Me just before opening for the Indigo Girls on my birthday. I was a little excited. (Photo by Joel Boyea)

I’ve had about a week now to reflect on the previous two and our tour that brought us all the way up to Michigan, back down south to Mobile, and included five shows with the Indigo Girls.

Before we left for tour, a friend of mine told me I’d be a different person afterwards. It stuck with me. The thing is, I didn’t WANT to be a different person. I have worked hard on the person I am. I like to think I’m kind, creative, fun, a little (ok, probably a lot) goofy, but ultimately, I’m me. I have great parents that did a wonderful job at teaching me how to be good.

But what I didn’t have, pre-June 17th, was confidence. At least not in terms of my songwriting or performing in front of people. Playing drums since I was 12 had given me an ok amount of confidence in doing that part. But standing there “fronting” a band, singing and playing guitar, and performing my own songs is an entirely different animal. And in fact, it’s something I had never really got much enjoyment out of. I would play a show and then the next day go into something that I can only describe as a pretty deep depression. And I’m a really happy person. So that would always feel kind of weird. I think it was just a result of singing all these super personal songs and feeling like I’m pretty much naked up there and being judged. And it’s true; you really are your own worst critic, at least I am. So I’d come away from it remembering every sour note, every time my voice cracked, every flaw. But I’d do it again, and again, and again, with the hope that eventually I’d get over it and be a better performer, or at the very least, it would help me be a better songwriter.

I guess I’m glad I stuck with it.

Because things changed, and I became a different person, on June 17. It was my birthday, and we were opening for the Indigo Girls for the first time. And for whatever reason, once our set started, I was not nervous. At all. I chalk it up to a couple of things — I had only got about 3 hours of sleep the night before. We performed on TV at 8am, then on the radio just a few hours later; then we had to be at the Grand Rapids venue at 2pm. Then it was meeting the IG crew folks, enjoying some catering, setting up merch, sound check. There was very little down time. And with so little sleep from the night before, I’m not sure I had the energy to feel any sort of anxiety. But just in case, a couple of hours before show time I drank some “Calm” drink powder I had gotten at Whole Foods. No idea if it actually does anything for real, but even if it was just a mind over matter thing (this is supposed to help, so it does), once I stepped on stage I felt about the mellowest I had ever felt. And that particular show was my very best performance, ever.

I tried to keep that going throughout tour, but during the next show with IG, at a theatre in Ann Arbor, I was as nervous as could be. But, here’s what was different about it. I almost laughed out loud over it. I remember standing there thinking, “damn, I’m so nervous!” and just finding that funny. Funny that just two nights ago I was doing the same thing with ease but now in front of the most appreciative, respectful crowd ever (you could seriously hear a pin drop) I was almost freaking out. But I didn’t freak out. I told myself, “hey nerd, you are nervous but that’s totally ok!” because I knew it was. I knew I could do it, because I had done it. And by the end, I was comfortable and happy with the performance. And sure enough, that became my thing. Nerves or not, I was up there to do a thing, and I knew it would be fine.

So, now I see what my friend was talking about. She might not have meant it that way, or thought that much into it. But I really do feel like a different person. I’m more at ease with myself, and ok with whatever feelings I might have on that stage. It’s all a reflection of me, and it’s important to me to be real about things. So if real means feeling like I’m going to pass out or vomit all over the front row, that’s ok (and it’s even more ok now that I know none of that actually happened).

Before tour I made a playlist that I named “Walk Unafraid,” after one of my favorite R.E.M. songs. I was thinking it would help give me confidence before each show. But the thing was, I didn’t even need it. I walked the walk. Unafraid, and with grace. I’m so grateful that I got the chance to.