"Because of you, I am who I am": Nathan Hartono reflects on singing NDP 2020's theme song in this season of growth and gratefulness

"Because of you, I am who I am": Nathan Hartono reflects on singing NDP 2020's theme song in this season of growth and gratefulness

Every August, a new National Day theme song takes to the stage, uniting a nation as one, as thousands of voices sing along at the annual Parade.

Symbolising the spirit of togetherness, NDP 2020's theme song, 'Everything I Am', has provided a source of quiet comfort especially in unprecedented times like today. This year's National Day will be marked differently without a physical parade, but the significance and celebratory nature of our nation's birthday will not be dimmed.

Sung by Singaporean artist Nathan Hartono, 'Everything I Am' boasts a mellow, lyrical tune that lingers in the mind and soul. Filmed in the style of a video call, the music video for 'Everything I Am' is an apt reminder about staying connected with loved ones while observing social distance. It also highlights the stories of Singaporeans who have served the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, embodying the true spirit of this year's overarching theme, 'Together, A Stronger Singapore'.

Bandwagon caught up with Nathan Hartono to find out how 'Everything I Am' was put together during a pandemic, what this performance meant for him, and his wishes for Singapore's 55th birthday.

Hi Nathan! How have you been recently? What has the experience of National Day rehearsals during COVID-19 been like for you?

I’ve been doing as well as anyone can during these crazy times! I think everyone's experience has been fairly similar. Lots of ups and downs, new discoveries, and plenty of internet rabbit holes etc.

The rehearsal process has been the weirdest thing I’ve ever been a part of, just because of the scale of this project. Though it is significantly scaled down compared to the other NDPs, it’s still a full stage production. Just with more masks, lots of safe distancing, and lots of health checks. I must say though, I’ve missed the process of rehearsing and performing in a theatre space like this one.

View this post on Instagram

When you can’t smile so you 𝓼𝓽𝓻𝓲𝓴𝓮 𝓪 𝓹𝓸𝓼𝓮~ Some photos from last week’s NDP media event cuz we’re only a week away 😬😬

A post shared by Nathan Hartono 向洋 (@nathanhartono) on

What were some of your initial thoughts when you were invited to sing this year’s theme song, ‘Everything I Am’?

“COOL!” was mostly it. I’ve been a part of several NDPs now, and I always hoped that I would get the chance to sing the theme song. It’s a pretty significant milestone to cross off the list.

View this post on Instagram

2008, NDP. hahaahahahahaaa i don’t even know where to start with this 😂🤣😂 Shoutout to @quirr.k for letting me know that this still exists on the internet.

A post shared by Nathan Hartono 向洋 (@nathanhartono) on

National Day theme songs have been written over the years to galvanise Singaporeans, and this year Singapore faced unprecedented times due to COVID-19. How did this year’s theme song personally resonate with you?

The song is mostly a song of gratitude. And I think this year has shown us that we have so much to be grateful for. Especially the selfless Singaporeans who have made so many personal sacrifices for the betterment of all of us. When I first read the lyrics, the first line of the song really said it all. “I want you to understand. Because of you, I am who I am.”

Photo: NDP2020 EXCO

What were some thoughts going through your mind as you prepared to record and perform this song, and how did you ensure you could convey these emotions in your performance?

The gravity of the year didn’t really set in till later in the production stages. Because all the preproduction stuff happened before Phase 1, before we could anticipate what 2020 was going to look like. Once we started recording, we knew we wanted the song to be something intimate, introspective, personal. We just didn’t know how resonant this tone was going to be in 2020.

Having recorded the song during Circuit Breaker and Phase 1 measures, what was the production process like? Any special memories or unique challenges due to these measures?

We started right before Phase 1 actually and I think the last few sessions we had were right before we weren’t allowed to make social visits. So thankfully we were able to collaborate in person for most of this process.

It was the MV shoot itself that was really interesting. There were barriers put all over the set to make sure everyone was safely distanced. And masks were worn up until the director called “action”. It was strange to say the least, but an unforgettable memory for sure.

View this post on Instagram

🇸🇬😘 soon!

A post shared by Nathan Hartono 向洋 (@nathanhartono) on

Singapore has gone through unprecedented times the past few months due to COVID-19. What are some of your thoughts and feelings on how Singapore and Singaporeans have managed to tide through the pandemic so far and what are some things you are grateful for this season?

 I think 2020 has been the year of more empathy, more understanding, giving a face to the faceless, and giving a voice to the unheard. We’ve been made so aware of the things that drive our country, beyond the usual flash and glamour. I believe lots of us have been awakened to this. And because of that my appreciation for everyone around me has deepened. There’s a reason why we call them 'essential' workers. The same way our heart is 'essential' for life, these people are the reason why we can keep going. And for that, I am deeply grateful.

Please share some aspirations you have for Singapore, as we move forward from our 55th National Day.

I hope we learn from the trials and tribulations of this year - every difficulty, every disagreement, and every seemingly pointless argument we might’ve fallen into in this strange year. I hope we can use them as fuel for self-improvement and become a much more empathetic and loving society.

Any upcoming plans for new music or projects your fans can look forward to in the near future?

My new single is dropping 21st August, and a Mandarin EP is in the works! I’m excited ((:

Pre-save Nathan Hartono's upcoming single 'Dig Deep' here

Catch Nathan Hartono perform alongside Stefanie Sun, JJ Lin, Shabir, Abby Simone, THELIONCITYBOY, NAMIE, Fariz Jabba, ShiGGa Shay, Yung Raja, and more at NDP 2020.

10 things you need to know about NDP 2020: Together A Stronger Singapore

The evening musical performances will begin from 7PM on all free-to-air Television channels and will be livestreamed from NDPeeps' Youtube channel here.

Cover image credit: NDP2020 EXCO