If you are a touring musician, it happens to you. If you are a new performer, it probably happens more often than you would like. They are the bane of every performing musician: pre-show jitters, on-stage distractions, and getting bummed out when shows don’t go as planned.
Having to daily navigate her own multi-faceted music world, Missy Raines understands the stage distractions that sneak up on so many of us. Artist2Artist host Lisa Jacobi interviewed Missy at a recent music show where Missy shared the strategies she uses to ease on stage tensions, to keep focused, and to stay in the musical moment.
But, before reading the column, first watch the “What’s In Your Case?” video as Missy shows us what she drags around from show to show.
A study in manifold talents, Missy Raines makes a tremendous contribution to bluegrass music.
She is a monster musician, songwriter, composer and producer.
She adds her bass playing and vocal talents to her own band Missy Raines & The New Hip, and is a member of the Helen Highwater String Band that includes Mike Compton, Shad Cobb and David Grier.
Missy has won a boatload of music awards, including seven IBMA “Bass Player of the Year” trophies.
Rounding that out, Missy is a senior instructor at ArtistWorks.com, where she teaches proper bass technique to players on the hunt for excellent form and tone – insuring that future bluegrass bass musicians will execute with the same quality as their jazz, blues, and classically trained counterparts.
Distraction is a derailment risk for any musician on stage – especially for the leader of the band.
In her own group, Missy is responsible for her fellow musicians, the original music they play, creation of set lists, travel arrangements, venue logistics and more. Come show time, such cares can hinder any musician’s desire to be in the music – allowing an opportunity for nerves and tension to purchase soul stealing real estate.
“It’s completely different as a band leader than just being in a band,” says Missy. “The stakes are higher… as you spend your whole life to get this band together, and to get your music together, and to get it out there, to have it matter to somebody. And you get caught up, lost, drowned and suffocated in that.”
“You figure out how to make mistakes and still go on and make it okay.”- Missy Raines
Missy says overcoming these nerves and handling unexpected situations are areas of stage craft that musicians should embrace. “You figure out how to make mistakes and still go on and make it okay. Do something and learn from it clearly… make it really work for you.”
“Sometimes, I physically will stop and realize that suddenly I’m leaning all my weight on one foot or the other in a hunched position. And I’ll re-balance and place both of my feet on the floor so that I can ground myself again. That physical action goes a long way to bringing my head back to what I am doing at that moment. That’s a physical act that I use… to feel more grounded.”
What musicians feel, hear and see on stage are, often, very different from the audience take-away.
Sometimes, a performer will perceive a well rehearsed plan gone-AWOL as a mistake, while the audience hears it as a great moment in the show.
“For me, there are moments when I create drama in my head. For a show that feels ‘Oh my gosh, this is going to be the worst thing ever in this world,’ – it’s usually never quite that bad.”
Full-time, award winning, tour-slammed musicians deal with these mind-stretching boundaries more often than one would think. Some handle it well, and look forward to the unscripted landscape that unfolds before them. But others, a good number of others, find themselves completely derailed, evident by their onstage facial gymnastics or through their post show meet-and-greet demeanor.
“I watch performers all the time, my heroes, not only for their music, but how they carry themselves on stage. That’s really important for me. When a performer is at ease, then everyone in the room is at ease. One of the greatest people who does this… is Marty Stuart. So I say to anyone who wants to know how to handle anything, is just watch him. Nothing flusters him. I truly think he is one of the best at conveying this sense of being in control.”
No matter your level of musicianship, a touch of nerves on stage is a positive tip-off that you are leaning across the front edge of your craft and into the zone where your art moves forward.
“It goes from this huge, huge thing that you have put all on your shoulders and then you whittle it down to ‘oh, it’s really just about this,’… and then try to remember that what you are really doing at the end of the day is sing a song, play a song, create a groove, and create a piece of art for the moment that matters to somebody who might be here. And if nothing else, it matters to you at the end of the day.”
Lisa’s full interview with Missy can be heard below in the “Artist2Artist with Lisa Jacobi” podcast.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back at Bluegrass Today on the next full moon interviewing John Cowan. He continues to blaze an innovative music trail – introducing bluegrass sounds to new audiences and reinvigorating those who have fallen off the bus.
Until then, play nice on the planet.