Over the years Ive had a weird and unhealthy relationship with performing. I always felt like i never chose this life. It chose me. And because I ‘didnt have a choice’ I felt unqualified to make music b/c I hadnt been trained traditionally. My biggest fear was (and is) playing in front of other musicians b/c it was the one place people would listen to me with critical ears and I would ultimately be exposed for being an imposter – someone who has no idea whether shes playing a Gsus or G7 or Gwhatever. Someone who is faking it until she makes it.

Its a weird feeling thinking of all the doors that have opened up over the past year – wondering how it happened and worrying whether or not I will mess it up. These days I have learned to ask myself a very important question when I get off stage after a bad set: “What do I think happened and what actually happened?“ Reality and perception are two very different things, and often we confuse them and make them the same. This question has really helped to steer me away from those moments when all I wanna do is rip myself apart and say “YOU SUCK! You shouldnt be here. They only clapped b/c thats what theyre supposed to do“. If there is one thing I know now, its that musicians make mistakes…all the time. They just get better at hiding them :) If there is anything else I know, its that the more you practice, the better you get. These are two facts that I wish the 21-year old version of me knew 11 years ago, although to be honest, Im not sure it would have saved me from any of my episodes of self-deprecation.

Ive also begun to tell myself one other thing (this time before I get on stage): “this show is not about you. you are simply the messenger delivering the message. Someone needs to be encouraged. Someone else needs to access a buried emotion. Someone else just really needs to have a good time tonight. Help them do that with your music.“ Reminding myself of this keeps me from wallowing in self pity, constantly apologizing on stage for my imperfections, and making awkward comments to distract people from the fact that I’m very uncomfortable. Over the years, I’ve frozen up on stage out of the fear that I wouldn’t perform flawlessly (ironic), I’ve kept to myself b/c I felt I wasn’t good enough to associate with certain people of a higher musical caliber, I’ve made one apology after another after another.

So you played a song and you hit a wrong note…or two…or three. It’s ok. Now they all know you’re human.  When it comes down to it, music makes people happy, it enriches their lives. And it’s your gift to give to the world. Don’t hoard it. Everybody already knows you’re not perfect, but it finally becomes fun when you accept it.

  • TAHIRA Akua TAHIRA

    Peace Joy! What an honest and raw post. I share with you the self defeating habit of criticizing myself for every mistake I make as a musician. Your philosophy is dead on: “..musicians make mistakes…all the time. They just get better at hiding them :) If there is anything else I know, it’s that the more you practice, the better you get.” Gonna make your words my mantra!

    Look forward to seeing you in and around Wilmington, DE again. You and your sister, Peace, are my favorite Gable Music Ventures artists!

    TAHIRA
    http://www.TAHIRAproductions.com

  • Michelle Marra

    Wow…very profound! Thank you for sharing…you definitely hit some sore spots in my character as well and I’m going to try and do it ‘imperfectly’. Thanks Joy!!!

  • Eleos

    Hello Joy! I just discovered your website through your guest post on bandzoogle.com, https://bandzoogle.com/blog/musicians-how-to-choose-the-right-producer. Once I was on your page, the beginning of this post trapped my attention and held on tight till I was done reading.

    I couldn’t help commenting, because you have expressed in this post a situation so familiar to me in a way that touched me and that I could relate to. I’m a writer who has lost her words for a while now so when I come across a piece of writing that expresses so well what I feel or think or go through, it is more special to me now than it was when I myself could have written what I felt.

    I have always felt awkward on the stage, constantly wishing I could sit at a piano with my back to the audience so I could play and sing better ..haha. Now, have applied for a course in performing arts in the hopes that it will amp my confidence in myself and eliminate my inferiority complex amongst other artists ( musicians, painters, singers, dancers…). Reading your post put me in touch with those fears I’ve had, and told me that I am not the only one to have them. Any one would tell me that it was irrational to feel “less” than others because I feel music more than I know it. But to hear that what I feel has been felt by another person comforts me and to see how victoriously she deals with it gives me hope.

    This post was altogether inspiring, and I wanted you to know, Joy, that you are making an impact with your words and with your music. I am encouraged, I am healing, and I am thankful.

    P.S: I like your music!

    • Eleos!
      Thank you! I am only now just seeing this comment. I apologize for the delay.
      Im so happy to hear that these words have rung true with you and so many others! Keep writing! Keep sharing! God bless!
      -Joy