My route to the stage was not an easy one. Unlike my kids, who have grown up in a performing household and are totally comfortable in front of an audience, I hid my talents away for a very long time. In my bedroom mostly. Behind closed doors.
I did, however, sing and play VERY loudly behind those closed doors in the hope that someone would notice how fantastic I was and catapult me to stardom. They didn’t!
My family were not aware that I was writing my own songs. Hardly surprising, because I didn’t actually tell them, or ever ask them to listen.
Over the years a few people did start to encourage me to at least come out from my room and perform in front of people. The first was my form teacher in my final year of high school. On the annual charity Red Nose Day fundraiser, she placed a ten pound dare for me to sing a song to the class. I’m very grateful to her, for although I was incredibly nervous, I got my guitar and gave a heartfelt rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’, and apart from some obligatory howling from a couple of boys, the reaction was pretty positive.
A year later at uni I was persuaded to enter a talent show, just for fun. My college had a resident band, with a real show-off lead singer who was sure he was going to win. My friends were hoping I would get up there and teach him a thing or two, and I’m happy to say that I did. I played Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ (the short version) and got such massive applause that I was asked to sing another. Which I hadn’t prepared. The only other song I could think of was Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowin in the Wind’ so I had a go at that. For weeks afterwards strangers would come up to me and congratulate me on my performance.
That experience boosted my confidence when it came to performing cover songs, but I was still very shy about my own material. The following year, after a lot more time spent hiding away playing music in my room, I entered a songwriting competition. When I won and discovered that the prize was to perform in a concert that was being recorded for BBC Radio I nearly freaked. But swept up in the moment, I went ahead and did it. And although it was completely terrifying, it was also a little bit fun and exciting.
That was 25 years ago. Since then I have come to see live performance as a gift, an honour, something beautiful to share with others.
Occasionally I still sing in my bedroom too. But I never close the door.