As performers, we all get a case of the jitters every now and then. No matter your level of musicianship, a healthy dose 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 art moves forward. And if you don’t think the same is true for full-time, award winning, tour-slammed musicians — then International Bluegrass Music Association award winning bass playerMissy Raines will beg to differ. I interviewed Missy on stage, at doors open, at the beautiful Red Clay Theatre in Duluth, Georgia. It is a musician’s dream of a venue with great audiences and wonderful professionals working behind the scenes to make every show the best. Missy shares her performance focusing strategy and why she studies, so closely, the craft of one of her idols, Marty Stuart. We get underway with a look back on her youth, and how a surprise purchase by her dad gave direction to her early musical passion.
Before you read the column below, watch the latest installment of “What’s In Your Case?” — which gives you a sense of what makes Missy… Missy. (disclaimer: the video was shot using the Vertical Video Syndrome, oops!)
Hey Missy, what’s in your case?
Listen to Lisa’s full Artist2Artist interview podcast with Missy Raines:
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.”
Thanks for reading. We’d love to hear your comments, so please add them below. And, if you have not listened to the podcast interview with Missy, scroll on back up and enjoy.
Interview Date: October 14, 2013
Interview Location: On stage at The Red Clay Theatre in Duluth, Georgia USA