All About Songwriting

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Performing Songwriters: Rule #1 – Never Apologise

One of the first pieces of advice that I received after my very first solo performance was this…

“Never, ever say sorry. If you have to apologise for what you have done on stage then you shouldn’t be up there in the first place.”

I can’t remember who said it to me now but whoever you are, I am forever in your debt.

Performing songwriters who say sorry about their performance while they’re on stage is a real pet hate of mine (the saying sorry part, not the songwriter themselves).

I mean, I’m in the audience listening to a songwriter give their all and at the end of their performance they say something like “oh, sorry about that.” By saying sorry about their performance they’ve just ruined a special moment for me.

Unfortunately this happens a lot, even with experienced performers who should know better.

I really don’t know why I feel that way when it happens but, I do know that apologising for what you’ve done on stage is an unnecessary and unprofessional thing to be do.

We have all heard the phrase “you only get one chance at a first impression” before but it’s so very true. The last thing you want to do is put off your audience by proving to them that you’ve no confidence in your performance.

Here are three reasons why you never apologise on stage:

1. It’s not the mistake you make but how you get out of it that matters.

I have made some gigantic mistakes in my time as a performing songwriter but the greatest test of a true professional is the way you recover from your mistake. Audiences genuinely love it when a performer takes a mistake and turns it around to their advantage.

2. More often than not, the audience wouldn’t have noticed the mistake anyway.

As a performing songwriter, you are playing your own music so the audience has no point of reference as to how your song should sound. Any mistake that you make could sound like part of the song to someone who has never heard it before. Unless you are playing to an audience of anally retentive musicians you don’t have anything to worry about. By saying sorry you have bought the potentially unnoticable mistake to the audiences attention.

How silly is that?

3. It doesn’t promote a healthy attitude towards making a mistake.

We are human beings and therefore we will make mistakes. A lot of great ideas come from mistakes and little glitches here and there. Embrace your mistakes, learn from them and laugh it off, or at least smile. The audience will be right there supporting you every step of the way and besides, awkwardness is not a feeling that you want to leave your audience with at the end of the night.

So remember, embrace your mistakes, learn from them and keep the performance going.

Until next time, happy writing (and performing),

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting

4 Comments

  1. When we make a mistake we call it “jazz”

  2. I think Miles Davis put it best when he said “Do not fear mistakes. There are none”

  3. Well said.

    I saw Metallica train wreck once. Even at that level… amazing. They didn’t apologize, they laughed it off and blamed Robert.

    • Corey Stewart

      March 25, 2018 at 11:03 am

      Yes I’ve heard about Metallica and their train wrecks. At least they wrecked their train amazingly 🙂

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