Stage fright

Stage fright

Fantastic! On 19. August 2011, I was to play at the Copenhagen Songwriter Festival, and I went on stage without stage fright for the first time in my life. It is a quite new life for me to be able to go on stage without any stage fright. Previously, I prepared for the approaching catastrophe going on in my head a whole week before the performance. Now I feel much freer on stage than ever before, and I can enjoy singing and playing on the stage instead of be nearly dying from fear. It is a whole new life for a Singer-songwriter like me, with a burning desire of being able to live from my music. 1000 times thank you for your help!

Nanna Larsen
Recording & Performing Artist Singer & Songwriter
Nanna Larsen 2000 Frederiksberg Copenhagen, Denmark

Nanna Larsen has been singing semi-professionally for 20 years and published 2 solo albums. Furthermore, she participated in the Danish Eurovision Song Contest in 2004 and has had 8 singles on the Danish radio station “P4” throughout the years, as well as one on the Danish radio station “P3”. Nanna describes herself as being out-going, creative, loving and sensitive. She plays the guitar and teaches jazz, guitar, and song writing etc. at the “Rytmisk Center” in Copenhagen. Nanna has been touring in Germany and the USA both as a soloist and with her band.

From Stage Fright to Stage Joy. Continuance, the TV show “Voice”.

I have been suffering extremely from stage fright for most of my life. I cannot put any number as to how many times I have forgotten my text, while performing as a singer. The worst black out, I have experienced, was at my exams in biology at the university. I had spent 2 years on my special study; I was more into my stuff than ever before. But when the censor asked about something simple, I had no idea. My mind went black. I had to say aloud that I knew that I knew it, but hadn’t access to it. Afterwards, the censor told me that he had never seen anyone as nervous as me before.

Performance anxiety influenced my whole life. I had a long education – i.e. 20 about 20 years. 20 years with tests, exams, and assignments. It was a living hell for me with lack of sleep and a bad self-esteem. I believe that the performance anxiety is based on a deep, deep fear of disapproval. A fear, which was imprinted in my childhood, when there were high demands as to my performances, and when I lacked safety and presence. I don’t want to go into details, but just mention that I am a grown-up child of an alcoholic and a dysfunctional family. Anxiety was deeply engraved in me.

The performance anxiety also influenced my big passion: Music. I played the piano and I sang. But I was too scared to play and sing in front of other people. I would sit for hours creating my own songs. I was often offered various things – like e.g. to become a singer and a pianist at the talent line of the music school, but I simply didn’t dare – and then I just didn’t turn up.

Later in high school, I wanted to sing in the musical, but I signed up to become a prompter instead. Then I would sit down in the front of the stage and look at the others, who did have the courage. It was a little like being in a mental prison.

Later on, the bad self-esteem and the performance anxiety influenced my choice of education. I didn’t dare trying to get into the Royal Danish Academy of Music, so I don’t even know, whether I would have been good enough. I chose Biology as the least evil. Then I could walk around in my Wellingtons out in the nature all by myself; here I could hide from the people, who would evaluate and judge me. I became extremely sad, because I didn’t do the thing I was passionate about. I became ill because of stress, when I was a project leader in my first full-time position as an environmental employee. After that, I got depressed, and the anxiety began to dominate. It became too immense to answer my phone, see my friends, and accept a new job. I isolated myself. After an appointment with my medical doctor, I obtained help at an anxiety clinic at the state hospital. That was nice. I began re-gaining a somewhat functional level and returned to a normal job; however, never on full-time.

In the midst of my depression, I realized that music is the most important for me. Music gets me up in the morning and makes life worth living. Without focussing on music, I just wanted to die.

So by the help from some friends, some foundation money, and a small inheritance, I recorded and published my songs and went out and played. The stage fright followed me. Not a healthy excitement, but destroying performance anxieties, which hindered me from focusing on singing my songs and maybe say something between the numbers. It was a struggle. I went to a psychologist and a self-aid group for years in order to obtain a better self-esteem, but the stage fright didn’t get much better.

Then I met Marin and TFT! After a few sessions, I suddenly became more calm and was able to enjoy standing on a stage. I wasn’t paralyzed from fear, and I started to relax. It was a much different feeling to stand on the stage now. It reminded me of happiness.

The TV show ’Voice’

The following year I became even braver. One of my female friends encouraged me to sign up for the Voice. I had sworn that I would never sign up for anything like that. I was simply to scared to do so. I was sure that I would die from fear. But Martin had made wonders, and I thought that this might be a good opportunity to meet with my demons and have my stage fright removed once and for all. I wanted to live from my music, and the stage fright was standing as a huge obstacle between me and my dream.

The first audition for the Voice before the recordings, I had to perform in front of some casters and show them my abilities, but I completely forgot the text, while I was singing. Obviously, old fear would turn up, when I took an even greater challenge. I really didn’t believe that they would choose me after that. But they were obviously more forgiving towards me than I am myself, and the called me back.

Knowing that the TV show would be the ultimate challenge for my stage fright, I went into an intensive course of sessions with Martin. On the days, we didn’t meet, I tapped myself. It was nice to have tools to calm the daily anxiety and the unpleasantness appearing in connection with all the recordings, performances, and the hubbub. With Martin’s help I got all the way to the live shows, which I am proud of. Never in my life did I expect to watch myself in something, which required so good nerves and self-esteem. I, who only a few years ago, was doomed to a quiet life on the sideline…….

I wonder, whether it was more loving for me not to get quite to finals – 3 more weeks of recordings – even though, of course – it would have been the ultimate victory. The recordings were very straining for me both physically and psychically; not to mention the production plans and the decreased budget. In the future, I would like to offer myself some loving terms, which are suitable for me, and my own well-being has to have the first priority no matter what.

I went from not being able to remember the text of my own song at the casting – to participating in a programme taking place for 2 months of recordings and song performances – e.g. singing in front of an audience of almost 1 million persons on the Danish TV2. That is a HUGE VICTORY to me. Yes, the stage fright did knock on the door, when I performed, but I did what I thought was impossible, and I am proud of myself and extremely happy for the help I got from Martin. Let me say it like this: It would have been impossible without Martin’s help.

When I am singing and playing today, the stage fright is mostly transformed into stage joy and a light excitement, ensuring that my energy is focused. I am grateful for all the experience and help, I have received, and I am happy to be able to share my experience with students and colleagues.

By Nanna Larsen – `Voice´

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