Nerves and Guitar (by )

I live near Cheltenham and that town has some very good poetry nights etc... so Friday saw be going along to Slak Bar to an open mic at Earshot (probably my favourite poetry night). But this time it was opened up so that the open mic included acoustic so I thought I'd take my guitar and play one of the songs I worked on last month.

But though I was fine if a little upset as Jean refused to talk to me as I said she couldn't come in and watch, things got a little delayed and my anxiety and fretfullness mounted.

For a start I have a glittery nail vanish covered guitar, it is not one of those you can add pick ups too and I knew I wasn't getting the vocal range to be heard well over it in any case. (not an excuess but my glands where up due to hay fever and because of breast feeding I couldn't take anything for it - I find this heavily affects my singing)

Then one of the real acts got up (Horston Longsail) then one of my friends got up and using my guitar and his string clamp thing played a lovely haunting song.

Then I got up - for a start I hadn't wanted to use the crutches but there was no way I was going to be able to get up onto the stage without them. So I was feeling a little flustered as well as nervous. I sat down and begain to play and stuffed it up! I was shaking which didn't help and also I was so nervous my hands were sweating and my fingers slipped of the strings - I'd never encountered that before. Stressing out also makes my voice even tighter and smaller and I couldn't check if I was in tune becuase of the ringing in my ears.

The neverous twitch I used to get where my lip curls up on the left hand side started. I was still attempting to play. I closed my eyes and sang the second verse of my song instead of the first but then managed to look up a bit and get more in the flow - though I changed to the wrong cord and had to alter the sequence slightly so that it would all still fit.

I got off the stage feeling I had really stuffed up - I was so annoyed at myself - how comes I can play the song through perfectly whilst Jean is doing things like licking the guitar to get my attention becuase its dinner time but I get infront of people and it all goes wrong?

It's nerves.

People were very nice about it and I got given tips in the fact the microphone needed to be nearer my mouth and told that it started out a bit hesitant but once I got into it it was good. I even got told the song was like my poetry full of the sweet and dark and that it sounded very PJ Harvey.

I also know that I wasn't really ready to 'perform' in public but that if I didn't start trying I never will be. The issue I have is playing infront of other people and like getting rid of the stutter there is only one way to cure this and that is - if I mess up an open mic I simply need to play more open mics. Now I haven't got a clue weather my songs are any good or even if I can still sing in tune I just have to hope that people aren't going to be too mean!

I am still annoyed with myself over getting so flustered though - and with being annoyed - it meant I didn't really click back into gear until latter in the evening so basically missed Avril Staples poetry as I was waiting for the ringing in my ears to stop!

But I did have a fantastic night - I really enjoyed the two headline poets Bohdan Piasecki and Michael Wilson.


  • By lionel, Thu 19th May 2011 @ 10:50 am

    I think you are very plucky even to try!

    I've been to some open mic poetry evenings with Simon and realised I would be really scared of reading a poem in public, even though I'm fine giving lectures. But to sing...

    I know how stage fright tightens the voice: with a lecture you have time to relax into it, and can get off with a read introduction before going on semi-ad lib. With a poem I suppose you could say a few words of intro in order to relax a bit, and I suppose you could try that before a song, but trying to hit the right note with a tight throat is scary enough to make sure it won't happen!

    I suppose it's worth sticking to poetry first until you are really at ease with that, and then to quietly take the guitar onstage when you next read a poem and only follow up with a song if you feel ready for it? Win the audience over with a poem and then say "Can I to try a short song on you before I step down..." sort of thing?

    Anyway – good luck!

  • By sarah, Sat 21st May 2011 @ 10:39 am

    I don't want to mix the poems and songs up like that but on the plus side I discovered that Avril is a singing teacher and she recons that she can have me sorted in no time 🙂

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