I began reading this site as a way of continuing the discovery process that Susan’s book started. I was especially thrilled when I saw an article titled “Portrait of a Quiet Musician.” As a musician myself, I was excited by the prospect of being understood again in an even more specific way.
The musician profiled was a guitarist named Leland, whom the author had seen onstage in a variety of bands. Leland identified as an introvert. The author asked how Leland got to the point where he was okay with being on stage, and he answered with the following:
“Think about your favorite bands. You know what the vocalist and the lead guy look like, but you might not recognize the drummer or the bass player. Those guys could very easily be introverted personalities: able to do what they love, and get onstage, because they don’t have to go to level 10.”
He said that you can be an introvert and be a player onstage because the frontman takes all the attention. But what happens when you’re the frontman and an introvert?
I am an introvert. I am also a solo act. I am a pop singer/songwriter, and my name and face are all over everything I do. At concerts, I am the one who has to talk to the audience and be charismatic. The goal, especially when you are a new artist like I am, is to engage the audience and get them to remember your name after they’ve all gone home. Still, for introverts, engaging and actively connecting with an audience gets tiring really fast. After the show is over, the last thing I want to do is talk to people. Instead, I want to go to my room, shut the door, and recharge. But I know there are people who want to talk to me afterwards.
So why is it, when there are these extrovert elements at play, that we are still drawn to this experience? Why don’t we retreat inward and be more like Leland and focus on the craft without worrying about having an audience? Is being a performing artist a self-negating choice for an introvert?
Absolutely not. If anything, our introversion makes us better performers. Think about how many singers who write and sing their own material identify as introverts or, at the very least, exhibit introverted qualities. Carole King is a prime example of this. She was mostly a songwriter at the beginning of her career, writing some of the biggest hits of the ‘60s. When she was writing songs by herself, she had to spend a lot of time alone at a piano. That environment is fertile ground for creative introverts. When she started performing, audiences were drawn to her not because she was an effervescent presence on stage but because her songs were meaningful.
Even some of today’s biggest pop stars can exhibit introverted qualities. Taylor Swift was recently on the cover of GQ with a feature written by Chuck Klosterman. He asked her if she ever feels lonely. She responded with the following:
“I’m around people so much. Massive amounts of people…So then when I go home and turn on the TV…I don’t feel lonely. I’ve just been onstage for two hours, talking to 60,000 people about my feelings. That’s so much social stimulation. When I get home, there is not one part of me that wishes I was around other people.”
Doesn’t this sound familiar? Swift is one of the most dynamic performers of her generation with a unique ability to connect to her fans, but she says that the attention from her fans exhausts her in a way it would exhaust an introvert. It wouldn’t be so surprising to find out that Swift was an introvert, but all of Swift’s qualities, from her talent to her enjoyment of her downtime, have contributed to her success in all areas of her career.
For all the introverted performing artists out there, our introversion gives us unique powers of listening and observation that make us adept analysts of the human experience. Though we may not be the most gregarious of folks, we can use our unique way of looking at the world to channel the human experience in a deep and thoughtful way.
No matter what kind of art we make or where on a stage we may be performing, we can connect to other people through our art—and I don’t think I could ever get tired of that.
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