A couple of months ago I published a blog where I talked about my future playing music (That’s Me In The Corner, That’s Me In The Spotlight). In the depths of my last episode of anxiety and depression I’d lost the drive and desire to play music. I went through a period where I couldn’t face picking up a guitar and playing it. It really depressed me that my main outlet for creativity was shunning me.
It went on for about two months before I could pick up a guitar again and even then it was a struggle. My confidence was gone. Perhaps I should have listened to my internal dialogue when I was in the throws of my anxiety and depression and just sold my guitars, got rid of them and not thought about it any further.
I persevered though. The first few band rehearsals after I’d made my recovery from it were shaky. I didn’t quite feel what I was playing. I was going through the motions, hoping that by the act of picking up a guitar and playing music in a room with my friends would cure me of whatever was missing from me. It didn’t. But I kept at it, hoping that I would experience that rush wash back over me.
We’d had the offer to play a private gig for a friend’s birthday. I really wanted to do it as he was a friend who’d supported me with my anxiety and depression. But I stood and went through the motions, fighting the urge to throw my guitar down. I made it through but I didn’t feel good. The gig had made me feel uncomfortable. I’d put on a little weight that I hadn’t fully been able to shift so I couldn’t wear my usual gig clothes. I’d snapped a string ay soundcheck. I felt like people were watching me, waiting for me to fuck up. I felt like I was looking for any excuse to call it quits. I stood in the toilets afterwards talking to Craig, the other guitarist in the band who I’ve known for a while. I said how I was feeling. He told me not to worry, to remember it was our first gig back. I felt like crap, was still anxious as hell and made my excuse to disappear as soon as I could. I felt like I was letting my friend and the band down.
I’ve always been my harshest critic. I will always over-analyse everything, pull it to peices and blow up the negative aspects, poring over them until they became everything. I still find it incredibly hard to take a compliment, I just don’t know how to react.
I’d also been invited to my friend’s birthday party in early June, with the possibility of playing some songs before the other band played. I really wanted to. I’d been wanting to try and do some acoustic gigs away from the band for a bit, just to show another side to myself. I love musicians like Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen and Nick Cave, artists that have really influenced me in a way that I can’t really express through the band. My friend knew I had been suffering from anxiety. “Just bring your guitar with you” he said. “If you feel like playing you can. No pressure.”
Fuck it, I thought, and prepared a set, mixing covers and originals. My dad and I drove down to Hartlepool, a couple of acoustic guitars and my Fender amp in the boot. I set up in the living room and played through the set. I talked a bit and about the songs, telling the stories behind some of them, explaining about my anxiety and making light of any mistakes. But I made it through on my own, and I had fun doing it. I talked to a few people afterwards and they said they’d enjoyed it, especially my take on ‘Stayin Alive’ by the Bee Gees. I’d made a leap forward but there was still that final hurdle to tackle.
A couple of days ago I faced it. The band had been asked to play support for our friends in The John Doe Experiment at Trillians, in Newcastle.
Trillians is a local institution, the main rock bar in the North East. If you’re in a rock band, you want to play there. It’s the place to be, not really changing much in the years it’s been open.
Yeah, I was feeling anxious about it. I’d managed to book a couple of days off work before it to kind of clear my mind and focus myself on the job in hand. I spent the day doing some odd jobs and a short guided meditation session.
I try to be as professional as I can with gigs. I write the set lists out in advance as it helps me focus. I have gig clothes that I wear onstage. This helps me mentally prepare and ‘get into character’. I tie one of Sarah’s dad’s old bandanas around my right wrist. They all help me mentally prepare for what I’m about to do and to me that’s really important. I need to be in that headspace, I need to change from normal me into performing me, someone who’s a lot more confident and able to do the gig. Normal Scott can’t do that, normal Scott would freak out.
The gig went well. The band locked together and played well of each other. There were a couple of slip ups but that’s the nature of live music.
Something that’s quite important for playing a gig is the audience. It sounds pretty obvious and dumb but listen out a moment. Playing for the right audience really helps you as a performer. The best gigs I’ve played are when you’re playing to people who actually want to listen to music, you can interact with them. Every tried doing something with people who don’t want to be a part of what you’re doing? Pretty damn hard to get anything productive done and you feel tired from struggling to get through to the end.
The gig had helped me dispel any last worries I had about gigging again. I needed to do these three gigs and in this order to help me face my doubts. The first gig back was always going to be tough but I did it. The solo acoustic gig was going to test me but I did it. The last gig was going to be the final challenge to overcome but I did it.
I did it.
I had faced my worries and anxieties about playing live again. I managed to get back onstage with my guitar and even managed to enjoy myself. I know that in the future I’ll have good gigs and bad gigs. I’ll have gigs where I’m excited to play and others where I’ll be dragging myself up a bag of nerves. But at least I know now I have a future where I’m able to do it. And that feels good.