Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Insomnia, Excitement, Fear. . .

Ok, so I'm scheduled to be on the road by about 6 a.m. tomorrow. It's 11:31 and I'm packed, loaded, primed to go. Sleep isn't an option right now. I'm restless and jumpy. I even thought of just hopping in the car and driving off right now. That's still an option, but I thought I might write some of this down to see if that might help ease me into at least napping.

I haven't performed live all that much for the last thirteen years. It had to do with sobering up, becoming a single parent and deciding that my place in the music biz had to change. Working for producers who want quick and dirty studio licks has been lucrative and in its own sweet way rewarding. The list of folks that do what I do is a short one. I work from home most of the time thanks to the internet and the top flight musical software that out there. The fax spits out a chart, I study it, when I have my ideas I call the producer and then I hang up and lay the tracks down. They get squirted over the ether to the studio, if they like it, if they need changes, they call, I change it until they like it at which point their machine calls another machine and my bank account (less cuts to agent and manager dude guy) goes ka-ching. Most days I don't even get out of my jammies except to put on some swim trunks or go golfing.

This set of shows is pretty intimidating for some reason. I usually don't start my show jitters until a few hours before the show. Most of the time before I go onstage I throw up. I've gotten used to it and keep a toothbrush, toothpaste and some club soda handy. Most of the time as soon as I've barfed and brushed, it's all good and I'm ready to go. Except, here it is 18 hours before I even sound check and the butterflies and jitters are already setting in.

I know that once I get out under the lights, my practicing and experience will take over and things will be fine. And yet. . .ah, it's just the old little voice thing at work again.

I guess this might be valuable or slightly interesting to the folks that allow themselves to think that performing is easy and natural because it looks that way when we do it right. Yeah, it's a lot of work. I'm jittery and nervous right now because by this time tomorrow I'm going to be up in front of a shitload of folks who paid shitloads of money for their seats. I need to make that investment of time and treasure worthwhile. I'm also getting paid well by someone I respect (as an artist and as a person) to do a job that he knows I am totally capable of doing (but what if i let him down says that shitty little voice).

I'll clue you non-performing types in on a secret. It's not easy what we do. Most of the time it's pretty damned scary. It's also not easy. I've spent a lot of my life on one stage or another and for every minute of being on stage, I've spent hours and hours alone in a room running scales and practicing what I'm going to do over and over and over and over again. That's why it looks easy. That's also why there are usually only a few of us on stage, and a shitload of people in the audience. I've seen lots of talented folks that weren't willing to put in the work to get where I am. I've also seen talented folks that put in the practice and when the lights hit them and the realization of how many motherfuckers are actually out there, they freeze. I've also left the stage after playing stadiums, gone to a little local dive somewhere and heard somebody playing better than I can.

It's a strange life. I can't think of any other one. If I worked in a cubicle I'd probably have gone all starkweather on some folks by now. I wish I wasn't leaving my son and my daughter behind again. I think they understand. I think they've forgiven me for being gone so much. They know that I can be distant, moody and tempermental. They know that I do the best I can. They know that I love them. I do tell them that all the time. They are at an age right now when they actually enjoy me getting out of their hair for a few days. By the time I get back Renee wil be back at school in Tucson, and my teenage Natty Bumpo will be ready to force himself through his junior year of high school. Egad, that's so scary. When I got custody of that boy he was only 3. He says he doesn't remember much about when his mom and I were both stoned and fighting all the time (when I was home which was seldom). He also doesn't remember when I would be gone for 9 to 10 months of the year.

Now I trip out being gone for less than week. Just hush my mouth and call me a homebody.

Having a blog is better than sleeping pills. If any of this made any sense, please leave a comment. If there was anything that you would like me to expand or explain better, leave a comment and I'll do what I can when I get back

It will be fine. I just need to get there. If I do my job right, nobody in that audience will know what a mess I was about a half an hour ago. . .Peace. Out.


