In April this year, at the peak of the pandemic, Australian singer-songwriter Troye Sivan dropped a new single, “Take Yourself Home”. Originally written as a “pep talk” to himself, the song took on a deeper, darker meaning because of the coronavirus, as Sivan explained: “I write these songs as a diary entry, then as life and places change and relationships change, songs can take on a new meaning entirely. Clearly that has happened for this song, with what is going on in the world right now.”
Making use of the budget he would have otherwise spent on a music video, Sivan decided to reach out to as many freelance artists as he could. The result: a series of “Take Yourself Home” lyric videos, presented in a total of ten languages.
Tony Galloway is the artist behind the psychedelic, neon-hued Traditional Chinese lyric video for “Take Yourself Home”. The video opens with a seemingly-dystopian city skyline, overrun with vegetation, as an otherworldly abstract being with giant blinking eyes stands forlornly on a hill.
In case you’re wondering if you’re supposed to feel lost and a little out of place while watching the video, you’ll be relieved to know that it was intended that way. “I thought that the song worked on many layers, and I wanted to show that through the video. Like staying home in isolation, reflecting on yourself... And some of the lyrics also suggested that it was about break-ups and loss, so the way you process trauma helps you become a better person,” says Galloway during an exclusive interview with Sound of Life.
“The abstract figures represent regrowth, when you’re putting yourself out there as a new person, albeit a bit broken after a trauma, which can be in the form of a personal relationship or a crisis. We think we know ourselves as a whole, but we are actually made up of fragments and facets of our pasts.”
In a world where hate comments and trolls have become commonplace, the interaction in the comments section of the song is refreshingly positive: nobody is accusing anybody of “cultural appropriation”, nor are there any scathing remarks from “woke” internet users. Instead, you get things like:
“Thank you for making the world a better place!”
“Amazing song with wonderful visuals.”
“I don’t understand Mandarin, but the visuals are so aesthetically-pleasing.”
“The guy who made this video is my art teacher!”
Our values make up who we eventually become
Galloway works with multiple mediums, but despite the advent of digital art among the younger generation, he admits to being a painter deep down inside, having graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art with a BFA in Painting. “There’s something very physical about painting. But things have come to a certain point where painting just isn’t enough anymore, so I started looking for ways to express my ideas digitally – if I didn’t, I’d just be stuck doing the same things. My students, who’ve grown up with technology all their lives, like hearing about how I use digital media to produce my work.”
Having taught for over a decade, American-born Galloway is currently based in Taipei, and teaches art to students from 1st through 7th grade. Since his collaboration with Sivan for “Take Yourself Home”, do his students see him as a celebrity now?
“They’re very, very interested to have someone in their class who’s doing professional projects and working with international singers. I’m hoping it might inspire some of my students to explore a career as an artist, and this makes me happy. Even in class, I try to make things more current and practical, so that they carry their knowledge beyond just learning “art”. Art teaches you many things, especially in terms of making visual choices. Even when you don’t end up choosing art as a career path, visual literacy teaches you to brainstorm and create.”
The idea of “values” plays a big part in what Galloway believes in, in both his professions as teacher and artist. “In the beginning, when I was in college studying art, I thought some very unimportant things mattered a lot, like what other people thought about me and how they would judge me. But over time I realized that really, we’re all trying to find ourselves as we go along. My older work, even as recently as four, five years ago, was more timid. Now, I’m like, ‘I’m going to throw off those shackles and embrace me for me, whether you like it or not!’”
“I consume a lot of different media, from books to podcasts to paintings to music videos, and so on. And what I do is that I collect all these ideas in a giant flowchart on my computer, putting them together and figuring out how they relate to each other. That’s usually how I come up with the core of my projects,” explains Galloway.
To date, Galloway’s most personal work is Deploys Hidden Tentacles, a digital printed piece he created for an LGBT center in Taiwan, which depicts a mixture of contrasts: like how people connect (and fail to do so), reveal themselves (but also hide their true nature), and observe others through social media (while being observed at the same time).
On positive feelings and self-care
For the past 12 years, Galloway has called Taiwan home, and the hospitality offered by the locals is what kept him coming back, even after spending some time in Madrid. “What I love about Taiwan is that the people are always so kind – once, I was caught in a really heavy bout of rain, and a policeman on duty insisted on giving me his umbrella, even though it meant he would have to continue working completely soaked!”
Galloway goes on to reveal a soft spot for Chinese soup dumplings xiao long bao (“I can do 20 at one go!” he exclaims), and a love for the ambient sounds of his neighbourhood, where bits and pieces of his neighbours’ daily interactions can be heard from his apartment building: “I get an insight into their lives – we might not have seen each other, but I feel a sense of connection with these people who live in the apartments around me.”
When asked about how the pandemic has impacted him, he shares, “It’s been difficult. I have family in the States, whom I worry about. Throwing myself into work helped me process my feelings better. Art has always been a method of self-discovery for me. Even during my junior high school years when I didn’t really know myself, art helped me figure out who I was and what was important to me. It’s an ongoing process, I guess. I don’t think there’s ever quite an end to that. We need to acknowledge that our life isn’t perfect, but from the darkness, there’s some light.”
Translating sound into new ideas
For Galloway, juggling two professions requires striking a balance in his working hours. On weekends, he sometimes spends up to 8-hour stretches working in his studio, but he almost never works in silence: “I listen to a lot of things: audiobooks, TV shows, podcasts, music… I try to pick something that matches the vibe of what I’m working on – it helps to generate new ideas or help spur an idea along. Sometimes I make a playlist of songs, which I play when I start work in the studio.”
Are there any Easter eggs we can expect to find in Galloway’s “Take Yourself Home” music video? “If I told you, they wouldn’t be Easter eggs anymore. Maybe if you look closely, you’ll find something!” he quips.
Listen to Tony Galloway’s Top 5 favourite songs!
For when you are living your best self: Troye Sivan - Bloom
For when the ocean rises up against us: clipping. - The Deep
For when your self-doubt is being too loud: Lady Gaga - 911
For when you need to connect to the universe: Philip Glass and Allen Ginsburg - Wichita Vortex Sutra
For when you need to let your freak flag fly: Jessie Ware - What’s Your Pleasure?
Watch the entire collection of Troye Sivan’s “Take Yourself Home” videos here, featuring artist creations around the world with lyrics in 10 different languages: English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, and Thai.
Cover Image: Tony Galloway
Writer | Michelle Tan
Underneath her RBF, Michelle is actually a friendly raccoon. Loves collecting ugly things, changing her hair colour, and dinosaurs (not necessarily in that order).