Meghan Linsey's new music video benefits dogs, co-stars one of the Internet's most famous dogs, and has as its featured love interest a guy who's been accused of being a dog.
"Exes and Friends," making its premiere on Billboard.com, isn't overtly canine-themed, mind you. Web phenomenon Doug the Pug makes only a cameo appearance in the opening moments. And viewers may not know straight away that there's an animal charity component to the premiere, in keeping with the former Voice star's activism with shelters.
But then there's the presence of leading man Juan Pablo Galavis, who some TV viewers found to be a hound dog after he declined to say "I love you" to his final choice when he starred on season 18 of The Bachelor. That kind of hesitancy figures right into the theme of "Exes and Friends," wherein Linsey and her man can't quite decide whether kaput is OK or romantic reignition is in order.
Of her co-stars, Linsey says, "Doug the Pug also lives in Nashville, and he is a friend of our dog," so when the video came around, she asked if Doug would mind making a fleeting appearance as a party dog, "because he's got, like, 100,000 times more followers than I do," she laughs. (For the record, the ratio isn't quite that extreme, but the pug does have 5.2 million Facebook likes and 2.2 million Instagram followers.)
Linsey had no such prior acquaintance with Juan Pablo, the former Venezuelan soccer star who lives in Miami, but even though she wasn't a regular Bachelor viewer, she knew enough about him through tabloid-type coverage to bring his name up in conversation with a friend, who turned out to be a pal of his manager. A Skype chat and casting call ensued. "I think he kind of got a bad rap on the show, but I was pleasantly surprised at how nice he was, and chivalrous, and a good human," Linsey says. "Exes and Friends" doesn't end with him saying "I love you," either, but it does wrap up with the subtlest bit of thumb-on-hand caressing, which viewers may find more satisfying than the Bachelor season 18 climax.
Linsey is "ex" to a lot of things. She's an ex-member of the country duo Steel Magnolia, of course, and ex-contestant on The Voice, where she came in second last year after making it almost all the way on Team Blake. And, as some Voice viewers may quickly notice, she's also "ex" to about 30 pounds she's lost just since March. The suddenly super-svelte singer credits Nutrisystem, and in fact has been signed up as a spokesperson, with some commercials she's shot set to air in 2017. "I'm basically back to my high school weight, which is crazy," she says, "I definitely feel better about wearing a catsuit now."
In case you're wondering about the designer behind those different-colored outfits she wears in the video's non-party scenes, each one representing a different emotion, there was no designer -- at least not for the video. "Everything we did on this is DIY, on a budget," Lindsey says. "I ordered those catsuits from Amazon Prime for about $16 apiece, so I was like, 'We'll order every single color!'"
Linsey might have lost some pounds since her Voice stint, but she's clearly picked up something in the interim, too, in the form of acting chops she puts to good use in "Exes and Friends." "I've been taking acting lessons with this coach named Bridget Berger, because I was asked to audition for a Broadway musical back in the summer," she explains. "It was just not the right part for me, but the producer is looking at me for another part in another musical now. Anyway, Bridget and I have become friends, and when we went to a wedding about four weeks ago, she brought a friend to the reception named Zachary Halley, who's a producer on Drunk History on Comedy Central, and out of nowhere he said, 'I'd love to do your video.' Just a week later we were shooting it, and Bridget and Zach actually directed it together. It was a lot of calling in people for favors and making it happen on a shoestring budget against all odds."
Some of the favors being called in included enlisting some of Nashville's finest crew members. "Two of the camera guys that shot the video both work on the Nashville show," Linsey says. "They were like, 'This fits the theme of the show!' I'm like, 'It's funny you say that.' During the writing of the song, we were actually watching the finale of Nashville, and Gunnar said to Scarlett at the end of the episode, 'We're somewhere between exes and friends.' That's where the title came from. But I think we've all been in these relationships where you break up and then you have to hang out, because you have all the same friends, and it's awkward, and then you end up back together, or it's kind of this weird middle space."
When she first cut it with producer/co-writer/significant other Tyler Cain, "Exes and Friends" had a very different sound, much closer to her ex-style, if you will. "We went through a few different versions of it, as far as production. We did a more country version, but I've been experimenting more with the pop thing, and thought, 'I really just want to make a pop record.' So we went back in till it finally all worked out. I've never been so comfortable with the music I'm making and the sound and the aesthetic."
When it came time to schedule the video premiere, she wanted it to align with Giving Tuesday, so she could help out some shelter dogs. She'd worked with the Rescue Bank Network last summer on helping donate dog food to flooded shelters in her native Louisiana when the state was overrun with torrential rain. With the bow for "Exes and Friends," she and the network will feed 10,000 shelter animals for the first 10,000 viewers of the video. Because when it comes to pet friends, there's no such thing as an ex.