I was 16 when Adam Grafstrom asked me to join his band. He and Tony Erickson, the drummer, needed a bass player for their classic rock cover band. I was terrified. Real bands stood directly in front of people. I was used to church bands. We sat off to the side, like an orchestra pit. The audience wasn’t really an audience. It was people reading lyrics off a Powerpoint presentation. People not looking at me. People not looking at me is my favorite kind.
The problem was the Kittson County Fair Talent Contest. It wasn’t waiting for me to get over myself. The day arrived, and though my fingers knew the bass lines backwards and forwards, my body had no sense of what to do other than be terrified. The grandstand held a million people (in my mind). Try as I might, I could not coax my body into facing them.
So I stood sideways.
Standing sideways looks about as foolish as it sounds. But it was the best solution I had at the time. Give me some credit, though. I could have done what I really wanted and faced backwards.
The important thing to remember here is not that our little band went on to win 100 dollars and a trip to the Minnesota State Fair talent contest. It’s not to remember we placed second (in our division) losing only to LeAnn Rimes’ stunt double singing “Blue” without missing a yodel.
No, the important thing to remember is that I learned over time to not just reveal my left profile to the audience, but to go from 90 degrees to 45 and eventually eyeball to eyeball.
People talk all the time about facing your fears, but I’d like to propose another way. If you can’t face them, first try standing sideways. You’ll get there eventually.
P.S. If you have your own version of “standing sideways” I’d love to hear about it. Email me here.