Despite always having butterflies before a performance, and having been quite anxious about doing shows in the past, the stage is nevertheless the place where I feel the most powerful. In many ways it doesn’t make sense: how could a shy person and a loner feel free and confident on a stage, singing in front of people..? Us human beings are such paradoxes. Contradictions upon contradictions.
About six years ago, when I worked briefly at a cool and artsy store called Project No. 8 in Manhattan, a coworker of mine, upon having seen me perform said: “Why can’t you be more like you are on stage, in real life?” My coworker was obviously trying to get me to step up my game as a salesperson, but she did have a point, and I had never thought about it before. I was quite awkward and shy around people, or alternately over-the-top and flirty, and yet on stage I knew how to be myself and take charge. I have my theories as to why this may be, but that aside, my aim is to close the gap now, consciously.
The concert that I did this Wednesday in New York felt good to my soul. I spoke and sang my truth, my guitar felt comfortable and friendly against my fingers, and my band backed me up beautifully. I have never felt more present, never more sure of myself and my music. Off-stage too I felt more at ease. My voice didn’t rise two octaves, as it often has in the past when talking to people… I remained Janita, I remained me. At least for the most part.
It is possibly quite rare for an artist to say that their stage-persona is their truer self, but that is how it is with me. I am not actually shy. I’ve simply been scared and distrustful of people, but I’m starting to see that there’s no reason for that. I don’t need the stage to elevate me, because I am equal as it is.
To conclude, I will never be a great salesperson at a store. Not because I wouldn’t know how to, but because I don’t want to. I am an artist, on and off-stage.
Photograph by Taylor Ballantyne