Sunday, February 9, 2014

Joe Kowan found his own path around stage fright

Joe Kowan wanted to play folk music, but had big trouble with performance anxiety. His creative solution was writing a song about that problem. Watch his excellent eight-minute TED talk on How I Beat Stage Fright either at TED or on YouTube.

Last week I was reading Graham Nash’s autobiography, Wild Tales: a rock & roll life. On page 146 he describes how Joni Mitchell compensated for her difficulties in playing the guitar:

“Her acoustic guitar was the entire orchestra. The bass strings became the cellos and double basses, the middle strings the violas, and the high strings, violins. And everything she played was in strange tunings and picking patterns. The way she’d gotten to them was through a childhood brush with polio. As a result, her left arm was a little weaker than the rest of her body, so forming an F chord, which required some strength, presented real problems. To get around it, she learned to play in the open tunings that blues players had used for years, so she wouldn’t have to play that damned F chord.”

Mr. Kowan didn’t write the only song about stage fright. Way back in 1970 the last (and title) song on the third album by The Band was State Fright. You can watch a video of them performing it live in a concert film called The Last Waltz.

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