One of CMT’s Next Women of Country, Ruthie Collins shares a part of herself in her heartbreaking new video, “Joshua Tree.” Filmed on location in California, the cinematic video reflects her own experience of being in a relationship with someone battling addiction.
Take a look at “Joshua Tree,” then read our Q&A with Collins below the player.
What do you remember most about the video shoot?
Making the “Joshua Tree” video was actually one of the most intense days of my life. There was just so much emotion surrounding it for me. Cal + Aly, the amazing directors I was working with had submitted a really somber treatment, a sort of modern-day version of the tragic story of Gram Parsons’ overdose in Joshua Tree. At first I was wary of making a music video so similar until I realized that it wasn’t just his story. In a way, it was mine too.
I had just gotten out of a relationship with a guy battling addiction and had been through a similar situation. I realized that not only did the music video match the story that had inspired the song “Joshua Tree,” it also mirrored the overarching theme of my entire record. After realizing this, and meeting Cal and Aly in person and vibing with them so much, I knew they were the right team for the job.
We filmed half of the video in the actual room that Gram passed in, so that was a wildly surreal and pretty spooky experience. The moment I started singing my first take of the chorus, a white dreamcatcher fell off the wall onto the bed I was sitting on. The whole crew froze and you could feel the electricity in the air. I remember awkwardly laughing and saying, “Well… Gram’s here?!”
I also knew I was going to need to do a LOT of crying to pull off the treatment and I have literally zero acting experience so I was pretty nervous about that. I wrote myself this terrible letter, quoting all my failures in love and in life, it was really harsh. I told Cal I just needed five minutes before the first crying scene and I locked myself in the bathroom and read this letter out loud. It just gutted me. Probably not the most healthy and “self love” way to get the emotion going, but damn did it work. I sobbed for like the next two hours.
Couple that with having to act out an overdose scene which obviously hit very close to home, and it was a pretty heart-wrenching day. I don’t know how actors do it, it took me like a full month to recover. It was almost like my body and my heart believed that I had actually experienced what the girl in the video did, and I was grieving. I don’t know, either that or it just triggered some really deep shit.
It wasn’t all tears and spookiness and trauma though. Having the gorgeous Joshua Tree National Park as a backdrop made the whole day feel other worldly, like you really had escaped into this narrative.
How does the video bring your song to life?
The directors Cal and Aly were a dream to work with and I feel like they pulled every ounce of emotion out of me AND the song to create this beautiful video. It’s a journey of love and loss, of tragic heartbreak and surrendering to the pain, and the resurrection in the hope of life and love continuing on somehow. I think the video captures that perfectly.
What message do you hope your fans take away from the video?
I hope fans see the vulnerability in the video and also the transformation into hope that can come when you let yourself dig through old trauma/hurt for the purpose of healing.
How did it feel to see the finished product for the first time?
It’s still surreal to watch this video. Joshua Tree is one of my favorite places in the world, full of wild energy and magic. Now I will always be a part of that. That feels very serendipitous and I am truly honored.
Writers: Ruthie Collins and Luke Sheets; Directors: Cal + Aly