, Lifetime’s hit show Dance Moms, commercials for ING Bank and Fiat, and more.

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