By Mike De Felice
Special to Kitsap Daily News
PORT ORCHARD – Like many young girls, Anika Nystrom enjoys Disney movies, painting and drawing, but unlike her friends, she also loves Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley tunes. She also pens songs and performs in her own music videos.
The latest video of the Manchester 11-year-old singer features a touching song she wrote called “I Miss You,” about her beloved chocolate labradoodle who recently passed away.
“I wrote this in memory of my best friend, Mochi. She was my best friend,” Anika said. “She brought a lot of joy into my life. I wanted to write the song to remember her.”
Mochi was 7 months old and met her demise running onto the road and into the path of a vehicle. The music video features footage of Anika playing with her tail-wagging buddy.
Some of Anika’s lyrics in the heart-rending ballad:
“I miss you too much, remembering our last walk. Crying myself to sleep, because I can’t believe you’re gone. Why did you leave? Why did you go? I remember that time you were playing in the snow … Every night I go to bed I miss my little dog.”
Anika posted this about the video on Facebook: “This is also dedicated to all who had their paw friends pass on to the next life. May we find comfort, healing, and even joy in paying tribute to these wonderful animals who bring so much love and joy.”
The video is still too difficult for the young artist to view.
“I really hate to watch it because it has [film] clips of my dog. I don’t want to do that song in public yet. I think I might cry in the middle of it.”
The talents of the young songbird have been developing for years.
Her father Steve said Anika has always liked to sing — and has been doing it for years. He said she has been taking singing lessons for the past year and a half. Her first performance, as a singing elf, took place in kindergarten at East Port Orchard Elementary in a Christmas musical.
The 4-foot-9 budding entertainer is still developing her own style but can readily cover a variety of songs, ranging from “Old Blue Eyes” Sinatra classics and Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” to current hits by Harry Styles and Olivia Rodrigo.
The youngster became interested in singing when she would visit her grandfather in California. “He would play old songs over and over again and tell me stories about how he would listen to them when he was younger,” Anika recalled.
“We watched black and white videos of [the artists] doing the songs. That was weird because I am used to watching color.”
“Grandpa” sat in his rocking chair while Anika curled up in his lap listening to yesteryear hits while sipping root beer and munching on pretzels. They played music until grandma announced it was time to watch her show — Judge Judy.
Anika’s grandfather, who passed away last spring, introduced Anika to Sinatra and Elvis. She was captivated with the iconic entertainers and now loves to sing their songs. Some of her favorites are Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” and Elvis’ “Can’t Help Following in Love.”
“I like old music,” admits the brunette talent. “I like how they wrote it before. Some of the songs today don’t have a good meaning.”
Her mother, Jovi, describes Anika as an “old soul.”
Despite an affinity for oldies, her cellphone playlists are filled with contemporary artists such as Rodrigo, Ariana Grande, and Styles. And Anika wears out Alexa at her house by making endless music requests.
Her Port Orchard home is filled with the sounds of a wide variety of music – everything from heavy metal and funk to Christian and pop. Her dad, a 53-year-old oil and gas pipeliner, was a bassist in a Bay Area ’80s rock band. His group opened for singer Richard Marx and the rock band The Tubes. Her mom, Jovi, 41, has the full-time job of raising Anika and her sisters, Summer, 8, and Laura, 6.
Anika is slowly building a library of her own music videos.
In another of her videos, Anika performs Twisted Sister’s 1984 hit “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” The video was an immediate hit, thanks in part to Twisted Sister lead singer Dee Snider, who learned about it and tweeted it to his legion of fans.
The video was posted on social media a few days before Anika’s 11th birthday. The following day, her parents were contacted by the rock singer’s manager, who said Snider was going to tweet it out to his fan base.
Snider posted the video with this message: “WOW! POSITIVELY ANGELIC! HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY TO YOU ANIKA! YOU DID AN AMAZING JOB!”
Within 24 hours, the video attracted 30,000 views on Facebook. To date, it has racked up over 126,000 views.
Anika covered the rebellious rock hit as a soft ballad accompanied only by a keyboard and violin. She picked the song because while growing up, she and her sisters watched the original rock video nearly every day.
“We liked (Snider’s) hair and make-up, and we liked the music,” she remembered.
Anika’s “I Miss You” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” videos are both homegrown productions. Each features Port Orchard musicians — keyboardist Kortney Dowdell, Anika’s music coach, and violinist Ellie Binnington. (Binnington was profiled in the May 30 issue of the Independent). Local outfits produced the videos – Kova Films (“I Miss You”) and Jeremih Roberts (“We’re Not Going to Take It”).
While singing is her first love, Anika also enjoys playing musical instruments. She started piano at age 6, and guitar and ukulele at age 10. Anika’s parents are supportive of their daughter’s musical endeavors and believe her efforts to improve her artistic skills will pay off in other areas.
“Music involves a lot of discipline,” mother noted. “She will learn that if she works at something every day, you get good. You don’t just get it the first time. It’s like being an athlete. You have to do it consistently every day.”
Ways to enjoy her talent
To see the pint-size songstress perform, drop by the open mic session at the Brickhouse 714 Bar and Grill starting at 3 p.m. most Saturdays. She normally does three to four songs (her first performance netted her $17 in the tip jar, which delighted her). Other ways to hear Anika: visit her Facebook page, YouTube channel, or look her up on Spotify. She is also on Instagram.
There is no telling where the young singer’s talent will lead her.
“Who knows where this can take her – maybe to the moon,” smiles her dad. “With her skills, she can make records, be a songwriter, write songs for movies or teach music.”
Currently, Anika is recording an eight-song EP that will feature original songs. Anika will provide vocals while her dad and others will write the music. It is tentatively set to be released this winter.
Is an appearance on American Idol or America’s Got Talent in the cards?
“I watch those shows a lot!” Anika admits. “Maybe in a couple of years after I practice more. Now, I’m a little shy.”