In this Preshow Rituals segment, the indie pop artist, Daniel Heffington, reveals what he does before taking the stage. You can check out the story, after the break.
I love playing shows. I miss playing shows. 2020 has been weird for performers, but I can’t wait to sing at the top of my lungs in rooms packed with people before long. So with the hope of getting to do some of these again soonish, here are some of my pre-show rituals.
Get a feel for the venue.
Ever since I was little, I’ve gotten an electric thrill when I walk into a theater, music venue, or arena. There’s something about the technology… the cables… the lights… the way my shoes scuff on the venue floor. I love it all. It feels like home even if I’ve never been there. Once I load in my stuff, I go sit or stand where the crowd will be that night and think through how I can connect with people in every corner of the room. I try to look for any obvious obstructions or weird spots to avoid while I’m on stage.
Meet the tech crew, venue staff, and security team.
I try to remember their names (not something I’m good at– though I’m seriously good with faces) and thank them for being part of the night. Even on one-off shows, I try to foster an atmosphere of collaboration and service to the crowd. I might be the one on stage, but I’m not the only artist contributing to the magic of the experience.
Note: Meeting/being nice to people is a good thing to do no matter what, but it can also lead to cool interactions in the future. One time, a guy who had worked security at one of my shows was working a Switchfoot show across town months later. I was at the show and he arranged it so I could hang with the band a bit afterward. I love Switchfoot so it was a super cool experience.
Change into my show outfit.
I really believe in having an intentional outfit for the show. It doesn’t have to be flashy or dramatic or anything like that (unless that’s your thing), but I always put thought into what I wear when I go on stage. I also never show up in my show clothes. Load-in can be hot and sticky, so I always wear something casual until everything’s set up and I’m chilling in the green room. I have a thing for bracelets, necklaces, and hats, so those are usually in my bag. I also bring cologne because I want to smell nice while I’m rocking out. (Usually Invictus or Spice Bomb.)
I’ll kick off show days with some great food in the morning/early afternoon (protein is a must for me). But I never like to eat once I get to the venue. First, because I’m a very active performer and it doesn’t feel nice to have a full stomach on stage. Second, because my voice responds weirdly to some foods. Nothing super dramatic, but enough that I don’t want to eat anything in the last 90 minutes or so before I go on stage. I tryyyyy to drink a lot of water (and sometimes succeed). I’ll grab a coffee in the afternoon or on my way to the venue, but switch to only water or sparkling water once I’m in the green room.
Get in the zone.
While I’m waiting to go on stage, I always try to catch my breath and get really grounded in the moment. I try not to just scroll on my phone, but really be in tune with what’s going on in the room, with the other bands, etc. I’ve had some really meaningful pre-show discussions with other artists that have put me in a great headspace for a performance. I play a lot of shows solo, but I like having friends or family with me backstage to just chill, laugh, and pump some music. Then I wait for a thumbs up from the stage manager, tune-up my guitar, and walk out on stage.