Brandi Carlile remembers exactly where she was when she came up with “Party of One.”
“I was drunk. I was listening to [Joni Mitchell’s] Blue in the hayloft of my barn, and I was feeling an insane amount of pressure to make my domestic life work, more pressure than a straight person,” the singer, who earned six Grammy nominations last week, tells Rolling Stone Country.
Carlile has just released a music video, starring Elisabeth Moss, for “Party of One,” the concluding statement on the singer’s 2018 album By the Way, I Forgive You. The video dramatizes the narrative of fallout and reconciliation that define the song, which Carlile says she wrote about the pressures of queer domesticity.
“We’ve been witnessing an entire generation being granted access to a civil right and all of the pressure and all of the joy that comes with that,” says Carlile, who has been married to her partner since 2012.
Carlile knew she wanted Moss, the star of The Handmaid’s Tale, involved and spent nine months writing letters trying to persuade the actress to appear in the video. When Moss, who not only starred but produced and served as creative director of the clip, agreed, she hired an all-female cast to shoot the story of a queer couple going through a fight — and eventual make-up — during one grueling all-day shoot in upstate New York.
“I wanted to capture a love so deep that it permeates everything around you, every object and every inch of space,” says Bérénice Eveno, the video’s director, in a statement. “A love that haunts you and never lets go.”
The shoot culminated in a scene in which Moss and costar Nicole Disson get into a screaming fight on camera, an intense on-set moment that is still fresh in Carlile’s memory.
“It was so uncomfortable that four out of five people in the room burst into tears,” she says. “They really properly fought, it was so intense. I chewed off my fingernails. That scene took 10 years off my life.”
“Party of One,” which was recently re-released as a duet with Sam Smith, is an unlikely choice for a single.
When Gregg Nadel, head of Elektra Records, told Carlile he was interested in making a video for the song, the singer was taken aback. “You’re the weirdest record label guy I have ever met. I love that song, but it’s not in any way commercial,” she says. ” It’s six and a half minutes, and it couldn’t be more of a ballad. I don’t know why you’d want to do that.”