Tracey Thorn on stage fright, anxiety and connecting with an audience

Singer Tracey Thorn, best known as one half of Everything But The Girl, has opened up about the anxiety she has suffered throughout her 40-year music career.

In a revealing Desert Island Discs interview, Thorn muses on how her shyness and stage fright influenced her music and writing.

A self-confessed “swotty and bookish” child, Thorn enjoyed a happy childhood in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, but by her mid-teens was restless in suburbia.

She discovered punk, plastic trousers and a desire to perform but was so shy that her first singing audition took place in a wardrobe. Horrified at the idea of people watching her sing, Thorn took a mic into the confined space and belted out Bowie’s Rebel Rebel to an incredulous group of lads – who gave her the gig as lead singer in their band.

She went on to forge a successful career with Everything But The Girl, the duo she formed with now husband Ben Watt after at Hull University, but never lost her ambivalence towards singing live.

Of her pop success with hits such as Missing she tells Desert Island Discos’ host Lauren Laverne: “Sometimes it was great and sometimes I did suffer lots of anxiety about it all and feel that I wasn’t quite cut out to be doing this.”


After Thorn became a mother, she quit singing live altogether, using “the kids as an excuse to stop”. Years later, and with no desire to step back on stage, she has a much greater perspective on her anxiety.

“I suffer from a much more generalised anxiety than just stage fright,” she says.

“I’ve dealt with it a lot better in recent years having gone for a bit of therapy and in the light of people talking about it a little bit more.”

She feels that her insecurities, and her ability to share them in her songwriting, attributed hugely to her success.

“Now I’m older and I look back I think ‘That’s probably the whole reason you’ve been successful at all, because what’s you’ve done is articulated what a lot of people feel which is that is that we’re all incredibly complicated’.

“It’s all very well seeing people on stage who seem to have a gilded life and be natural-born performers. There’s equally something very connecting about seeing people who are performing and struggling with it in a way.

“Now I can see that it’s a point of connection with an audience.”

If you’re a fan of Thorn’s (and you really should be, she’s fabulous) you can read iSingmag’s review of her book Naked At The Albert Hall: The Inside Story of Singing HERE.

If you’re a singer looking for advice or support on anxiety or other mental health issues, contact Help Musicians UK.

MAIN IMAGE by Yui Mok/PA Wire

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