"I've been locked in the studio with pizza and whiskey," Jessie Reyez deadpans. "It's good and it's painful. It's long nights and no sleep. Once it's out, I'll feel better."
She's discussing the status of her debut album: one of the year's most hotly anticipated releases, and a project almost three years in the making. Right now, she's selecting the tracklist from "hundreds" of songs — "It's hell, it's so hard," she admitted — but she already has one picked out. Released this week, it's her 6LACK-featuring remix of "Imported," from her excellent 2018 EP, Being Human in Public.
"You don't really know what songs are going to touch people, but I remember a day after releasing the original song, I did a show and everyone was singing it," she said of the slow-burning number. "It was mad cool that people only had a day to learn the song and it hit them already, you know? So to be able to put somebody as talented as 6LACK on it and be able to give the song a new life, is a sick opportunity."
Reyez and 6LACK's easygoing chemistry is all over the potent, sharp-tongued track's new video, released on Wednesday (April 10) and directed by Zac Facts. In the vid — which you can see all day on mtvU and MTV Live — the two artists brood around an empty apartment, but their physical proximity to each other can't conceal their emotional distance.
"We wanted it to be this surreal feeling; the concept of someone being out of your life but they're still stuck in your head," Reyez explained. "Someone can be miles away, but if they're in your heart that means they're locked in your head, too. No matter how much you try to get away from somebody, they're there."
You can see that tension when Reyez and 6LACK are sitting in the same room, their backs turned away from each other. You see it when 6LACK is cruising around L.A., seeing Reyez everywhere he looks (she assured us, by the way, that he's a "pretty damn good" driver). And you see it in the final shot, when he lays down next to her, only for both of them to look away within seconds.
"To me, it's someone who's right beside you but they're not," Reyez said of that last scene. "They're sitting beside you in your head. It's that disconnect; it's that inability to be able to communicate with somebody because they're a figment of your imagination, locked inside your head. It can feel like they're right beside you, but there's a wall."
That onscreen heaviness is, thankfully, the complete opposite of Reyez and 6LACK's real-life dynamic. The two had crossed paths at various festivals over the years, and when the opportunity to work together came up, the Toronto singer said they were a "natural" fit. She explained, "I think maybe because I strive to be as honest as possible in my music, and I feel like he's similar in that regard. I think that for us both to be able to put our truth forward like that, is what makes us mesh so well. And working with him is such a breeze; that guy is so chill, he's so zen, which just made it easy."
If only finalizing that tracklist couple be as simple.