Not all songwriters are born with the gift of singing. And not all singers are born with natural stage presence.
This can lead to paralyzing feelings on stage.
In fact, there is a fear common to all the artists I work with who are trying to forge their way as original artists.
The best advice I can offer: focus on the words.
This is the thought: “how do I look when I’m up there?”
The best advice I can offer these emerging artists and developing vocalists is simple: focus on the words.
Staying in the Moment
Wondering how you look when you are on stage takes you out of the moment itself.
On the contrary, focusing on the words, or the musical script – if you will – gives you a story to tell.
This is your primary role as the performer. Thinking solely about the lyrics in the song as opposed to how you look or how well you’re hitting the note, will kindle a natural interpretation and induce natural, honest hand gestures and body language.
What Do I Do with My Hands?
You will be surprised that you won’t need to think so much about gestures as they arise authentically when you are concentrating on the visual storyline within the text.
Essentially, you need to take a less technical approach and eventually you have to learn let go.
We don’t plan our gestures out in advance when we are talking to a friend but they inevitably match the conversation we are having.
Our body tends to respond in an organic way if we are present in the moment. The lyrics in a song are an extremely valuable tool that you, the performer, have been given as a gift.
Of course it isn’t ‘bad’ to rehearse gestures.
Making a video of yourself rehearsing, coupled with working in front of a mirror, are also useful tools to create personal awareness of how focused you truly are.
But never underestimate the power of this happening naturally as you devote yourself to the lyrics.
The Danger of Overthinking
You may argue there is so much to think about while on stage. This is very true.
However, it’s only once you have a multitude of experiences under your belt that you will be skilled enough at being fully present within the story while simultaneously being aware of technical or personal intensifiers which may throw a hindrance on stage.
This experience, and thus this skill, will develop over time. In the meantime, amplify your rehearsal craft and challenge yourself to stay connected to the story.
Don’t let your thoughts wander beyond anything other than the lyrics.
Even during a musical interlude you need to keep your inner monologues going. Actors religiously use this technique very efficiently and effectively.
Sing to An Audience – Even if You Are Alone
Even if you’re in a room by yourself, sing to an audience.
Stax Records renowned producer Steve Cropper gave me some great advice: “even if you’re in a room by yourself, sing to an audience. You’ve got to realize there are millions of ears listening.”
I personally believe if you’re 100 per cent committed to your action, believe it, and are engaged in the lyrics, you will evoke pure emotion from your audience.
To answer the ‘how much is too much’ emotion question, I simply point up to the framed pictures of Michael Jackson on the wall in our Music Row Voice studio, which capture him literally in mid air, with a cheeky look and raised eyebrow, and I answer, “It can’t be too much if it is authentic.”
As a performer you are here to touch people. If you are doing that, you’ve done your job!