What It Feels Like To Have the Entire Audience Leave When You Are Playing On Stage
"It's already been done before."
"Someone else has already done it."
"Other people can do this better than me."
This is some of the negative self-talk I've been indulging in since, well, since as long as I can remember. I even go so far as to seek out other people who will confirm it. Compliments feel good but deep down I don't trust anyone saying anything kind unless they come out and say something nasty along with it.
Part of this is probably healthy - I'm usually probing for real feedback, solid information or advice. If it's all positive, it's probably not particularly helpful.
But the other side of that pattern is really just me seeking some reason not to do it. "See, I told you..."
I've been making music since I was a kid. I don't know why. I'm not naturally good at it. I have spent thousands of hours with people who are good at music and you can see how their minds work. They can keep phrases in their mind, connecting the patterns and harmonies in clear and logical patterns. They can count without losing their place.
They seem to see or hear something other people don't.
That is not me at all. My brain fights the normal stuff and looks for weird stuff. I can't sing in tune. I lose track of the beat. I lose the count. I forget the words.
I am terrible at the thing I somehow feel compelled to do and have done for nearly 25 years.
OK now, since we're being honest here - is that what's holding me back?
Not in my head at least. It's all the other stuff.
I'm too old.
I'm too fat.
I have too much debt.
I don't have the right gear.
Nobody will come to the show.
Nobody will like it.
People don't listen to this kind of music.
There is too much music out there.
I can't say anything original.
Let's dig into some of these.
Too old? This was my excuse in my early twenties. MY EARLY TWENTIES. Jesus.
Too fat? So what? There's no music weigh in. What am I worried about? Getting disqualified? Hahah seriously what is that about?
Too much debt... um ok... when was the last time someone did a credit check on an artist before listening to their song. What's Cardi B's credit score? What are Conor Oberst's thoughts on 401Ks? Wow Matt, really????
I don't have the right gear. The thousands of dollars of equipment in your closet might disagree... keep typing on that MacBook Pro Matt... just keep typing...
Nobody will like it...
Ok that's closer to the truth. I have two distinct memories of the room clearing out when I started playing. CLEARING OUT. Everybody left.
Well not everybody. A couple of people stayed.
And stuck around to talk.
And wrote me emails afterwards.
And asked for lyric sheets.
How did it feel to clear the room? It SUCKED. I see their rejection in my head all the time. All the time. Deep down, I know they are right.
And those couple of people? Maybe they would have wanted to hear a couple more songs? Maybe they were actually into it?
All I saw was the people leaving. The people who didn't want it.
To the point that I missed the people who were into it. Who wanted more. Who would have maybe told their friends. I missed it, and it was right in front of me the whole time.
So starting here, now. I'm 38. I will finish things. I will find the people who want to stick around. I'll give them everything I can. I'll follow through. Let everyone else leave. They were just talking over it anyway. It's fine. It's not their thing. Stop thinking about them and start thinking about the ones who actually want it.
And really... if I'm being honest... how did it feel to clear the room and see everyone leave while I was singing on stage?
It felt fucking great.