Folk singer-songwriter


I remember one of my first public musical experiences: playing a trumpet solo at church. I was so nervous that just standing up and walking to the front felt almost literally like an out-of-body experience. My face was hot — probably glowing red, and my arms were shaking (not good if you’re a trumpet player.)

I don’t remember much about what I played. I do remember how I felt in the seconds and minutes before being invited up to play. I remember the queasiness, the fear and the dread.

ad_4_2016That’s a normal experience for young people. I was 13 years old. Doing anything creative in public can be traumatic for a young teenager.

It can also be traumatic for adults who can otherwise do very courageous things. Like public speaking, putting yourself in front of an audience where every ear and eye is fixed on you – I know people who’d rather walk across broken glass.

Good songwriters know all about courage. Presenting your songs to the public — even to very small gatherings like a house concert or songwriting circle — takes a lot of courage. People who don’t write music won’t necessarily know the feeling you experience when you present your latest song. But you know.

The fear assaults you from many angles:

  1. The fear that your worthiness — your artistic intelligence, if you will — is being judged.
  2. The fear — perhaps embarrassment — that comes from setting your emotions, feelings and opinions to music.
  3. The fear that someone will express a dislike for your songs.
  4. The fear that you won’t like your own songs.
  5. The fear that you’ll make a mistake.
  6. The fear that it’s all been a waste of time.

Courage is empowering, but it often comes in short supply. To be courageous implies fear: no one feels courageous if they don’t first feel afraid.

I wonder if the missing step in your development as a songwriter is to find the courage to perform your songs for others? If you want to improve, you need to get your songs out there — warts and all — for others to hear.

And it takes courage. It takes nerve. It takes ego – the healthy kind of ego that reminds you that anything you do is worthy of some attention.

So you need courage if either of the following apply to you:

  1. You’ve never sung one of your songs in public before.
  2. You’ve had a traumatic experience on stage, where you forgot your own lyrics, your voice cracked, someone heckled you, or you just plain sucked.

Looking for materials and tools to become a better songwriter?

If you’ve never performed in public before, your hard work as a songwriter needs to be rewarded. Find the courage to do it!

If you’ve stopped performing or presenting your songs in public because of a traumatic onstage experience, you’ve got an even tougher job. But you must do it! Like the beginner who’s never performed their own songs, you deserve the attention.

Performing offers far more positive than negative experiences. Most negative experiences can be faced with a bit of personal philosophy, a chance to hone your abilities to keep everything in perspective.

If you’ve been delaying getting your songs out there for the public to hear, just remember that every song you’ve written is unique and a reflection of your creative soul. That alone makes singing it for others a worthwhile, even necessary experience.

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

Thousands of songwriters are using “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBooks to polish their technique. Get them at the online store.

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  1. It is so true that you must perform your songs. But only if you want to. If you don’t want to, then don’t. As a boy I had a learned fear of performing. I just couldn’t handle the nerves after one or two traumatic experiences. When I started writing songs, I wanted to perform them, I just couldn’t find the courage. I eventually did though, but it took 30 years. I don’t regret the time it took to do it again, it just took me that long to learn to handle the fear. Now, before performing, I always tell myself that the only important thing is that I do it. Nothing else matters; it’s all a learning experience. I’m no great performer, but I’m glad I know I can do it again.

    • So glad you wrote, Tom. And I’m delighted to know that you’re performing your songs. You bring up an important point, which is that it may take you many years to finally do it, and that however long it takes is not the important thing. Your songs are unique reflections of your artistic mind, and now your audiences get to hear them.

      Thanks again!

  2. Pingback: Courage - The Hit Songwriting Formula | The Hit Songwriting Formula

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