The Danberrys Sever Toxic Ties With Haunting “Undertow” Video

“Why does love telling a lie sound so sincere?” Dorothy Daniel asks on “Undertow,” a song lifted from folk duo The Danberrys’ latest record, Shine. The singer-songwriter sifts through the wreckage of a now-dead toxic relationship. She must do so in order to finally see the truth. The accompanying visual, filmed with videographers Irakli Gabriel and Anana Kaye (behind Duende Vision), rattles with distorted delusions provoked through gaslighting.

“Anyone who’s ever been tangled up with a narcissist knows how the toxic dynamics are played out in a murky underworld of emotional dishonesty and manipulation,” Daniel tells Audiofemme. “It makes you feel like you’re living a haunted life, doubting your experience of reality, and even doubting yourself on a very basic level: did I just see that? Did that actually just happen? Am I crazy?”

In order to fully capture that feeling, the music video uses ghost-like imagery, eliciting an undeniably creepy atmosphere ─ a jarring contrast to Daniel’s ethereal performance. Given free reign by home/land owner Melanie Crosby, the duo traipse across the stunning countryside of Dogwood Farms in Charlotte, Tennessee, Daniel’s hometown. The horse you see appears courtesy of Crosby’s neighbor, Bo Keist.

“I hadn’t ridden a horse in years, so it was a bit nerve-wracking to bring the horse to a full gallop for the first time, especially since we had just met each other,” says Daniel. To be safe, Gabriel and Kaye rode behind in an ATV to achieve many of the close-up shots, the most complicated of the bunch. That evening, in early March, catastrophic tornadoes ripped through the state, uprooting homes and lives, and the remainder of filming was temporarily put on hold.

A couple of weeks later, The Danberrys made their way to a homestead in Cummins Falls to wrap filming. “[That] house has been passed down for generations with most of the personal belongings and furniture preserved in remarkable condition. It felt like the perfect location to get the creepy vibes since the house is well-known to be haunted.”

Collaboratively, the team also honed in on “lots of reflections in water, mirrors, and picture frames” to punctuate the spectral nature of transformation. Daniel leans into pain and vulnerability, paired with equally affecting imagery, and eventually arrives upon a healing, cathartic place in the final few frames.

“Hey, you’re gonna hurt somebody/Walking around like a hungry ghost,” laments Daniel. Bandmate Ben DeBerry’s haunting harmony rushes up to meet hers, and together, their energy is electric. “Chains, wrapped around my body/Pulling me down in your undertow.”

“The end is meant to hint at the healing phase that follows an emotionally abusive relationship when the rose-colored glasses finally fall off and you start seeing the person for who they really are. It’s a harsh slap in the face when you realize just how much power someone has taken from you,” Daniel explains. “You feel naïve. Stupid. It takes a while to trust again – yourself and others – everyone is under suspicion for a long time. You have to slowly urge yourself to get back on the horse, so to speak. To take your power back. To believe in yourself again.”

“We tried to portray that feeling of empowerment towards the end of the video,” she continues. “The image of the two hands woven throughout was taken from a recurring dream I had… In my dream, the hands never found each other. So we re-wrote the dream and showed connection and safety at the end.”

Based on Daniel’s personal experiences, she says there are moments when her past “still affects me on some level,” despite having left those toxic relationships behind. “I used to have a childlike, open-hearted trust in life. The experience really opened my eyes to the cruelty that wounded people can inflict upon others. The relationship and the fallout definitely taught me to see more clearly, to recognize red flags, and to use discernment instead of trusting blindly.”

However, forgiving herself for believing “so fully in such an untrustworthy person” took much longer than she anticipated. She needed time to think, to process, to heal, and to grow. “I still have flashes of that anger from time to time. I also still sometimes feel regret for all the time and energy I wasted questioning myself and feeling responsible for things that were not my fault. Betrayal of self is the deepest of wounds.”

Most importantly, it took such a brutal relationship to instill within her very hard lessons in self-empowerment, self-love, and self-trust. “This world is filled with wounded people who are not emotionally safe, and it’s important to learn the signs and to set healthy boundaries with such people,” she muses. “While the experience stole some of the childlike ‘magic’ from my life perspective, it also taught me invaluable lessons about being my own advocate, trusting myself, and protecting myself from unhealthy people.”

Because it can be hard to spot those red flags until some of that emotional and psychological damage has already been done, Daniel says it’s hard to give blanket advice about avoiding a situation similar to the one portrayed in “Undertow.” But, she says, “If you’ve been drawn into a relationship with a narcissist, you likely needed these lessons and the relationship was the only way you were going to learn. Walk away, forgive yourself for being fooled, and be smarter next time. But mostly, walk away. Keep walking. Never look back. You can’t save them. They’re incapable of truly loving anyone. And they’re not worth your precious time and energy.”

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