JAMES HETFIELD Opens Up About Stage Fright & Nightmares Before METALLICA Tour: “The Anxiety Level Was Off The Charts”

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James Hetfield has opened up about the stage fright and “nightmares” he has faced recently before hitting the road with Metallica. Despite their legendary status, Hetfield experiences very human struggles with self-doubt and anxiety while touring and during the days leading to performing live.

The Metallica frontman, who has previously spoken candidly about his inner battles, shared with The Metallica Report how self-doubt creeps in as tour dates approach. “Over the last month, I will say that the normal thing happens, where I start to doubt myself. I start to feel insecure, [thinking], ‘Well, we’re old, we can’t do this, blah, blah, blah,’ — all that bull***t everyone tells themselves before they go into something they care about,” Hetfield said (as transcribed by Ultimate Guitar).

Hetfield elaborated on his recurring nightmares: “So, having the nightmares [about how]I’m the only one who cares about what we’re doing here. ‘Where is everybody?’ I show up at the gig, everyone’s goofing off, or there’s 200 people backstage and [thinking], ‘Where’s my stuff? Where’s the setlist? What songs are we doing?’ And then, typical things like the guitar neck is made of rubber, and there are only two strings on it. And, ‘Where’s my roadie?’, and the guitar cord won’t let me get to the microphone. Silly stuff like that. That has to happen, and I don’t freak out over it. All you do is you practice, and then you build that comes back pretty quickly.”

Hetfield has learned to manage these anxieties by trusting the process and not letting the fears take over: “It’s part of the cycle; it just is. You have anxiety build up, and don’t let it get the best of ya because you have that balance of anxiety and faith. And as soon as you get up there, it’s all gonna be good.”

Metallica resumed their “M72 World Tour” in support of their latest album “72 Seasons” this past weekend in Munich, after a six-month break, and Hetfield previously reflected on the transition back to touring. He expressed confidence about returning to Europe, saying, “What I’m going into is a known. I know how big the stage is, I know we have breaks here and there, I know what we’re walking into.”

Recalling the initial challenges of the “M72” stage, which he helped design, Hetfield noted: “Between that time and then actually seeing it built where it’s kind of too late, [thinking], ‘Oh, sh*t, this thing is so big.’ The anxiety level was off the charts at the beginning of the ‘M72 Tour’. Like, how are we going to cover this stage? And, of course, my ego saying, ‘Well, the other guys don’t have to sing. They don’t have to run over there, they don’t have to do all this. Ah, no one knows the woes I have and all the worries…’

“But as soon as I share them with the other guys, they’re like, ‘Yeah, but I got this, and I got that.’ It’s like, ‘Oh, okay. I want mine back [laughs].’ So, it’s a known. We know what we’re up against. And we know what shape we need to be in. And now, it’s just fun. We’ve broken that stage in, it’s well-trodden on, and it’s worked fantastically. And so, we just get to step back into it, and do what we do best.”

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