Performing live when you’re on the autistic spectrum and have mental health issues.


I understand you enjoyed my last blog entry and that is why you are reading this one. Thank you.

Perhaps, you may have missed the previous blog entry and decided to take a whim on this one, thank you also.

I had someone ask me after the last blog entry, why I gave up gigging for a couple of years. So here it is, another wild ride of self-indulgence to tell a tale of sensory overloads, depression, what I think about when I engage socialising mode, possibly why I was late that time we were meant to do something and a probably a dollop of ego-centralism.

Why did I gig in the first place?

I used to love gigging, standing on a stage with room for feet and pedals, maybe space to bop about. The way the ensemble intensifies a wave of sound around the room, the applause of an audience that might have been listening. Performing live would give a rush of endorphins like no amount of gym attending or chocolate cake consumption ever could.

Photo by John Coles
Performing at Godiva Festival 2015

When off stage, things are awkward, people are difficult to talk to or understand in a conventional sense. I may pick up on a small detail, which might indicate something about you; but what do you say? Am I boring them? Does this person think I’m strange and will avoid me in the future?

Heart is racing when leaving the house; clamming up, radiating heat of a thousand suns yet somehow cold all the time, whiffy pits even though I’ve just got out the shower, “I know the door is locked but I must spend the next half an hour checking, 1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4” says what a friend once described asthe cruel mind squirrels, burring the nuts. Clearly signs of anxiety: “but what ya gonna to do….”

Then there is stepping onto a stage. The background playlist through the P.A system is overwhelmed by an excitement or expectation from a group of strangers, beverages in hand; conversations take a u-turn back to the evenings’ proceedings. Most of all, the endless chattering of a neurotic internal monologue is parted to post performance conservations, as this precise moment is reserved for a delightful and forever pleasurable hyper-focus. The answer to why I don't smile on stage.

There was a not so interesting film called Focus once, maybe Hyper-Focus could be the sequel, and you know, can be a good film.

Anyway, people, (and by people I mean once or twice), used to ask if I got nervous when performing. The truth is, it is undoubtedly the one time I was not anxious. I suppose you could have called me in those times, a performing introvert.

Circa 2014-2016 this all changed.

What all changed?

The projects got smaller in scale, the audiences shrunk with them even though the people within got cooler. I found lugging equipment around became more of a hassle, the games of Tetris. Next time you go see a band play live, just take a look at the large speakers, the lights, the drum kit, the keyboards, the big complicated looking boxes with flashing lights, which you’re not sure what they do. Remember all of those devices and think, someone, somewhere, managed to cram all of that into a fifteen-year-old hatchback.

The late nights take their strain too. I am naturally a night owl. I don’t mind mornings, I just wished they happened later in the day. Despite preferring a late night to an early start, the truth is, I like to be in bed for them, reading, watching YouTube videos, amongst other things.

The space on stage got more crowded, those years became a way of learning how to play the guitar in some strange contortions. I would then look back at social media and realise I would not be visible. Whether there wasn’t a light on me, or my face is behind a speaker.

There was an open mic I was hosting that was the real deal breaker for me. August 2016, I had just realised my first album, “Groaning Up”, I said down the mic “thank you, good night”. In my head, I said to myself “that’s it, never again”.

The back cover to Groaning Up

I stopped leaving the house as much; the ability to care about anything had vanished, my world had changed from doing something I loved to not know what to do. The obvious problems with OCD, which I was kind of in denial about for 10 years, had finally come to the forefront. So I went to the doctors, now I’m on treatment yet still working on it.

The thought I still can’t shift:

Why should I be out in a random pub somewhere when I could stay at home and just develop a following over this Internet thing people keep talking about?

With my autism, my house is my environment. I have everything in its place, I don’t have to deal with loud or sudden noises, tuning into conversations on the other side of the room, missing th