Tracey Thorn reveals anxiety in early stages of career helped Everything but the Girl achieve success

Sabrina Barr
Tracey Thorn on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs: PA

Tracey Thorn has opened up about struggling with stage fright for years while performing as half of musical duo Everything but the Girl, revealing that her anxiety may have helped the band achieve success in the 1980s and 1990s.

Thorn was speaking with Lauren Laverne in the latest episode of BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs when the pair began discussing the mental health issues that she’s faced throughout her life.

When asked how she coped with the attention that came with the band’s success, Thorn explains that she often had conflicting feelings about it.

“Sometimes it was great and sometimes I did suffer lots of anxiety about it all, and feel like I wasn’t quite cut out to be doing this,” she says.

“I think when I was younger I found those sort of contrasts between things quite difficult. Now I’m older and I look back, I think that’s probably the whole reason you’ve been successful at all.”

She continues, elucidating how fans of the band, which comprised Thorn and her husband Ben Watt, were able to relate to the honesty of their music.

“What you’ve done is articulated what a lot of people feel, which is that we are all incredibly complicated,” she says.

“It’s all very well seeing people on stage who seem to have a sort of gilded life and be natural-born performers and loving every minute of it, but there’s equally something very connecting about seeing people performing who are struggling with it in some way, and whose writing seems to articulate some of the mixed feelings you have about things you have to do.

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


Thorn only realised in recent years that the stage fright that she experienced throughout her career had actually been a form of anxiety.

She finds it easier to talk about her mental health nowadays than she did in the past, thanks in part to the greater openness with which modern society addresses mental health issues.

“Stage fright is a form of anxiety, and I’ve been aware as I’ve got older that I suffer from a much more generalised anxiety than just stage fright, which has been part of my life for a long time,” she says.

“And 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 bit more, been much more open about it, and that’s been great.”

Thorn's new album, Record, is out now.