A common trope for frontmen is to exude a certain level of arrogance, making them look like they were born to perform on stage and dance above us as the measly audience. Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl is an exception to the rule and suffered an immense bout of imposter syndrome when he first emerged as the lead singer of his new project.
Grohl never intended to be anything other than the drummer for Nirvana, but in 1992, he decided to record some demos. He didn’t have any grand plans for world domination, but it was just a way for him to channel creative energy. Grohl only played the demos to a select group of friends and didn’t think much of them. He sat on the material until after Cobain’s death when he revisited them and decided the world needed to hear these songs.
The Foo Fighters man found himself engulfed in personal turmoil following the split of Nirvana and the loss of a close friend. In a period of intense grief, Grohl hid away from the public for several months and started work on tracks that would eventually make up the Foo’s debut album in 1995.
He was stuck at a crossroads and wasn’t sure whether to stay behind the drumkit and mulled over an offer from Tom Petty, but it wouldn’t feel right without Kurt Cobain in front of him. Grohl knew that he had to do something new in his heart of hearts and unleash his solo material into the wild.
“I just felt weird about going right back to the drums, because it would have just reminded me of being in Nirvana,” Grohl explained to Howard Stern in 2020. “It would have been sad for me personally. It would have been an emotional thing to be behind the drumset every night and not have Kurt there. So I was like, ‘Nah, fuck it. I’m gonna try this other thing’.”
Grohl made some calls, found himself some bandmates to turn Foo Fighters into a proper group, and decided it was time to make them a serious entity. As the drummer of Nirvana, there was a sense of intrigue surrounding Grohl’s new group, and they lived up to the hype. The switch from the back of the stage to the front was one that Grohl could cope with, but there were elements of the role which made him feel inadequate.
“I feel comfortable being on stage with a guitar in front of a microphone,” Grohl mused in an interview during the early days of Foo Fighters. “But I think I have a really stupid voice, so every time I hear it in the monitors, I’m like, ‘Oh God’,” he self-deprecatingly adds.
“I’ve got used to that feeling, like it’s so loud that nobody can really hear my voice anymore, and they are all dancing, so they mustn’t be able to really hear my voice. Yeah, I’m getting a little bit more comfortable with it, but the most uncomfortable thing about it is the interviews and everyone looking at me to say something between songs,” Grohl explains.
He continues: “Because I’m supposed to be the charismatic frontman, I’m supposed to be the leader of the band, and I’m a fucking idiot. I go out there, and I feel this pressure between songs. I feel like I have to say, ‘Thank you very much, ‘How are you doing? Today we did this, and that, and this and that’. I just feel like I’m supposed to be this presence, you know, and I’m not. I just think I’m an average punk Joe, really.”
People adore Dave Grohl despite him standing on stage while they’re in the crowd because they feel a strong connection with him. He doesn’t act like he’s better than any other person in the room, even though everyone else recognises that he walks on water.
Over 25 years into Foo Fighters, Grohl has surely batted away any self-belief issues now. Still, he’s never let his ego get fat, and he’s somehow managed to stay grounded despite being the frontman of one of the biggest bands in the universe.