Eagles Guitarist Joe Walsh on Overcoming Fear

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On January 18, 2016, the world lost another great musician, founding member of The Eagles and amazing songwriter, Glenn Frey. Considered one of the most influential bands of the 1970’s, The Eagles won six Grammy Awards and five American Music Awards and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, the first year they were nominated. Joe Walsh was along for a good part of the ride.

Walsh joined the Eagles in 1975 as the group’s keyboardist and guitarist. It’s hard to believe his biggest fear was stage fright. During his interview for The Common Thread of Overcoming Adversity and Living Your Dreams, Joe offered some sound advice on how to overcome the fears we face.

“The biggest obstacle that I faced in becoming a musician was stage fright – that absolute total fear of being in front of people. The way to overcome that fear is to play in front of people every chance you get. And that’s exactly what I did.” – Joe Walsh    

“I got up and played for free at church dances, at high school sock hops, at coffee houses — anywhere I could that would have me,” Joe shared. “Gradually, as the number of people I was playing for grew, I got more and more comfortable with it.”

Learn Every Beatles Song
What other advice would Walsh share with someone who dreams of following in his musical footsteps? “Here’s what I would tell a young musician starting out today…The first thing to do is learn every Beatles song – every one, top to bottom. Why not learn from the best? Learn all the guitar parts; learn every word, and every one of those harmony parts. This will make you a better musician and it will teach you the craft of great writing, playing and singing if you study those guys.”

Play Your Instrument Every Day
“The second thing to do is to play your instrument every day as if nothing else mattered. For that time you’re playing, never mind your homework, never mind your job. If you’re going to be a musician, play your instrument as much as you can, every day. If that’s what you want to do with your life, do it. Don’t kind of do it, do it. Don’t do it a little bit at a time and assume you’ll get better. Just get better. The third thing is to get in front of people and play. Perform wherever and whenever you can. Play for free. Play as much as you can for as many people as you can because you cannot become a legend in your parent’s garage.”

A Good Attitude Will Help
Beside a good work ethic, Walsh says a good attitude helps. “Whatever you do, try to go into it with a very real, but very positive attitude. The way you perceive things — and what you think is happening out of all your trips and hang ups — can be totally different from what is really going on. Be careful because you may form attitudes and general positions which will get in the way of achieving what you want. We tend to invent problems and issues that don’t exist. One’s way of thinking and inability to have an open mind can be a terrible obstacle in achieving anything, especially as a musician or an artist. You have to be in touch with reality to write about it.”

Be Thankful
“Be thankful and realize when things go right in life.” Walsh explains: “One turning point for me came with The Eagles when the Hotel California album was just out.  I think it was in Chicago, and we walked out onstage and there was a two-minute standing ovation before we even played a note.  And I remembered thinking, this is about as good as it gets — to be loved that much, and you haven’t even done anything.”

What About When Things Don’t Go Your Way?
“Whatever obstacles you face, a sense of humor can helps a lot,” says the famously funny Walsh. “It’s the best way to go. There are so many things that can get you upset in this world, that it’s just ridiculous when you think about it. The best thing is to make a joke about it because sometimes the basic absurdity of life becomes too ridiculous to comprehend seriously.”

Life’s Been Good
For all the life he’s lived, Walsh never forgets one early fan who helped him build that life: “The first mentor for me was my high school music teacher,” Walsh recalls. “His name was Mr. MacClellan and he was in charge of the choir. The important thing was someone who knew something, telling me that I had some talent — that it was okay to go ahead and follow my dream. Never mind what the world or my parents told me.”

Joe’s empowering message is relative to many other professions as well: “So don’t let your fear get the best of you. Perform wherever and whenever you can. Play as much as you can for as many people as you can because you cannot become a legend in your parent’s garage.” Let me know how it relates to you.

Copyright 2016 Jerry Gladstone