Reflecting on 10 years of Fog on the Lens

May 29, 2024 | Editorial, Uncategorized

Tomo Nakayama, a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter from Seattle, recorded his first solo album Fog On The Lens during his 2014 artist residency at Town Hall Seattle. Now, as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the album (6/7 at 7:30PM), we asked Tomo a few questions reflecting on his residency and his creative process.

The album cover of Fog on the Lens.

10 years ago, you stepped into Town Hall as one of our Artists-in-Residence. What was it like the first day you walked into the building?  I remember feeling in awe of the space and so very,  very fortunate to be asked to use it to create, followed very closely by an intense fear: What if I don’t make anything? The first few days were spent just sitting with those feelings, and slowly working my way out of it.

What was a revelation you had while you were in the process of building the record? Did anything surprise you? I soon came to feel very comfortable at Town Hall, attending the diverse programs and soaking up ideas like a sponge. I’d hang out in the green room in the daytime and take walks to the downtown library and the nearby Frye Museum, and in the evenings I’d play piano by myself in the Great Hall, after everyone had left the building. I often say that I turned the building into a recording studio, which is a very grandiose way of saying I recorded it on my laptop. But it was interesting how my musical ideas and perspectives soon came to reflect the vibe and neighborhood of Town Hall. It was very inspiring and helpful to be in an environment that was so different from my usual day-to-day. A lot of that energy and atmosphere informed the mood of the songs.

When you listen to the record now, have your feelings around it changed? Or remained the same? I recently sat down and listened to Fog on the Lens all the way through, which I hadn’t done in many years, and I was surprised by how it’s held together as a whole. I was also surprised by a lot of the sounds on the record. When I was making it I was working so quickly and so deep within the creative process that I had forgotten how many little textural details were in each song; the sound of the old basement hallway, the sound of ping pong balls I’d placed on top of the strings of the lobby piano. It’s an album I’m still incredibly proud of, a very special album. It’s a time capsule of sorts of a pivotal point in my life when I decided to dedicate myself full-time to music, and I couldn’t have done it without the faith and support that Town Hall gave me.

What inspires you when you’re creating a new song? I find a lot of inspiration in nature and in my environment. The best songs for me seem to come when I can detach from my conscious self a bit and become more of an observer of the world, and Fog on the Lens in a way is my most observational record.If you had to choose one song to describe how you’re feeling right now, which would it be? Right now it’s cloudy and cold. It reminds me of the song “Darkest of Seasons” from this album. The lyrics become my mantra this time of year: “There’s a light at the end of the grey.” It’s about holding onto hope during the hardest times, and I think it reflects the mood of the album as a whole.

Poster art for the event on 6/7.

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