Stage fright can be a bane to any up-and-coming musician. But Jasmine Janai recently found herself in a situation where those jitters could have been catastrophic.
The Atlanta-based singer-songwriter and winner of Honda’s #WhoIsUncharted artist competition had to overcome her lifelong fear of performing for people in the most-stressful environment imaginable — inside a legendary recording studio in front of a crowd of music industry representatives.
Though Janai has spent almost her entire life playing the guitar and singing, her stage fright is so severe that she refused to perform even in front of her own family.
“Performing in front of people always scared me,” she said, while talking about her childhood choir performances. “My family would have to close their eyes when I performed.”
That fear carried into adulthood and Janai admits that she’s only performed in person for her mother once. Janai’s nerves are so bad that she even has to psych herself up to record herself performing in her room.
“I feel like people are watching me even though they aren’t,” she said. “I feel like I get really shaken and so does my voice, until I get comfy.”
That fear had kept her from doing any real-life performances of her own material.
“Unless talent shows count,” she said through laughter.
However, Janai was forced to overcome her fear when she won Uncharted’s competition. Janai was selected from thousands of undiscovered artists to perform before a crowd made up of scouts. Luckily, she had discovered a few ways to calm her nerves. Some healthy (a little bit of mind-centering meditation), some not so much (a couple of shots). No matter her methods, Janai knew that she had to nail performance because she had walked so far out on a limb to pursue a career in music.
Janai left college behind — turning her back on a volleyball scholarship to a university in Utah — and simultaneously strained her relationship with her father.
“I didn’t want to keep playing volleyball if I would be wondering if I did the right thing or if I would always be thinking about doing music instead,” she said. “So, I called my parents and said that I was moving to Atlanta and not going back to school…My dad said that is not how life works and I need an education and real job. He thinks music can be a career for other people.”
“Me and my dad still don’t really talk,” she added.
Given the wreckage that her decision left, there’s a lot riding on Janai making a career in music work. And she’s fully aware of it.
“What keeps me going is there is no Plan B,” she said. “This has to work.”
Given all that, you might expect Janai to be nervous when the day finally came to perform her first live show in front of people who could make or break her career. But Janai said she was more excited than anything. And after the most important performance of her career — in fact and also by default — Janai realized that she actually wanted to be on stage.
“When you’re a little girl and you dance in front of the mirror, you sing songs in front of the mirror, that’s how you want to feel. And when you’re on stage that’s how you feel,” she said. “I want to do it all the time. It woke me up. Like I kind of knew this is what I’m supposed to do.”