In this Preshow Rituals segment, Ollie McGill, from the rock band, The Cat Empire, reveals what they do before taking the stage. You can find out their rituals and listen to their newest single, Barricades, after the break.
I generally don’t get too nervous before a normal Cat Empire show, that is until 15 minutes before we hit the stage. I’ll often be hanging out with some people, usually having dinner, and they’ll ask me, “so are you nervous for the big show?” I’ll usually surprise them with a negative response. I have been playing 150 shows a year with the band for 15 years and these days I am usually quite relaxed in the lead up to a show, that is until the wait to go on stage.
I start to feel my body tense up and there is pent-up energy that needs to be released. I find the best way to release this energy is just to jump up and down while jiggling my entire body. I feel really self-conscious while I do this so I usually find a secluded space and do it in private. It also helps to psych up. Sometimes being on the road can be a bit exhausting, to say the least, and there is a sudden wave of fatigue that can hit at around this time. This crazy jumping and wiggling procedure can help fight this and give me the little buzz that I need to face 2 or 3 thousand punters that are 10 times more pumped up than me at that stage.
Another pre-show issue that can pop up when I have been away from the venue for too long before a performance is that I don’t have a sense of the space in which we are about to perform. The best way to address this issue and put me in the right headspace is to watch the support band. I try to go into the crowd and watch from the front-of-house as often as possible. It is also good to leave the venue, go for a walk, have dinner, meet people, get a sense of the town, but if I have been out before a show, I make my curfew the support band start time. Then I can watch them, be inspired and get into a healthy frame of mind.
So when I hit the stage, I am focused, energized and relaxed. Having said that, a bit of nervousness is usually healthy. The biggest pre-show concern is nonchalance, in which case I start to lose focus and make silly mistakes or run out of ideas.
Jiggly jumps are good for getting the creative juices flowing too!
Getting on stage not having touched the piano on any given day is always a bad idea – at some festivals and the second day of a double show, there’ll often be no sound check. So I make sure that I play some piano every day (other than the gig itself). I usually try to do some warm-ups or just improvising before or after soundcheck (or I sneak into the venue in the case that there is no soundcheck). The best possible warm-up, however, is to find a small bar with a piano and have a good sing-along or jam.