The Billy Connolly Guide to Being an Awesome Mad Bastard on Stage
Seamus Anthony's blog is about how the Musician (aka Mewzo) must first win "the battle" in the mind. Old Zen geezers call the problematic aspects of the mind "The Monkey". If you can tame the Monkey by getting your thinking right then happiness and success as a musician, on your own terms, are within your grasp. It's Mewzo Vs Monkey - let the battle begin!
I once heard Billy Connolly, a hero of mine, say how before he goes out on stage he has very little idea what he is going to talk about. He gets scared every time, scared that when he is actually on the boards, pacing back and forth in front a few thousand people who have all paid good money to witness his famous stream of consciousness in action, he will remain as wordless as he feels directly beforehand.
But he trusts, and every time he steps out of the wings – “Whiiirrrr!” – the engine starts up, the magic starts to flow of its own accord and hey presto, he suddenly has all kinds of mad, funny, honest and fearless things to say.
And that’s the crux of the matter. It’s about two things: facing your fear and being honest.
It takes balls to be a performer. You have to pick up your instrument and walk out on to the stage and play; even if you are not sure what the hell you are going to play or how you could possibly remember anything when your mind is so blank that you are scared it will never return.
You have to trust.
You have to trust that as you face the blank screen, the white page, that if you just start to type, the spirit will move you to write something worth reading.
If you can’t take the risk that you might go blank on stage and look a mug, then you will never be any good, and you will always be frustrated. Whether I am any good is up to the world to decide, not me, but I feel real fear, just like Connolly, that I will forget my lyrics, songs, keys or melodies when I am on stage.
Of course I am more often on stage in front of two men and a dog but regardless, I shit myself right before it’s my turn to have a bash.
The reason I shit myself is because I have actually gone blank more than once. Usually, with hindsight, I was unprepared, or it was hot or I was extremely fatigued (or I was pissed) but whatever the reason, it happened.
Suddenly – can’t remember a single word of a single song.
Not even the titles of songs that might be good to sing. That’s why I have a set list. Not to know the order – but in case I forget what the hell I have to offer. (Trust in God, but tether your camel.)
Dumb bravery is not enough – you must also be honest. Everything you do must be honest. Every word you sing, every note you play, every remark you make, every interaction with the audience, with the sound guys, with the bar staff, with yourself – honesty is key.
The less honest you are – the more fearful you will be. The least honest people I have ever known were always scared to death of everything. They were so scared they just kept up the pretense, which made them more scared, and more false, in a vicious cycle to Nowhereseville.
Next thing you know you hear that they’ve split up the band – again.
It’s the honesty and the fearlessness that people crave from you. And it’s what you crave from you too. So be brave, and tell us your truth. That’s your true calling in Life and as a performer.
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of Melting Pot.
Author DetailsSeamus Anthony
Seamus Anthony makes music in the Bar Romantic genre. His sound is similar to Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash – but more Australian. Enjoy with a twist of black funny.