Collaboration: a terrifying way to make a music video
As a solo musical artist, I spend a lot of time alone either in front of my computer or piano. While that means I never have to compromise with anyone on creative decisions, it can be a very lonely and uninspiring place at times. Shortly after the accident I decided to learn how to make music using software called Ableton, which enabled me to construct multi-instrumental songs without any other musicians, after all I was still recovering from surgery and could barely leave the house on my own. Learning the production side of music has been an incredibly powerful and freeing skill, but I know that my most creative self thrives in the presence of other creative people. Collaboration is like a form of play -- through improvising ideas with other people I can see my own creations from a fresh perspective and watch as they absorb the influence of others.
Over the past three years, what began as a lonely creative process has since grown to include other people, which has made it a far more interesting and rewarding experience. Just last month I teamed up with my creative soulmate, the talented William Tyner (Instagram: @santanastrikesagain), yet again to shoot my second music video for the song "Computer Love". Unlike the first video for "Brave One", which was purely a dual collaboration, we decided to scale up the production and work with six dancers, a lighting designer, and a costume designer. Including so many other minds and visions into the mix suddenly seemed to raise the stakes -- I felt the pressure to present a vision that inspired excitement and confidence in other people, at least enough for them to agree to attach their names to the project. Beyond that, the logistic challenges that come along with any collaborative effort were enough to keep me up at night. Throughout the weeks leading up to the shoot I found myself doubting my choice of relying on other people, and asking myself why I decided to be so ambitious when I could have just kept it simple. I felt the fear that my video would turn out badly creep up on me at times, which tempted me to change the entire concept so that I could get away with doing most of it myself. It was a terrible feeling: feeling so insecure devalued the whole experience of making art with my friends. Looking back, I should have viewed this as an opportunity to be fearless and to create something unexpected as a collective.
When the day of the shoot arrived, my little team gathered in a chilly warehouse in West Oakland and the long-dreaded filming process began. However, unlike all the worst-scenarios that I played in my mind, the day went smoothly and we wrapped up way ahead of schedule. The stills from the footage looked beautiful and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. My pessimistic premonitions were proven so wrong by the amazing contributions and support that my friends had to offer. The dancers learned the choreography and concocted their own in minutes with barely any prior rehearsal. My lighting and visuals extraordinaire, Conor Grebel (@_bedtimes), transformed the warehouse space to something way sexier using colored LED lights and mirrors. Our costume designer, Ashley Tyner (@superfreek_), brought my concept of "80s vogue" to life using a box of clothes from Goodwill, a few feet of tulle, and a bouquet of roses. Watching everyone put their individual talents to work made me realize that placing trust in others is one of the most important ingredients of collaboration. I had to accept that I could have never achieved the high caliber of dance, lighting, and style on my own, and embrace the idea that my original vision might not turn out as I expected, but rather could be so much better as a final product.
Now as I wait for the footage to be edited, I am more excited than ever to share the final product of the largest collaborative endeavor I've ever attempted. When I first envisioned the video, I wanted it to be a dance video that showcased the individuality of all the dancers. Now the video represents (at least to me) more than just individuality of dancers' movements. Rather, it represents a community of artists that I assembled -- a group of people I love as individuals as well as creative thinkers, and who make what I do as an artist so much cooler.