Regardless of if you’re an accomplished vocalist or beginner vocalist, performing can conjure a myriad of emotions.
If you’ve ever grappled with any of the below thoughts as you’re about to set foot on the stage, then you may share similarities with some of the most world’s most elite performers.
- Am I good enough?
- What will others think?
- What if I make a forget a lyric or hit a wrong note?
- I’m shy and performing is way out of my comfort zone.
If any of these thought patterns are familiar to you, you’ll be relieved to know that you’re not alone! Some of the most eminent performers in music history share these exact same fears.
The common conjecture for audiences watching performances by established artists, is to assume that the performer is fearless, confident, and unperturbed. What many often don’t realise, is that underneath the confident exterior of some of the greats, is their humanly battles with fear and anxiety.
London Born pop/soul sensation and grammy award-winning artist Adele, talks openly about her struggles with stage fright. She shares with Rolling Stone Magazine how she battles panic attacks and then proceeds to talk about how during a show in Amsterdam, “I was so nervous I escaped out the fire exit.”
World renowned Barbra Streisand, one of the highest-selling recording artists of all time, talks publicly about her battle with stage fright and performance anxiety. A 1967 live performance in New York’s grand central park became the catalyst for Streisand’s developed fear of performing, yet Streisand explains how she learnt to deal with her on stage insecurities by studying the flamboyance of the drag queens.
Similarly, music legend David Bowie was believed to have coped with his on stage anxiety and extreme shyness through the development of his on stage persona. To watch footage of Bowie’s performances, you would no doubt perceive him as an outgoing and flamboyant type, however away from the stage he was reported to be extremely shy. This was apparent on the rare occasion that he would agree to take part in an interview, where he would reveal a side of his character far removed from the eccentric, outlandish character Ziggy stardust that he had created. Bowie’s fictitious onstage character granted him the freedom of expression that he lacked in everyday life, and set his mind free of his anxiety.
Singer, actor and radio personal Donny Osmond, tells in a 2000 interview with CBS news how he was diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder in his early teens. Despite his rise to stardom and countless public appearances, he fought a longstanding battle with performance anxiety. Osmond reveals that much of his anxiety was a bi-product of the pressure he placed on himself to obtain perfection. When his panic attacks became chronic, Osmond sought the help of a therapist who helped him regain perspective. Osmond grounded himself through his realisation that “I know when I walk out there, I’m not going to give the best performance. I’ll make a mistake. I’ll trip. I’ll do something stupid. But it’s OK; you pick up and just move on.”
Despite what many of us may think, some of the world’s best performers are in fact introverts by nature, positioned somewhere on the shy end of the continuum. Reports of pop king Michael Jackson, who sang in front of millions during his career, convey he was a shy, perfectionistic character. American record producer Quincy Jones, who worked closely with Michael Jackson and tells the story of how Jackson was “so shy, he’d sit down and sing behind the couch with his back to me, while I sat there with my hands over my eyes with the lights off’.
Joe Piscopo, a close friend of the Legendary icon Prince, discusses Prince’s off stage persona by affirming that “He’s not like when he struts the stage. You’d think he’d carry that off-stage, but there was none of that. He was very shy. His demeanour was very cool, very calm, and very respectful.” Prince was both a musical genius and phenomenal performer who could easily have been mistaken for an extrovert based on his on stage presence. He too however was an introvert, and some say lived a reclusive life.
Lady Gaga, another extremely successful artist, who may easily be mistaken for an extrovert as far as her music is concerned. She too however admits to being an introvert, as she says ” I always feel shy in the Hollywood scene. I feel a bit like I did in high school, like I don’t really fit in,”. In an interview with the Mirror, Lady Gaga says “I openly admit to having battled depression and anxiety and I think a lot of people do.”
Successful performers coming forth and sharing their experience with fear, anxiety and introverted tendencies, can help us all to realise that we are not alone, and that our feelings and fears don’t have to inhibit us in what we do with our lives.
If performing is something (albeit a bit daunting) that you’re passionate about, it is worth seeking advice and working to develop the tools that help alleviate your anxiety so you too can bask in the glory of performance!
If you have any questions relating to this article, feel free to contact Melbourne Voiceworks at email@example.com. Stay tuned for our next article where we will discuss methods for overcoming performance anxiety for both the beginner and professional vocalist.