Blogger Deborah Newell said...

I have never performed professionally, other than as an extra in movies with no lines and the odd commercial or voiceover, but these were not on stage (ergo no stage fright), so I can't imagine the pressure you describe.

But I can relate to the butterflies! I sang and acted in high school, and acted in college. I actually entered a beauty pageant (ugh--don't tell anyone) when I was twenty-one, a local Miss America-franchise thing, and for my "talent" I played classical guitar, one of the handful of pieces I knew then but would have trouble playing today. (No, I didn't even place in the top three.)

The fear and nerves one faced before going before a live audience are nothing short of overwhelming. I threw up before going on stage when I was in a play my senior year (at UF). I would chew my cuticles before go-sees and auditions, though it's oddly less scary when the job is about the way you look (it's either what they want or it isn't), and not about your talent and ability. You can't control your physicality, other than, obviously, diet and exercise. Whereas your performance depends on your having practiced long enough and hard enough, as well as your talent.

It's more personal and more a judgement on your soul when it's your performance that's in question, I think. So the silly play, for which I didn't even get paid and which cost me dearly in time and effort, made me worry and worry and fret and and freak out and throw up. The modeling or ad jobs I got or didn't get, not so much.

Nothing I say can alleviate the nerves, Minstrel Boy, but allow me to remind you that you are obvious a consummate professional who wouldn't be doing what you're doing if you were not a) blessed with extraordinary talent and b) well-prepared after a lifetime of practice, practice, and more practice. Would you trade your butterflies and pre-performance nausea for a job as, say, an accountant? Of course not.

So what exactly are the reasons you're nervous? It's just irrational anxiety, right? You know you can do it, you're well-prepared, and you're well-respected. It's just anxiety, that's all, and when you imagine all the other musicians out there who go through the same thing, well, that has to be a tiny bit comforting, yes?

From what you have written about your life, the worst things that can happen to you--by far the worst things--have already happened. This is all icing on the cake, and you deserve to enjoy its sweetness.




1:46 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

I think with the anticipation over the last four days, going to intensive rehearsal, then coming home for a short time, then going to play, along with the not having done much live these last several years all just climbed up on me. I'm good now, and getting ready to drive on out. Sound check at 5, 1st show at 8, I'll be fine. . .

(cue the slide guitar)

Got the key to the highway
Keep my ticket in my hand
Got the key to the highway
Keep my ticket in my hand
They say "No rest for the wicked"
I'll be rolling till the promised land. (Willie Dixon)

Just sitting down and facing it at the keyboard did a lot. Renee and Matt both got up to see me off. I told them that they are way better kids than I deserve. Renee said I was silly.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Deborah Newell said...

Drive safely my friend! And stay in touch. And post pictures if you can.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Peter of Lone Tree said...

Barfing before the curtain goes up?
I've been an amateur and semi-pro actor and singer for 50 years and I've never done that.

Well...there was one time when I retched so hard I shit my pants.

7:50 AM  
Blogger said...

I'm just now catching up on your recent entries. I hope all went well. deb

1:58 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

I'm still semi-brain dead from the trip. All went well. There was even some insight happening around the whole sober performer thing that happens with me. I'm trying to sort it out and when I've caught up with the laundry, thrown the ball for the dogs till they quit, organized the work week that started to pile up while I was gone, caught up on my bread baking (i can barely eat bread from a store anymore), well, you get my drift. I'm taking 10 and 15 minute breaks from the drudgery to outline my post.

9:20 AM  
Blogger lisa_emily said...

I hope you survived- sounds pretty intense!

4:34 PM  
Blogger maurinsky said...

I can perform in front of strangers and never feel nervous - or, at the very least, I always choose to interpret my anxiety as excitement.

But if I have to perform in front of people I know, my stomach churns, I shake... I've never puked, but I always feel like there is no way I can possibly be good enough. The smaller the group, the more anxious I feel.

8:10 AM  

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