Breaking the Record with Roan Yellowthorn, Part 26: Being Bold

Breaking The Record 2020
Breaking The Record 2020
Jackie McLean of the indie band Roan Yellowthorn grants us an inside look at the making of an album from start to finish in her ‘Breaking The Record’ column.

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:: stream/purchase Rediscovered here ::
‘Rediscovered’ – Roan Yellowthorn

Here is my goal moving forward: to be bold.

I am a pretty inward person, usually. But I love people. I love meeting people, and I love connecting with people. In fact, out of all of the things I love about making music, I think that the connection factor is the thing I love most. I love connecting with people, really authentically connecting, through music. It’s nourishing and exciting and healing. It brings me a lot of joy.

Jackie McLean
Jackie McLean

I don’t think of of myself as being a bold person, necessarily. I have done bold things in my life. Personal things and, I guess, professional things.

Just jumping into the Breaking The Record series documenting the making of our album from start to finish? Read part 1 here!

When I first started playing music, after teaching myself how to play piano and writing my first few songs, it was terrifying to me to go on stage and perform. It’s not that the stage is a terrifying place to me. On the contrary, I have always been comfortable on stage. Growing up, being in plays felt like my safe space. The stage was a sanctuary. Performing felt good. I did musicals, talent shows, and performances in my small town in Maine. I always loved doing that.

But, in that context, my lines were written for me. I had a script to follow. Or else, I was part of a musical revue where I came on, sang a song or two, and then went off. In any case, I was never doing it alone. I was part of a larger architecture. And the songs I sang, the words I spoke, were written by somebody else.

There’s something uniquely terrifying and thrilling about being on stage when it’s only you there. And being the one in charge of the words and the music. It’s a confidence test. It’s a worthiness test. Are my words worthy? Are my songs worth this attention and time? Am I worth it? Am I enough? Can I do this on my own? What will people think?

It’s a lot to handle at first. For the first year or so of performing, I got so nervous before any kind of performance that I could hardly speak. I shook. I couldn’t eat. I felt on the edge of death.

It’s a vulnerable thing to do. It’s vulnerable to sing the kinds of songs I write, songs where my feelings and emotions are laid bare. But it’s even more vulnerable to stand on a stage, alone. To ask, in essence, to be accepted. That’s what I’m doing when I go on stage. I’m asking to be accepted. It’s a difficult thing to ask. The answer is never guaranteed.

I kept doing this, even though it terrified me. And I’m proud of that. Maybe that’s bold, in a way. But it didn’t feel like a bold thing to do. It felt like a terrifying thing to do. A terrifying thing that I just forced myself into over and over again.

I don’t get so nervous anymore. In fact, I often enjoy performing my music, now. I enjoy feeling the switch between apprehension and command. When that switch flips, it feels empowering. It feels emboldening.

Sometimes, I feel bold on stage. But, in some ways, the stage feels like practice for real life. It feels like a sandbox to experiment in. And I want to extend the experiment further.

Yes, I’ve learned to be bold, to some degree, on stage. I don’t shake until I shiver anymore. (However, ask me again after I play a huge stage and I’ll tell you now my performance anxiety is.) But now I want to push myself even more.

I want to be bold in my real life

I am an artist. I am also a human being. And I worry, both in the capacity of an artist and the capacity of a human, about how other people see me. I worry about how they perceive me. What they think me. If they like me. I want people to like me. To understand me. To empathize with me. Because I want to connect. I want to connect closely with people. To love and be loved.

And I worry sometimes that, if I’m too bold, I’ll be difficult to love. I worry that my full personality will push people away. I worry that, if I take a chance, if I’m feeling silly, if I say something wrong, that I’ll be left and written off by those I love. By those who I want to be loved by.

It’s healing to feel loved and accepted. But, imagine the power of feeling loved and accepted as your full, true self. That’s what I want to experience. I don’t know what that full person is, completely. I think I spend a lot of energy moderating myself. I don’t really know what it would look like if I worried less about what others might think. But it’s my goal to work in that direction. To be a full version of myself.

To ask that question, even off of the stage, ‘do you accept me?’

young Jackie McLean
young Jackie McLean
:: stream/purchase my new cover album here: Rediscovered ::

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Rediscovered - Roan Yellowthorn

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