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Spring Sing 2023: Student Oliver Strachan to explore queer love in original piece

Second-year theater student Oliver Strachan lies over a blue fountain. Strachan will perform at Spring Sing on Friday. (Halinda Yu/Daily Bruin)

By Puja Anand

May 19, 2023 3:45 a.m.

Guitar in hand, Oliver Strachan is eager to express his art solo.

Exploring the theme of queer love, the second-year theater student will perform his original song, “No Strings,” at this year’s Spring Sing. As a gay man himself, Strachan said the lyrical song is particularly special to him, as it captures the dialectical energy of the queer community – from the frustration of being restricted by society to ultimate self-love and acceptance. Though it articulates the pain of unrequited love, Strachan said listeners do not wallow in that sadness because of its overarching theme of self-empowerment.

“Queer love feels, nowadays, contractual, or sometimes there’s this emphasis on hookup culture,” Strachan said. “There’s a lot of rules in what it means to be in love in the queer community, (and) the song speaks to that.”

Coming from the small town of Gig Harbor, Washington, Strachan said its largely conservative community did not allow for much LGBTQ+ representation, which led him to feel isolated as the only out queer kid in his high school. In this constricted atmosphere, Strachan found healing through his art and used it to free himself from a world in which experiencing genuine love was disallowed, he said. Nevertheless, Strachan said his childhood struggles have given his music a vulnerable edge, as it now incorporates both the positive and negatives of growing up.

Strachan said attending college was liberating for him and his music, as it allowed him to accept himself and find his place in the LGBTQ+ community at UCLA. Robyn Morales, a second-year theater student and close friend, said Strachan has grown in college by developing self-confidence and subsequently honing his artistic vision.

Strachan sits in a hallway. The artist will perform his original song "No Strings" when he competes at this year&squot;s Spring Sing. (Halinda Yu/Daily Bruin)
Strachan sits in a hallway. The artist will perform his original song “No Strings” when he competes at this year’s Spring Sing. (Halinda Yu/Daily Bruin)

[Related: Spring Sing 2022: Icarus Contemporary seeks to break free from isolation with comeback performance]

Strachan said “No Strings” builds off of a personal relationship from his freshman year, in which a solely physical bond turned into unrequited feelings. Though initially taken aback, as enunciated in the frustration of the song’s beginning, Strachan said he has realized that people grow and change at different paces, and thus sometimes mismatched expectations occur with no one at fault. People are just trying to accept who they are, he added.

Writing the song during winter break of his first year at UCLA, Strachan said the bridge speaks to his childhood self, expressing the importance of letting go – not only of the person, but of the piece of them within yourself. Themes of self-love, such as the phrase, “You are perfect just as you are,” have been deemed corny and been replaced with darker themes of self-loathing in the music industry, he said. However, he said affirmations of self-love should instead be brought to the forefront, as the modern world desperately needs positivity. Through “No Strings,” Strachan said he hopes to articulate that love can take several forms and sometimes is as simple as a shared moment with another person that gets embedded as a memory.

“It really speaks to this no strings idea (that) sometimes there is just people and experiences … where sometimes there isn’t anything necessarily real, but it’s just a person … you’re sharing a moment with,” Strachan said. “Sometimes just experiencing that moment, and then learn how to process that and then just take it a part of your experience.”

Strachan’s sound leans toward indie-pop, taking inspiration from the likes of Lizzie McAlpine and Rachael Jenkins, he said. These artists’ ability to tell powerful stories through their music is something he hopes to adopt, he added. By blending such musical inspirations and his experience with a cappella group Bruin Harmony, Strachan said he has grown to develop his own original voice, which comes through in his Spring Sing song. Alumnus and fellow Bruin Harmony member John Webster said Strachan’s newfound confidence at UCLA has sparked his ability to express himself and be his own person regardless of anyone else’s expectations.

Strachan stands in front of a nature-filled background. Strachan said "No Strings" explores themes of self-love and queer romance. (Halinda Yu/Daily Bruin)
Strachan stands in front of a nature-filled background. Strachan said “No Strings” explores themes of self-love and queer romance. (Halinda Yu/Daily Bruin)

[Related: Spring Sing 2022: Student indie band Sophia Bacino & Friends explores personal growth in debut]

Having never performed for an audience like the one Spring Sing draws, Strachan said it was intimidating to audition. However, he said he often pushes himself out of his comfort zone, so he viewed auditioning for Spring Sing as an opportunity to push himself as an artist, overcome his stage fright and grow as a person. Further, he said the rarity of queer male solo acts in Spring Sing history drove him to bring the queer experience to this UCLA tradition.

Although his concentration is in musical theater, Strachan said he will opt for a more stripped-down staged setup with only himself and his guitar. Especially by strumming the song’s intimate beginnings on the guitar, Strachan said he is eager to foster a personal connection with the audience through this vulnerable approach. Morales added that since “No Strings” is so close to Strachan’s personal journey, his decision to present it at Spring Sing as a solo act with just his guitar is admirable.

“There’s something so raw and beautiful about getting to see them (Strachan and other actors) do a performance that is authentically them and not a character in any way,” Morales said. “And then on top of the fact that it’s an original piece, it’s so nice … because there’s not anything that’s being put on, it’s just him on stage being himself.”

Donning his signature pearl necklace, Strachan said he hopes “No Strings” helps the audience feel seen in their struggles, pain and aspirations for the future. Love can be isolating, especially in the queer community, Strachan said, and he wants listeners to know they are not alone in this journey. Just as he found himself through his music, he said he wishes his performance will inspire the audience to know their worth and love themselves for who they are.

“The honesty and vulnerability that comes from standing alone on stage and sharing music with people, I think, sends a powerful message and feels true to themes in my song about feeling lost and alone,” Strachan said. “Overall, I’m very excited for the opportunity.”

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