Somewhere along the way of my seven-week, five-country, 33-show tour of Europe, I started taking a picture of the audience after my bow, before I leave the stage, during the ovation. Ovations used to terrify me. When they first started happening in my career, fear crawled up my spine like electricity, cold sweat formed on my skin, and the need to run overtook me. I’d bow quickly, mumble a panicked, “Thanks y’all” and exit the stage as fast as I could.
Believe it or not, it was not easy to let in the applause. It frightened me, I wanted to shoo it away. It felt narcissistic, like too much ME, so self-indulgent it was embarrassing. I felt unworthy of it, I felt like a fraud, a fake.
I worked diligently to write songs that emotionally connected, but when they did their job, it unhinged me.
The third wall (that space separating the audience from the performance, traditionally an imaginary wall completing the enclosure of the stage) comes down in an ovation, and for that joyful moment, we are united, songwriter, musicians, listeners, as one.
An artist’s work is to be a conduit for human connection, and at the end of most nights’ work I can feel this oneness, alive in the room, in our hearts. Songs are bigger than songs; music is more than music.
Our lives all contain experiences we struggle to understand and come to terms with: tender wounds, concealed scars, unresolved longings, jagged fault lines. Songs speak in the mother tongue, the language of the human heart.
We are attracted to stories and songs because they help explain the mystery of why we exist and how we turned out the way we have. A great song is a friend, a travelling companion we take with us when we go.
We want to thank the songwriter for this gift, so we stand, and say Bravo! It’s giving back - a reciprocity.
However, I was not prepared for the audiences’ emotions, or my own. It took years to figure out how to accept the loving energy of an ovation with grace, and return it graciously. It eventually occurred to me that it’s not ME that I stand there for - it’s WE, US, all of us mortal, all of us vulnerable. Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that letting love in is in itself an act of love.
Looking at the ovation pictures later, back at the hotel room, it makes me happy to see the smiling faces of the people standing up, sending love, joy-- beautiful LIFE energy. I can look it in the eyes now, and allow it in, send it back out, and embrace the moment without fear.
To reach for the stars, and not for the hand next to mine, is to miss the point of being an artist.
Thank you all for letting me, the kid who did not know how to be loved, grow up in front of you. It's an amazing journey.