Music has always been a very private endeavour to me. I never wanted to study music in school because I thought doing it in front of other people would ruin it. In the studio, I feel like a mad scientist tinkering away in a studio on my own, isolated, messing around with keyboards and adding layers of sound and meaning without judgment, sometimes for days, until the song is perfect for my standards and I can finally choose to share the finished results.
Similarly, when I work on a YouTube video, I’m in my house, on my own, filming and editing with nobody watching me. I create the thing privately until it’s perfect for my standards, then upload it for the world to see - “look at this thing I did!”
Playing my songs live seems to me the same as performing a YouTube video live - it just wouldn’t be as good as watching it the way I meant you to see it with all the work I put into the pre-prepared version.
Take acting, where people can act in films - a private process ending with a screening - or on stage, where the action happens before your eyes. Lots of people are just stage actors or just film actors and the world accepts that you don’t have to do both, but for musicians there is (for some reason) no division between the two and I don’t think that’s entirely fair. If I want to make music because I love making music, but I don’t have a real drive to perform the music live, I don’t think it should be the case that I’m then seen as a less credible musician. I’ve always seen my YouTube videos as my equivalent of gigging - some people go to pubs and clubs to play their music and find an audience, I went to the internet.
Playing my songs live is something I’ve done before, I’ve enjoyed it and I don’t think I’m bad at it, but I’ve always needed some other reason to play - a new single or album release, playing with friends or because it’s at a big YouTube event. I have friends who are musicians and they absolutely live for the stage, that’s why they write songs and that’s awesome for them but I just don’t feel that way. I don’t feel the need to prove that I can play my songs live, that I really can sing all those words and play all those instruments: I was there in the studio when I made the song, I played every instrument, I sang every note, I remember doing it and if you don’t believe I’m really doing it, that’s your prerogative.
It also can’t escape my notice that my audience is global, and announcing (for example) a UK tour would only leave anyone not in the UK asking “but why can’t you play in MY city?” - thus I end up feeling like I’m really excluding more people than I’m welcoming in. That’s why I use music videos as my preferred showcase of a song: they reach globally, they add an extra layer of meaning, and as with everything else I enjoy creating for people, I can craft it privately and then share the finished results.
If I were to tour, I’d want the show to be more about theatricality, like the music videos have come to life around you, and it just happens that I’m there in the middle of it performing the song, but more like a conductor than a performer, making all of this cool stuff happen so it’s a real experience. So I’m not ruling out gigs, but - as with the answer to the ‘why don’t you do an album’ question, it’s something I need to figure out for myself and do it in a way I think is right for me.