PREMIERE: Misty Boyce Dances Through Grief in “Telephone” Video

Photo Credit: Lindsay Wynn

Losing someone you love is a nearly universal human experience, but one that can nevertheless feel impossible to get through no matter how many people have done it before you. That was what dream-pop/indie-folk artist Misty Boyce grappled with when she lost her stepfather to suicide, and what produced her latest single, “Telephone.”

The song, written about two years after his passing, chronicles Boyce’s journey from grief to acceptance, which included meditation, therapy, and an endless “rabbit hole” of other self-help methods. “I was coming out of the darkest part of that, and it felt like I was closing the chapter on the grief period and moving into a coming-back-to-life period,” she remembers. “And so it was sort of about having that final conversation with him from beyond the grave – ‘You can let me go. I’m here. I’m okay and you’re okay, and we’re all okay.'”

Boyce’s soothing voice stands out amid slow-building piano chords as she sings about “grieving the last time you called me to talk but I could not listen.”

The eerie, poignant video intersperses clips of Boyce in a dingy hotel room, trying to reach someone on the phone who isn’t there, and her dancing on a beach with her friend Lia Bonfilio and another actor. Bonfilio and Boyce collaborated to choreograph the movements, which she says happened very organically. “She started following me, and we started following each other, and in one thought, the dance came about from start to finish,” she remembers.

When people listen to the song or watch the video, she hopes they see that “there is life on the other side of loss — that the end is not an ending; it’s a beginning.”

In addition to her solo career, Boyce has accompanied many other artists, from Sting to Sara Bareilles, as a keyboardist. “Telephone” appears on her fourth LP genesis, to be released later this year. The album, as its title would suggest, also deals with religious themes, including a re-examination of the story of Adam and Eve on the tracks “genesis (n)one” and “skin.”

“Both Adam and Eve were responsible for what happened, and yet Eve got the blame for it,” she reflects on the passage. “Adam and Eve was the first ‘bros before hoes.’ Adam was like, ‘Hey, God, you made me first;’ our whole society has just been shaped from that. I’m the root of evil — that’s how I’ve been making my choices for everything from what kombucha I drink to who I choose as a mate — and I’m over it.”

The other experience that shaped the album was a new romantic relationship. “Basically,” she says, “the record is like, ‘Fuck the Bible, I’m in love.'” Sonically, she considers it a mishmash of everything from her jazz background to folk influences like Andy Shauf and Phoebe Bridgers to Billie Eilish’s style.

Boyce also recently released “The Clearing,” a harmony-driven stand-alone single with Doe Paoro. The collaboration was inspired by the #MeToo movement and the LA wildfires, using the latter as a metaphor for the former. “After the fires went out/that’s when the rain came/Whatever we’re gonna be now/we’ve gotta build it in the clearing,” they sing.

“The two of us were feeling a real a lot of destruction happening, and in that destruction, there was an opportunity to rebuild and create something new,” Boyce remembers. “Women have the potential to build the same terrible patriarchal infrastructure, because we are just as programmed by patriarchy as men are, so we need to really wake up and get clear about what kind of world we want to build and be honest about how we can pitfall to the same kinds of power struggles and pride struggles and greed.”

After witnessing abuses of power within the music industry, Boyce is determined to be a positive part of this rebuilding through her own work. “This music is important, of course,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean much if your intentions as a human are unclear or bad. You have such a powerful platform as an artist, and if you’re not using it for good, then get out of the way.”

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