Many people experience stage fright when they have to perform. The thing with stage fright is that it is not a one-time experience. Performers experience it over and over again every time they have to go up in front of people. It does reduce with increased practice, but you can expect some nerves every time you have to perform in front of an audience. Is there a way to overcome the anxiety surrounding stage performances? Dr. Bindu Subramaniam, Co-Founder and CEO, SaPa, has been performing on stage since she was 12. She talks about her experiences with stage fright and what she would advise to conquer your performance fears.
“The only way over it (stage fright) is through it.”
You have been on the stage from a very young age. Did you go through stage fright?
I had tremendous stage fright. My knees used to shake. And not just with singing. I used to take part in debates, quizzes, elocutions, and public speaking and all of those things. I think stage fright is a very real thing especially when you are a tween and a teen, and that’s really when it hits you, you care what other people think about you. Unfortunately, I think that age is coming down. Now, you look at 7 and 8 year olds and they are much more concerned about what people are saying about them than a generation earlier when you really weren’t self-aware. When you didn’t have self confidence issues till you hit your teens.
Everybody goes through this. But if you have been performing, if you have been exposed to performance and speaking, when you were a small child, then you have fewer anxiety issues around performance as you grow up. The only way over it is through it. If you are afraid of public speaking, the only thing to do is speak a lot in public. These things are very real. One thing that helped me as a singer was to realise that the audience is on your side. Nobody comes to a concert to see a musician fail. They come because they want to be part of a good experience. So, your audience is on your side. You just have to give them a little bit and they will be with you. You have to be open and engaged with your audience and not be scared of them. So, that really helped me a lot. If you feel like you need a second…I always talk to my audience, at least get one laugh before I start. The moment you realise they are on your side, you’ll be okay.
What did you do when your knees were shaking?
(Laughs) Well, I didn’t run away! I don’t think I had that option. I would sing offkey, but I got over it. You have to power through sometimes.
Are there some specific habits that a professional singer or musician should have? Like we used to hear that singers cannot eat ice creams…
I think it depends on your own voice. I mean, especially with ice cream. Because I know that SPB used to eat icecreams and have no issues. My mom on the other hand, if she even looks at ice cream, it’s not going to be a good thing for her. I personally am not a fan of ice cream but that’s because I have very sensitive teeth. I don’t know, I think the ice cream eating thing is a myth. But there are certain singers who protect their voices. What I think is really important for every singer is to have a regular vocal warm-up routine and that can be lip trills, saralai varisai, long notes, whatever works for you.
But you need to have a regular, consistent practice. And then there are just good vocal habits like hydrating well. It’s really important. On show days, I carry extra bottles of water to remind myself to hydrate. I also try to talk a lot less. If I am out in public places, restaurants, where the noise levels are high, I try to talk less because you end up talking louder without realising it. And that puts some strain on your vocal chords. Those are the key things. So, have a warm up routine, hydrate well and don’t strain your voice by talking or shouting.
Dr. Bindu Subramaniam, Co-Founder at SaPa, wears many hats in musical and non-musical circles – a singer-songwriter, author, entrepreneur, and educator. She has been performing on stage since she was 12, and her first solo album was critically acclaimed and nominated for a GiMA (Global Indian Music Awards).