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Stage Fright: Origin and Cure

StickmanOne of the most frequently asked questions we get from artists is, “How do I deal with stage fright?”

Well, if you’re talking about full-on panic attacks, you’ll need the help and guidance of a professional counselor! But if you’re talking about the common nervousness most performers have, then I can offer some advice.

A lot of stage fright comes from being self-conscious onstage. You begin thinking about yourself – how you look, how you sound, what people are thinking of you – and when you’re thinking about yourself, you aren’t able to be concerned about your audience and how they are feeling.

In his book and DVDs, Live Music Producer Tom Jackson recounts his real-life experience with stage fright.

The short version is, he’s on tour with a band, and constantly nervous since they are booked to do 550 dates that year. He’s losing weight… he’s not sleeping well… he’s nervous and self-conscious all the time. And he has this conversation in a “moment with God”:

Please understand, there was no burning bush, I didn’t hear any audible voice, and no angels called my name. But like I said, I believe God’s spirit was speaking to mine:

“God, I’m nervous.”

He said, “What are you nervous about?” “I want people to like me.”

He said, “Are you likeable?”

“Yeah, I’m likeable.”

The trouble is our prejudices often get in the way of liking somebody. Once we get past silly things like hair, size, color, accents, and any other goofy prejudicial thing that keeps us separated from people, aren’t most people likeable? Once you get past me, I’m a pretty likeable guy. I knew I was likeable.

God answered me, “Is everybody going to like you?”

Tom finally admits why he’s scared to go on stage… “I want people to like me.” There it was – the root of it all.

Through a back-stage conversation with God and some soul-searching, Tom realized that he was likable — but, not everyone was going to like him. When he decided that he was okay with that, he was able to stop worrying about what people thought and step out onstage.

Wanting to be liked and accepted is universal. Who doesn’t want to be liked? I know before all the concerts I played, I wanted the same thing.

The reality is that everyone is not going to like us or our music. Did you know though, that all but about 3% of the audience comes to your shows wanting to like you? Pretty good odds I’d say! So, the sooner you come to terms with this, the sooner you can start to enjoy playing live.

The rest of your uneasiness can be eliminated by knowing what you’re going to do onstage, before the concert starts. Have you created moments that connect with the audience? Do you have a set list put together that flows well? Do you know what you’re going to say when you talk to the crowd?

If your show is thought out and rehearsed, you won’t need to be worried… you can just step on stage and enjoy the moment!


Amy Wolter

As a trained Live Music Producer for Tom Jackson Productions, Amy Wolter brings her years onstage as a lead singer & keyboardist - along with her experience as a producer, arranger, and songwriter - to singers and bands who won’t settle for ‘good enough’. She’s worked with artists at all levels, and genres ranging from Rock to Celtic, empowering them to have confidence and authority onstage, and put on memorable live shows, a few of whom have been on two of the largest US tours in recent history. Some of her clients include Grammy award winners The Band Perry & Lacrae, CMA and ACM –winning country acts, Gloriana & Thompson Square, 2016 The Voice contestant Mary Sarah, CCMA (Canada) winners High Valley, Jess Moskaluke & Chad Brownlee, and Winter Jam Tour veterans Sidewalk Prophets & Love and The Outcome.

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Greenroom Comments

  1. I somehow left the stage fright behind… I do get butterflies for larger venues, but once on stage — magic!
    When I do get nervous it’s 10/15 minutes into a well honed set and somehow the audience connections are not working… That’s when on-the-fly changes occur – changing out songs, re-addressing the direction of the on-stage banter, and most often resorting back to a “cover”. A well worn song to put everyone on the same page… I can visibly see the audience shift from skeptic to fan. Ps over the last three years we have performed over 670 concerts all over the northeast and never worry about that 3% who never like anything.

    • Amy Wolter says:

      Sounds like you’ve learned to read your audience Don…this is huge! You’ve got to watch and listen to them. Be sure to look into why they are disconnecting though…are you creating enough moments in your set and following our set flow? There are several things that can factor in….sometimes it’s a weak song or not enough visual changes happening. Hard to say without seeing or hearing you. BUT, with that many shows on your roster, you’re doing something right, otherwise you wouldn’t be so busy! Thanks for commenting – great to have you Backstage.

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