In “Undying Light,” Tomo Nakayama Glows Amid the Darkness

Written as a balm before the election, forgotten, then revived, the song imagines brighter days.

Seattle singer-songwriter Tomo Nakayama (Seattle Weekly’s Best Folk Act of 2017) was one of many people who started to lose it last year. The harsh news cycle churning around the presidential election and its ever-present darkness wore on his consciousness. So, as election day drew near, he wrote a song imagining something different.

“‘Undying Light’ was a song I wrote days before the last election, envisioning a future where all the rifts and ugliness that was exposed in our country would start to be healed,” Nakayama writes to Seattle Weekly. “Obviously that didn’t happen, and everything went upside down.”

As the resultant shock set in, the song, a glimmering folk tune conjuring up a world with “no more fear and no more lies” and “all illusions cast aside,” faded in Nakayama’s mind. “I forgot about the song for a while,” Nakayama says. But as time wore on, he started returning to the song more and more, tugging on the threads that still felt tangible amid the gloom, and adding new layers on top. “What started as a simple wish became an act of defiance, and I really believe working on the song saved me from completely losing my mind,” Nakayama says—something you can hear in the song’s slow-blooming radiance.

Today, Nakayama is premiering the music video for “Undying Light,” a collaboration between illustrator Frida Clements (who also just so happens to be his wife) and animator Clyde Petersen. Standing on a placid beach, Nakayama performs as gorgeous watercolored flora and fauna comes to life around him, whizzing out of his guitar, hand drums, and mouth, and encircling the frame. The video’s imagery comes from a recent trip Nakayama and Clements took to “the small mountain village” where Nakayama was born in Japan, where Clements gathered photos of the Koichi region’s scenery for inspiration. As darkness in the U.S. continues to stir, take solace in the four minutes and 37 seconds of bliss Nakayama, Clements and Petersen managed to craft within the storm.

Listen to Nakayama’s new album Pieces of Sky at tomomusic.bandcamp.com.

Tomo Nakayama with Darren Hanlon, Michael Hurley. 20/20 Cycle, 2020 E. Union, 2020cycle.com. All ages. 8:30 p.m. Sat., Oct. 7.

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