Eddie Minyard
by on April 21, 2015
I will admit to being a “basement musician” most of the time – when I can even find time for that. But, lately, I’VE HAD THE BUG TO GET OUT THERE. Sure, I am known to grab my harps and sit in with friends. I’ve done that for years. But, that’s a bit different than being in the main spotlight, ya know?

Recently, I’ve attended a few open mics and songwriter nights and it just feels so damn good! I find myself thrilled at the prospect of bringing my guitar to play – my harps, too, of course, but this is not about that.

I have always enjoyed jamming and, as I’ve mentioned before, there is nothing like getting together with other musicians to improve your own playing and enjoyment of the songs you’re playing. I also love to sing, and most of the harp jams don’t involve that. Getting up at an open mic or writer’s night give me the opportunity to play my originals, sometimes mixed in with a few covers. Folks in the crowd like hear stuff they recognize.

It can be scary, though. Like that one night, years ago, when things went a bit twisted (of course, this has never happened to you, right?) I was really looking forward to a good time, but then, suddenly, anxiety set in. I realized that one of the other guitarists seemed annoyed at both my choice of songs as well as the arrangements of those songs. I knew that he was a much better guitar player than me. I even started thinking to myself that I couldn’t really compare myself to this guy. I hadn’t played for as many years, I don’t have much time to practice, and I know I have my strengths as a singer/guitarist. Plus guitar playing shouldn’t be a competitive sport.

Despite my soothing mental monologue, I managed to work myself into a frenzy about having to play anywhere in the same room, building, city, state, heck, same country as this guy – forget about sharing a stage with him. I was worried about forgetting chord sequences, missing chord changes, or missing the chords altogether. I just knew I would forget all the lyrics to my favorite songs, even when they were in front of me on a piece of paper (I use an iPad nowadays – very slick!). And never mind trying to play anything but the most basic rhythm guitar! Not that I usually get fancy in the group setting, although it can be a good place to just try out something new or different. And by fancy, I mean basic riffs…

I had myself so upset that I was ready to bail out on the whole idea of performing at all.

Then I took a deep breath, and reminded myself that this was just for “fun”. Who would have thought I would need a sedative to perform for “fun”? I told myself that this was just one person, and he puts his pants on the same way I do – one leg at a time! And he was a crappy singer, to (nya, nya, nya!). I concluded that I was overreacting, big time.
As a (perpetually) beginning guitarist, I’m intermittently insecure about my playing ability. Aren’t we all? Most everyone I’ve ever played with has been very supportive and encouraging of my attempts to play, including the folks in the audience. And, I know that I can play harp with the best of the best – and have done so – like blues legends Lonnie Brooks, Matt”Guitar” Murphy and Big Al Carson. Stage fright is not in my DNA.

But, when it comes to playing guitar, out front, I always feel like I don’t measure up. I know many of us feel that way; it seems natural to critique our own performances. In fact, one of the best parts about playing with others is when we all laugh and share with each other how we individually screwed up on any given song. It almost seems like a “I messed up more than you and this is how” contest sometimes. And yet, the overall song always manages to sound marvelous. Music is really wonderful that way.

So, here we go again. The last couple of times on the stage, the applause and the praise afterwards were genuine. As was the warm glow of accomplishment I felt, and the pure joy in sharing my interpretation of music, that I wrote and love, with other people. I just turned 64 this week and I’m climbing back on the horse – a friend let me play a few songs, solo, at his gig the other night I’m playing a writer’s night at a bar in Boston next week, the Commodore Grille, in Nashville the week after (as part of Ramp Bash) an a charity benefit the week after that.

Game on!

How about you? Do you play out? Do your stand up there on the stage and put yourself out there? If you do, please, share some stories to encourage others. If you don’t, please, tell us why?
Posted in: music blog
Dan Lamons
My dad was a pentecostal minister.Im the flip side of the coin. He used to tell me I was not smart enough to be skeered.Fortunately I had a great Papaw who schooled me about being scared. I would tell my daddy fear is of the Devil !
Kip Marchetti
Great blog post. I played much more when I was younger and I'll save all of the stories for when I have more time. I don't play anymore, except for myself because oddly enough anxiety developed at a later age. I'm 58 now and have experienced all that you so aptly described in spades. It is comfortin...View More
Eddie Minyard
Just re-reading this, Kip. I appreciate the fine words, especially from a writer such as yourself!