Roots of Nervousness
I’m specifically speaking about the process of a new song…from the moment you first jot the lines of a few lyrics down on paper to the moment where you take it live to a room full of strangers, and all the nerves that encompass it.
When I first wrote the song Yellow Monarch, it took me years until it finally saw the light of day, let alone a stage. I first performed it alone in my living room with a shitty web cam, then posted it on YouTube. Then when I finally performed it for the first time this last October, I did it in Yakima while playing to a room with only 4 people in it. When it got to the verse where I was talking about my desires to inflict my wounds on another person, I backed away from the mic and sang it to myself while looking away from the crowd. Why?
2. Nervousness induced by fear
There is a huge process I go through when composing a song…it usually starts with a theme or an idea that floats on in my head, and then it starts to form into lyrics…the moment I start to write them down is when I begin to feel committed to what was once just an idea. The song Yellow Monarch is about how I felt after being raped by my boyfriend at 17. My experience with being raped is something I’ve felt more comfortable with talking about over the last 6 months or so because of the documentary I started filming about sexual abuse back in July. But still…there was this song, and it was hard to sing.
I was nervous because of the subject matter. It’s not something that’s considered polite dinner conversation or really at any time. Most people would rather you didn’t talk about it at all. So here’s this song…and I wrote it and it’s about being raped and the hatred you feel after it, and wanting to hurt someone the way they hurt you so they know how it feels.
The problem with that is that the eye for an eye method never solves the problem, it never solves anything…and so you feel guilty for even feeling that way. But there’s this song, and it’s finished, and when you wrote it, it was exactly how you felt at the time you wrote it. So you take that song and you deliver it to a room full of strangers or friends…and how will they take it? Will they think of you a monster? Will they ask you about your experience? Will they pity you? Will they get turned on? Will they hate you for your feelings?
Makes me feel very vulnerable to say the least. Almost every time I go on stage I feel vulnerable.
But what happened?
I took the song to stage, and no one has booed me off for the song yet. The applause isn’t ever as strong for that song as it is for others, but I’ve noticed that most of the folks that are clapping clap harder for that one then they do for others. To me, this tells me they get it…and suddenly I feel less alone in my experience. Both a sad and comforting state to be in really.
But the nervousness begins to slip away, and the song grows…it gets stronger because I’m no longer singing for me and my pain, I’m singing for every person who feels the way I do, who’s ever been touched in a way they hated, but weren’t strong enough at the time to stop it. So instead of shyly slipping away from the mic at the most painful part of the song, I want to eat the mic and tear away the silence that eats away at everyone who’s ever felt the way I have.
Nervousness is a weed whose roots are drenched in fear, and the only way to eradicate it is to get in there and dig it out. Share your fear, live through it and embrace the fact that you lived.
After all, a song only lasts so long, and if no one wants to hear it, they can plug their ears and walk away.