/Cody Simpson Gave Miley Cyrus Creative Freedom for Directing His New Music Video in Quarantine

Cody Simpson Gave Miley Cyrus Creative Freedom for Directing His New Music Video in Quarantine

What happens when you make a music video in quarantine? Cody Simpson and his girlfriend Miley Cyrus found out, crafting a multi-character, split-screen music video for Simpson’s new track “Captain’s Dance with the Devil.”

Simpson released the video for the song, which was inspired by the musician’s new collection of poetry, this week. Cyrus made her directorial debut on the project, which tells the story of a teenage heroin addict.

cody simpson

Courtesy of Cody Simpson

In the moody video, Simpson sports vintage Chanel and Vivienne Westwood to assume three different identities: himself, the sailor Prince Neptune, and his couture-wearing drag alter-ego Rebecca. The video uses oceanic imagery to tell the story of a “young man at odds with society, interested in iconoclasm and a life outside of social convention; in possession of a dangerous yearning for liberation.”

Though Simpson and Cyrus have no further plans to collaborate musically, he spoke to ELLE.com about why this video was the exception, and how a RuPaul’s Drag Race binge inspired the project.

How did the concept for the “Captain’s Dance with the Devil” video come about?

I released the song in conjunction with my Prince Neptune poetry book, and it was immediately something that Miley took a liking to. I conceptualized a video treatment and [she] interpreted the song in her own way and was excited about the idea of making a video for it.

Miley directed the video. What was it like working together?

We obviously are very close, so the experience was super reluctant and super personal. It was very easy to be directed by her and entrust her with creative freedom to take it where she wanted it to go. I characterized three different characters to tell a story of a captain or sailor who dresses up in drag, and that was her interpretation and conceptualization of the song and the video.

When you were on set, was it more of an experimental vibe or did you and Miley have a concrete idea of what the video should be?

The cool part about it was that we shot it where we live, using our belongings and collections of clothes as props and parts of the video. A fair bit of it was a really cool, relaxed, improvisational thing and us just spending a few days coming up with new sets and building things on the spot.

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Why was it important for you to explore different gender roles for the video?

That was something I learned about a lot from her. It’s something that she had been interested in for a long time, and had educated me on drag culture. We started watching RuPaul on Friday nights, and it all started with her organizing her collection of lipstick and me saying, “Oh, what a piece of art.” I was like, “I’d be disappointed to see the beautiful brand on the side [of the lipstick] ruined when someone starts applying a lipstick”—just kind of remarking at the art of makeup. That led to me being like, “Oh, make me up for fun.” That’s [where] the initial idea of, “we should incorporate this experience into a music visual” [came from].

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The video also explores drug addiction. How did you get into the mindset of that character?

We explore the themes of a captain struggling with conventional masculinity and the expectation for somebody to hold up to a certain sort of expectation. Almost breaking down those boundaries, breaking down those barriers and exploring the psychology of someone who wants that freedom to be able to do and dress as they please.

Was that pressure something that you’ve experienced personally?

I’d say so. Over the years, obviously having been held to certain expectations, being asked to be certain things. [I’d] have to kind of meet certain standards in people telling me how to dress, what to wear, how to look and what to sing and all that kind of stuff. It’s almost like we’re at a place now where all those roles and those boundaries should be put aside, and people should have the freedom to dress up as they want and as they feel.

cody simpson

Simon Upton

What message did you want fans to take away from the video?

For me, this video and the song itself is open to a variety of interpretation. The many people that have heard it, at least that I know of, interpreted it differently. Miley interpreted it a certain way in which reflected in this video itself. What I’d like people to take away from it is not having fear of being judged—taking away a message of being able to have complete and utter freedom in your art and your work and life in general.

What else are you working on musically?

I’m currently in the process of working on a new project. [There’s] a lot of guitar, a little bit of rock and roll, and I think “Captain’s Dance with the Devil” is a pretty good glimpse into what some of it would sound like.

Your released a book of poetry. What’s the most surprising reaction that you’ve gotten from people?

It seemed to have resonated with my fans and others [who] maybe weren’t necessarily fans of me before but have the chance to pick up the book and flip through it. I included a fair amount of inspirational anachronisms and quotes within the book. I want people to take away, again, that message of living according to your own terms and rules and being completely free to live and feel however you like.

How do you maintain creativity and positivity during this weird time?

[I’m] trying to stay optimistic [and] healthy and fit in the space that I have available to do so. Then staying as creative and clean-minded as possible. Trying to give myself some form of routine, even though life certainly isn’t back to normal.

What’s the first thing you want to do when quarantine ends?

Go for a surf and finally be able to sit at one of my favorite coffee shops. And interact with people.

Stream “captain’s dance with the devil”

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