Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's home for music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
The latest performer to get the ALMA treatment is the songwriter herself. Her debut album Have You Seen Her? is set for release in September 2019, and follows her 2018 mixtape Heavy Rules. This summer, ALMA can be seen at a slew of music festivals, as well as a headlining European tour.
Now, Refinery29 is exclusively premiering her new music video for "Lonely Night," which is featured on the upcoming album, Have You Seen Her?. It's a track about unrequited love that speaks to ALMA's struggle searching for romance as a gay woman. Over the phone, ALMA tells Refinery29 the heartbreak that inspired the track, what it was like working with Cyrus, and why she only briefly appears in the new video.
Refinery29: What inspired the video?
ALMA: “For this video I wanted it to match as much as possible to my real life experience. I was very much like, ‘Should I act on this one?’ But I realized that I’m not an actor, and I really wanted all the emotions to come through in the video, so you could really understand what was happening. It’s my own story. As a gay girl, I’ve had experiences with other girls that are not gay, and it’s been an issue in my life. People just want to kiss me and hang out with me for a night, but at the end of the day, they go home with their boyfriends. I wanted to show this side of a love story, or a breakup story. I think it’s important to be [truthful] to that.”
How much influence did you have over the shots in the video?
“When I was writing the song, I had images of how this video should look. Even the people. I really wanted the girls in the music video to be real LGBTQ people. I wanted the song and the video to match, and be as real as it could get. This is a real story, and it’s a real issue in my life. I just didn’t want to act in it! I was a really big part of the whole process, like who should be the cast, where should we shoot it, and what clothes are they wearing.”
What inspired your appearance in the video?
“I am basically ‘the brain’ of [main character] Hope. I tell her ‘She’s not coming, she’s not good for you.’ Usually we go with our hearts and what they say, even when we know someone is [bad for us] and going to break our heart. We don’t care. When we’re in love, the energy is crazy and you just go for it. I’ve had my heart broken a couple of times, and it’s not fun.”
What is your first love, performing or songwriting?
“I don’t sing anything I don’t write. Without songwriting, I would be pretty miserable. It’s so therapeutic. For some people, it’s yoga or painting, but for me it’s definitely songwriting. That’s how I get my anxiety to go away. You know, I’m 23, and this world is crazy. There are so many bad things happening in the world, and I have so many thoughts and fears in my heart. I have to write music and put them out. I write my music for myself.”
You’ve worked with so many amazing artists, including Miley Cyrus, whom you worked with on She Is Coming. What has that experience been like for you?
“I feel like I’m a teenager now, but when I was a real teenager, I used to dream of working with people like Miley Cyrus and the producers I’m working with these days. It’s been crazy. Sometimes when I wake up I need to bang my head against the wall a couple of times and think, ‘Is this real?” I try to stay focused and just enjoy the moment. I try not to think about it so much, because it’s like whoa, this is happening. I’m very grateful that I get to be in this position.
“Working with Miley Cyrus has been one of the best projects for me. We met about a year ago in L.A., and I was working with a producer called Andrew Wyatt, who produced She Is Coming. They were looking for somebody young and who has the energy. I met with Miley and it was crazy how we just clicked. We have the same brain, we have so many things in common, so it was so easy to work with her. We’re still working all the time, and talking to each other every week. I don’t work with people who make it seem like work, I don’t know how to do that. I like to work with people who it feels like therapy when we’re in session. So it was super easy, and super honest. I love her, she’s like a best friend.”
What advice would you give young people who want to break into music?
“Be yourself. Don’t rush. Things will happen. You’re young and you aren’t going to get successful in one day. Don’t compromise. If you have something that you trust 100%, just go for it. Some day, if you do keep on working and you’re a good person to other people, you’ll get what you want in your life.”
Check out the video for "Lonely Night" below:
This story has been updated.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.