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Akshay Anand embraces innovation of online format to craft emotional solo video

(Andrea Grigsby/Illustrations director)

By Alyson Kong

May 28, 2020 12:37 am

Sentimental acoustics and California sunsets take the spotlight in Akshay Anand’s music video for this year’s Spring Sing.

The third-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student will be one of the soloists performing in the annual event, which will be conducted virtually for the first time in its history. Anand said he is taking the new format in stride by being open-minded, exploring the creative freedom it provides to make a music video that captures his song’s bittersweet message. He will be performing the first song he ever wrote, “Years,” which he said catalogues the emotional journey of his first breakup.

“The lyrics were about accepting the fact that some things just aren’t meant to be,” Anand said. “You went through what you went through, but there’s so many good parts of it that you should focus on, and the bad parts will always be there. (The song) is just about moving past it and honestly learning from it.”

Anand is no stranger to performing through a digital platform, having started his own quarantine livestream show called “Concerts at the Kitchen Table.” He said he relies on music even more now as a form of escape and has been using his free time to develop his lyrical skills by writing from different perspectives. His most recently penned song, for example, is based within the viewpoint of someone who has been heavily affected by the quarantine and is not able to come to terms with it, he said.

He is also spending his free time creating a music video for Spring Sing, which Anand said is a completely new and unfamiliar process to him. Where live streams and performances allow for a degree of spontaneity, he said he has never lip-synced or done any performances that require a more planned out approach. Since he sings songs differently every time, it may be difficult to match up his lips to the prerecorded soundtrack, he said.

But aside from concerns about video editing, Anand said his main objective is for his video to reveal his emotional authenticity, hoping to emulate how the song would be performed to a small group of friends. He had the choice to embellish his music with additional instruments and backing tracks, but said keeping the performance acoustic was crucial to capturing the track’s raw emotions. Even his wardrobe choice was methodically limited to a casual pair of joggers and hoodie, helping to convey a quality of realness to the performance.

“Nothing will be a live performance because you’re there in the moment and you can see the artist’s reactions to the song,” Anand said. “But I want to do my best to make the video as realistic as possible and kind of just focus on my playing, try to get really into it to show it really means a lot to me.”

This commitment to authenticity is what Nick Rodriguez, a second-year theater student, said makes Anand’s music resonate so deeply. He writes and sings from the heart, Rodriguez said, and the charisma and conviction he saw in Anand’s livestream performances indicate that the song’s genuine emotions will also not be lost in a video format.

“He’s not afraid to be himself in a business where a lot of people put on facades,” Rodriguez said.

For filming, Anand said his choice for the video’s backdrop further integrates the song’s message with his aesthetic preferences. He filmed the video in Pacific Palisades overlooking greater Los Angeles, and he said the sunset helped provide natural mood lighting to match the song’s melancholic tone. Anand said the scenery ties back to his memories from freshman year – having to mend his first heartbreak in an unfamiliar city alone.

Regarding Anand’s creative process, Emily Kohl, a third-year human biology and society student and one of the Spring Sing talent directors assigned to support Anand, said he always had a clear vision of how to pair his stripped down performance with a suitable video concept. The Spring Sing Executive Committee is also doing what they can to support the artists, such as connecting Anand to a professional audio producer in its alumni network to help polish and mix his prerecorded track.

“It’s hard with (the virtual) process to do something alone in terms of creating an entire video,” Kohl said. “If you’re in a band or in a larger group, you have other people to support you.”

However, Kohl said she was glad to see Anand eagerly take on the difficult process by changing up his content and finding creative workarounds to get his vision across. The prospects of navigating uncharted waters is quite exciting, Anand said, and he hopes the video will allow others to understand the story he’s trying to tell and tie it back to their own lives.

“I feel so honored to have the opportunity to play and share the song that I wrote freshman year,” Anand said. “It’s kind of cool to be the first set of performers that are able to do a new iteration of Spring Sing.”

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Alyson Kong | Assistant Arts editor
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