I close my eyes when I sing. I always have.
As far as I can tell, it’s not to exclude the watching crowd, or the band with me on stage. It’s to include the words.
I get distracted easily, interpreting people’s postures and facial expressions, and a full-on conversation starts in my head while I’m trying to wring whatever I can from the words and the silences between them.
At a show in Denver, I’m packing my gear and an elderly woman approaches the stage in the now empty theatre. In a clear Irish lilt (she’s from the Old Country), she lets me know how thankful she was for the Night, and her impressions of my voice and songs.
“You can sing,” she says.
“I try, “ I say, and feel compelled to apologize for closing my eyes all the time, explaining that I’m afraid I’ll lose my way, the connection to the words being fragile sometimes.
“Ach…nonsense, “ she says, “they’re your words! You need to do what you need to do to get them out.”
“And there is no guarantee in the moment that I know how to do that,” I say, expecting her to not understand.
But she does. Turns out she has spent her life in the theatre, and she tells me the story of Sir Laurence Olivier disappearing after a performance of Lear one night, despite the audience screaming for a curtain call. He’s found cowering in a corner by the director who asks why he is hiding and tells him it was the most sublime performance he’d ever seen. Larry says, “I know! But I don’t know how I did it!”
We agreed closing eyes on stage in an attempt to get somewhere you’ve never been is worth the possible misconception that you are somehow “apart” from the crowd.
“There was a song you did in particular…about the arrow…knocked my knickers off!” she said as she turned to leave.
I decided to keep closing my eyes.