Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional

10/31/2003 AT 02:43 PM EST

Sting did it – so why not Chris Carrabba? Just like the former Police frontman, the singer and founder of the sensitive-guy pop-rock group Dashboard Confessional was once a teacher, who thought his passion for music would merely help him "entertain my friends in the living room."

Safe to say the living room has grown a tad bigger. The Connecticut-born Carrabba, 28, has emerged as an enormously popular (and hunky) figure in the much-analyzed "emo" rock genre, turning his one-man band into a full group with his critically hailed new album, A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar, which debuted at No. 2 on the charts. The disc was a follow-up to Carrabba's 2001 breakthrough, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, and an MTV Unplugged album that launched a million campfire singalongs.

Carrabba recently spoke to PEOPLE about his past as a teacher, stage fright and his future as ... an office temp?

You've been touring for some time now. Do you still get nervous before hitting the stage?
It's like clockwork, it's amazing how I can just feel it in my body. I warm up like a mad man, I pace a lot. My train of thought starts to suffer a little. But then I just do it. It doesn't go away, it becomes part of my energy on stage. It gets buried a little. And if you look really closely, you can see it flash on my face every now and again.

Couldn't have been more scary than a classroom full of kids. Did you enjoy being a teacher?
I would have been really happy if I ended up staying a teacher for the rest of my life. And I really thought that's what I was going to be. I didn't think I'd have a band. I thought I'd just sit at a piano and entertain my friends in the living room or something.

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