Taking Down Stage Fright: My First Show

I played my first show a couple of weekends ago. It feels pretty surreal now that it ever happened.

Even the next morning I wasn’t sure that it had. Probably because I went from singing on a stage to a crowd of people in a bar to sitting alone in my cubicle staring at some graphs.

But happen it did. It all started out with me attending my first ever open mic at a place called Free Times Cafe. I don’t want to sing professionally and I don’t care much about performing. BUT I hated the idea of having stage fright.

I’ve had stage fright all my life, since I was a little kid when I would cry if I was being forced to sing in front of people.

When I was a teenager I was taking classical voice lessons and actually dreamed of becoming an opera singer. But I would enter into these singing competitions and when I’d perform, I would get so nervous that I’d forget all the words and something that was NOT my voice would come out of my mouth. It was pretty brutal.

I got back into singing many years later, but this time just for fun. I was taking lessons at my friend’s music school and every year they put on a recital. I still got the uncontrollable shakes the couple of times I sang on stage. And that bothered me.

People who aren’t sure if they’re going to get killed stepping outside of their house on any given day in a war-torn country have something real to fear.

Stage fright? Well, I believe stage fright is an irrational fear stemming from the insecurity you have that people may think you suck after hearing you perform.

I actually think many of the things we’re afraid of doing in life come from caring too much about what other people think. And so we hold back. We don’t pursue the things that would bring us great enjoyment or a more fulfilling life.

And so, when I was asked by the Free Times’ open mic host to come back for their Best of the Open Stage show, I said yes because I knew it was time to really kick stage fright in its big butt.

I practiced really hard for the next couple of months to prepare. I went to a couple more open mics to get practice singing in front of people. I almost planned to go sing out on the street — I figured if I could do that, I was golden!

But I got sick a couple weeks before the show (of course). I tried not to panic and focused on getting better. The night of the show, I was still battling something and was barely keeping myself together. But the audience was so incredibly amazing and all I wanted to do was lay out everything on that stage so I could walk away knowing I did my absolute best.

It turned out to be a great night and I was mostly just ecstatic to have so many of my favourite people in the same room, showing so much love and support.

Would I do it again? Yes, I would. I truly believe that conquering fear in one area of your life will just make you less fearful in other areas of your life.

And as with most things, practice makes perfect — so, the more you practice pushing fear away and just going for it, the easier it becomes to ALWAYS push fear away when it’s trying to steal the spotlight.

What’s been one of your life-long fears that you’ve either conquered or would like to conquer?

~ Cafe <3

“Ghost Town”

Your heart’s a ghost town
Drive by baby, ain’t a soul to be found
Think there’s a hole in your chest
‘Cause the beating’s at rest
Let me give you a temporary fix
To start it up again

– Cafe <3


This was my second collaboration with The Butcher (check out the first one here).

I insisted that we make this a duet — he has one of my favourite voices ever.  Thanks to today’s digitally-connected world, a guy from Germany and a girl from Canada can do just that :)

— The Songwriting Process —

Lyrics: I sent The Butcher my first attempt at the lyrics back in January 2014 — Verse 1 (which hasn’t changed) and a Chorus.

The original Chorus was the lyric you see above, which included lines from another song I had been writing called “Temporary Fix”. However, once putting it to music, I realized that there were too many syllables and it didn’t sing well.

The Butcher loved it overall though and wanted me to “explain the pictures” so he could better understand what the lyric was about to help finish writing it (English isn’t his first language).

So, I went through some of the images, like: “Got a thing or two that you could say ’bout that empty feeling standing in your grave” is about him being physically alive but his soul feeling “dead” — and knowing this feeling all too well in his life.

Drive by baby, ain’t a soul to be found“, for me, evoked this image of the singer driving around inside his heart, which looked like a barren, dusty ghost town — the kind you see in those Western movies.

From there, The Butcher added a Verse 2; but later on, he expressed that the lyrics would feel “more like one” if I wrote all of it. I did keep most of his revision of the Chorus though and Verse 2 ended up being a mix of both of our ideas.

Overall, I tried not to obsess too much with the lyrics. This song is mostly about creating a particular feeling and mood: mystery, sadness, and a hint of sensuality.

Music: Soon after sending The Butcher my initial Verse + Chorus, he got inspired to record some guitar + melody ideas.

I loved the vibe, but it wasn’t until May that we picked back up with the song. At that point, The Butcher sent another recording that was much closer to the final melody.

His vision was to use synths, strings and beats to create an “eerie” sound for the song. In June, he had an instrumental to work off of that sounds close to the final version.

I finally started recording some vox and we went back and forth discussing where the melody needed to be tweaked. The Butcher threw the best snippets from both of our multiple vocal tracks to come up with an idea of how “Ghost Town” could sound. It was an exciting moment to hear the potential!

The Butcher also “had a guy” who wanted to try some electronic beats, and the talented Unklang ended up with the percussion, plus some strings and mixing creds on the track.

Finally, although The Butcher wasn’t sure that singing together was the best thing for the song, I was determined to see my vision of a “duet” through. So I asked him to piece together our tracks in the arrangement I imagined and in September 2014 …

“Ghost Town” was laid to rest!

Okay, it was really done in November with the final mix :)

Lessons Learned: Open communication is always number one in a collaboration. For example, the Butcher didn’t hesitate to tell me that my initial Chorus melody needed more movement. That led to the soaring notes of “Your heart’s a gho—st to—wn” and less spacing between the Chorus lines, which I think worked much better.

We also came to an agreement that we would each focus more on our strengths — me on the lyrics and him on the music. But we also constantly gave each other feedback on our ideas — this allowed the song to progress, plus we were able to push each other past any mental blocks we were experiencing with our parts.

The Art of Collaboration

The first time I collaborated with someone on writing a song together was about a month and a half into my songwriting journey, just over a year ago.

It was such a nerve-wrecking idea that I would be adding my own creation to someone’s else’s creation in the hopes of making it bigger and better!

Well, I have to say that partnering up with Adam Boddy was just about the best introduction I could have asked for to the art of collaborating.

What makes an awesome collaboration partner?  Someone who is a good communicator and responsive (in terms of timeliness and giving constructive feedback), as well as encouraging and honest. It also helped that we both just happened to be on the same page about a lot of things!

It doesn’t always come that easy though.

Some of you have heard our song “For Simone” before but I’m putting it up now as I’m currently into a new collaboration and needing to find some inspiration somewhere! Anywhere!

I guess it’s this way with anything in life — sometimes you have to work with people who maybe don’t do things the way you normally do.  And you’re given a challenging task and could use all the encouragement and feedback that you can get … but, instead, there is silence on the other end.  [Cue the cricket chirp].

Well, we can always learn something from the experience though and use it to better our half of being a collaborative partner.  Always a silver lining to everything!

Have you ever had a challenging collaboration that you worked your way through?

– Cafe <3

“Phoenix Rising”

In the dark corner of my life
I hide in my shell
Escaping the stabs of your blade
But they still penetrate
Keep cutting me down.

Try to run, you won’t let me run
Pull me back into hell
Drowning fast into emptiness
I can’t see myself
You’re cutting me down.

But hold on, it’s not over yet
I will rescue what’s left
This crumpled heap of dreams
Will be rebuilt, redeemed
The fearful whisper that was my voice
Will echo loudly through the noise.

I will rise out of the fire
You can burn down alone
I am free
I’m finally free.

– Cafe <3


This is an original song of mine that started out as a 1+1 (just voice and guitar).

Once “The Butcher” — my songwriting friend from Germany — stepped into the picture as a collaborator, it soared to another level that I could have never achieved on my own.