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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On Abandon As An Introverted Performer

I'm at a point in my life where I'm hungry for advice. I'm eager for friends to give me concrete feedback and I'll take lessons from anywhere. Right now I'm pouring over what it means for me, as an introvert, to be a performer.

Some people go into a separate headspace to put on a show. They step into another character of who they think the audience wants to see. It's always been important for me to be genuine, so in performance, I've always tried to actually connect with my songs on stage, rather than just pretend I mean what I'm singing. I feed off the crowd's energy a little bit, but not the way that loud and boisterous artists do. Most of the energy and feeling has to come from inside of me.

Watching the AMAs the other night, you'd think that connection between song and performer was the last thing the fans wanted. Everything was about spectacle, weird outfits, and incongruous dance routines played out behind the artist as if she were too tiny to possibly hold anyone's attention. Even the emotionally vulnerable songs were spouted from heads with dead eyes. Is this what the industry thinks we want? Is this what we want?

That sort of smoke and mirrors just isn't me. I want to mean what I'm singing, and not just look like I mean what I'm singing. I want to have a real emotional abandon that lets each song swallow me. I want to connect with the audience too, but that part comes less easily. I get nervous. I worry about being observed. I fret that I'm boring everyone. (I'm a little defeatist, I know.)

Friday's show at SideWalk felt really good though. Before the show, I went downstairs to have a few quiet moments to myself. Then onstage with the piano on the side, I could launch my emotions into the wall and turn my head to the audience when I felt ready. It was a lovely mix between feeling like they were watching me and feeling like I was playing alone in my room.

Before I moved to New York, I could barely perform live. I had grown up singing solos in church, and that was one thing, but I playing original songs on piano was entirely different. I'd play these gigs at the college coffee shop where five people would come and I'd still be so nervous that my voice would shake and my hands would forget the chords. Now after three years of playing in NYC, I feel like I'm finally starting to get the hang of it. It goes to show that you can get better at anything with practice!

I'm so grateful that I played all of those bizarre gigs at weird bars to three people so I could get to this place where I'm starting to be confident and people are actually starting to come to my shows. And I'm so grateful to all of you who have stuck it out through my floundering to hear the songs that my nerves were obscuring. I'm learning that I don't have to be anxious at a show. Nor do I have to become someone that I'm not. You are coming to hear what comes from inside of me, and that's what matters.