During a rain delay in the Cardinals game the other night they played a half hour special highlighting the life and career of Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright. This was an extremely interesting special because Wainwright was so candid in the interview.

One of the things he talked about that was so meaningful to me was how important the mindset of a pitcher can be in determining their success or failure as a big leaguer. He talked about how superstitious he was as a minor leaguer and how he always had to wear the same shirt the night before a start and how everything had to be just right before the game for him have a successful outing. After years of this approach he learned that if everything didn’t go exactly according to plan before the game then he was already defeated even before setting foot on the mound.

He talked about what a huge influence Chris Carpenter (Cardinals ace pitcher) was in bringing him out of this whole mindset. Wainright asked Carpenter how he was able to go from being an average pitcher with the Blue Jays to being a Cy Young winner with the Cardinals. Carpenter told him it was all mental and coached him on how to control the game with his confidence and presence, not his “stuff”.

This was very meaningful to me because I’ve had incidents playing music over the years that really took me off my game mentally for extended periods of time.

The biggest incident for me was in the Drew Johnson Band era. We were playing a show at The Side Door and Steve (our bass player) invited John Ferber to come to the show. I had gone to college with John but only knew him enough to say hi and that was mostly because of how intimidated I was by his guitar playing.

So John came to the show and we hung out with him beforehand which was pretty cool for me but by the time we took the stage I was so psyched out by the fact that this wicked guitar player was in the crowd that I was scared to death.

The show was horrible. Every time I took a guitar solo I choked. I played notes that don’t even exist in western music. In fact I played lots of them. In one song it got so bad that I stopped playing in the middle of the solo, walked up to the mic and said “My mom always told me that if you can’t play any nice notes, don’t play any at all” to which John yelled out “Well said.”

That show began my descent into total fear of playing guitar solos. I started writing fewer and fewer songs with solos and started leaving songs out of the set list that had them. This went on for years.

I still struggle with this same fear to a certain extent and it’s totally a mental thing. I am a far, far better guitar player than I was when I was in my early twenties but I watch videos of my playing then and wish that I still had that same confidence and swagger. I realize that it was just blind arrogance that helped me play that way but I wish I could get that back.