Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Living with stage fright: One singer’s story

She's known for her personable on-stage manner as much as her sublime voice, but Halifax-based indie singer Jenn Grant was once so rattled by stage fright as a teen that she put off the start of her career for years. Currently touring behind her fourth album The Beautiful Wild , Grant talks about her long bout with performance anxiety:

"It was something that developed. It never crossed my mind that people would really want to hear me – specifically me – sing. I once wrote a song for my cousin who had died a few days after her birth. When I sang it in junior high school, the school gave me a standing ovation. Everyone was talking to me the next day and congratulating me. People wanted me to sing, and for whatever reason that freaked me out. Up to that point I had also been singing on Friday nights at a coffeehouse, but I stopped doing that altogether.

"I'd been wanting to sing again for people for years after that, but I wasn't able to do it successfully. I tried again when I was 18 or 19, and I was really enjoying practising. I didn't feel too nervous, and I was getting excited 'cause I thought I'd be able to do this. But when I got up there in front of all my peers, the stage fright escalated. I had my blue guitar that my dad gave me for my 16th birthday, but when I got up there I couldn't get my fingers to stop shaking on the strings. It was as if a little earthquake was going through me. And it also went to my voice. Everything would shake and tremble. The song was Landslide, by Fleetwood Mac, and I must have played the whole thing, but with my head down and my voice getting quieter and quieter. I quickly got off the stage. I was upset with myself the rest of the day, and for months after. I can't think of anything more upsetting during those years. There were about 10 years of these moments altogether.

Story continues below advertisement

"At age 23, I came home from a Tegan and Sara concert at the Marquee in Halifax. I felt so sad during that show because I felt like I was watching my destiny pass me by. That was enough for me to do something about it. Without asking, I pencilled myself in at a little coffeeshop called Salvation in Halifax for January 30, 2005. I'll never forget that first moment. I had my cousins helping me, which was enough that I suddenly felt like myself on stage – very comfortable and at ease. It was very loosey-goosey. But that was much better than the opposite. I never looked back after that day. I started playing with my cousins for the rest of that year around Halifax, until I started my solo project and got a band together. "

"I don't talk about stage fright unless people ask, and musicians never ask me. I feel like I had enough time with it, and I don't like to rehash things too much. I used to feel bad that I didn't start my career until my early 20s, but I don't feel that way any more. I think not being able to sing for a decade because of nerves means I will never take for granted how lucky I am now."

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