Rose Gray and Harris Dickinson are a match made in heaven. Singer-songwriter Gray recently released her latest dance-pop banger, ‘Afraid Of Nothing’, featuring French super producer and DJ Kungs. The high-octane track is perfect for those buzzy Uber rides to the motive, and sticking it on the aux when you get there.
Still, despite its uptempo presentation, the song was born from a more melancholic scenario: Gray’s own sense of anxiety as a creative and the fear of not being good enough. After hitting the studio with Kungs, the pair decided to produce a record to help them “dance through the fear” – and they certainly achieved that goal.
Raised in Walthamstow, Gray manages to combine nostalgic 90s dance melodies with indie-pop infused vocals, and erratic rave-ready production. The artist released her debut mixtape, dancing, drinking, thinking, talking, in 2021, which solidified her as a rising star. Since then, Gray has spent her time sharpening her musical tools, amalgamating in her standout EP released earlier this year, Higher than the Sun. However, the musician isn’t one to rest on her laurels, and is already at work on her upcoming debut album set to be released in 2024.
The accompanying video embraces the song’s rebellious essence, and it was Gray’s partner, actor Harris Dickinson, who directed the visual. Dickinson – who recently starred in Triangle of Sadness – has been in a relationship with Gray since the two were in school, and the video marks the second occasion the pair have collaborated on a music video following 2019’s ‘Blue’. Featuring a runaway bride (hopefully not a bad omen of any sorts), a group of weird and wonderful characters, and even a veteran pole-dancer, it’s quite the creative fever dream.
Rose, we’ll start with the inspiration behind the single. How did the song and the initial idea come about?
Gray: We finished it in Paris, but we wrote it in London with people that I collaborate a lot with called Frank Colucci and Theo Cutter. It was one of those songs that actually came about in about an hour. I instantly fell in love with it because it felt like a sample. I felt like I’d heard it before, so we thought, “Have we copied something?” But I wanted to write a feel-good jam, something to dance through the pain and capture that energy.
And you got Harris on board for the video. Was that something you knew you wanted to happen as soon as you finished the song?
Gray: Sometimes it doesn’t artistically make sense to do a video for me, but Harris just ran upstairs and said, “I have an idea”.
Dickinson: Rose is always playing her music, unfinished versions. And when I write, I sometimes write with music as well. I feel like music often inspires you, inspires ideas, and inspires direction. Regardless of whether I would make it, I’m always thinking, “This would be a good video idea for that song”.
Gray: He came up with this on the spot, and from the initial idea, we turned it around in two to three weeks.
What does a bride running away from her wedding day mean to you in this video, Rose?
Gray: Marriage represented a responsibility that the character wasn’t ready for. She wanted a different life.
Dickinson: We also both loved the silhouette of the wedding dress running through the city.
Tell us about the wedding dress – Who made it?
Gray: My good friend Ella Lucia styled this little number. The skirt is vintage. The truth is from a very young age, I’ve been fascinated by wedding gowns. I love an all-white look.
Is the video a bit of a two-fingers-up to the tradition of getting married?
Gray: There is always so much rigidity around marriage. We wanted to see a bride out of the usual ‘sensible’ environment and see her completely lose control.
How many takes did it take to get the shot of you running down the street in your wedding dress?
Dickinson: It was hard as it was out in the streets with no controlled access, and so we did it a few times in long takes. Rose would call our runner, and we would be like, ‘Go for it!’ We gave Rose a rough path, and each time she did something different. It was very amusing from afar.
Where was this shot taken, and did anyone actually think you were a bride who had done a legger?
Dickinson: It was shot in a derelict courthouse in south London. We had a moment where someone actually thought Rose was head-locking the guy on the street outside Tesco.
Gray: Yes, they did. Some guy was like, “Are you okay, lady?” And he looked genuinely concerned. There were a lot of people filming me – I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up on TikTok as the ‘runaway bride’.
When you both heard the song and listened to the lyrics, how did your respective visions of what you thought the video might look like differ from one another?
Dickinson: Rose had to rein me in a little. But we both complimented each other’s creative visions.
Gray: Harris brought an element of chaos and rawness that I’ve never had before in a video. I was able to lose myself completely. I love a pop girlie video, but Harris brought the cinema.
How was the idea of a runaway bride and a real profound feeling of liberation and accidental kinship with others born out of the themes you wanted to focus on when writing the song?
Gray: Sometimes, we are able to be our most vulnerable with strangers because they don’t know us. There’s a real sense of vulnerability in the lyrics of this song. I’m basically listing all my fears, but my biggest fear is losing that one person. The protagonist in the video ultimately faces her fears and is taught by the group to truly let go.
Were there moments included in the video that, from the get-go, during the ideation process, that you both desperately wanted to include?
Dickinson: We had limited time and resources on the day, so we knew that everything we storyboarded was most likely going to end up in the edit. I always loved the balaclava courtroom shots.
Who did you get on board for the project? Who are all the people playing cards in the room that you run into? Was it meant to feel a bit like a weird afters?
Dickinson: The idea was that they were a group of nomadic misfits occupying a squat. They all find solace in each other.
Gray: Most of the actors are friends. We cast for three roles. There definitely were moments that felt like a 7am afters, haha.
Harris, what films/visuals did you keep in your mind when you were thinking about what you wanted ‘Afraid of Nothing’ to look like?
Dickinson: I really like the tribalism in the film MONOS and also the long lens discovery shots in Midnight Cowboy.
Were there any other songs that you were listening to as inspiration for directing the video as well?
Dickinson: It was just ‘Afraid Of Nothing’ on repeat.
And for you, Rose, were there any pop/cultural moments, songs, or visuals that inspired your performance in the video?
Gray: Yes, Sade ‘No Ordinary Love’, the runaway bride in New York City music video. I wanted to channel a little bit of Alanis Morissette, too, her freeness in performance.
Were there any particular challenges you faced, Harris, with directing this video compared to projects you’ve worked on in the past?
Dickinson: The biggest challenge was getting everyone to be comfortable performing and moving freely, but we got there. I had rehearsal time factored into the morning. We found a quiet space and spoke about the dynamic and characters, and we messed about and workshopped movement. I also had calls with everyone weeks before to go over ideas and get people on board.
What’s one thing you both hope that people know about Afraid of Nothing?
Dickinson: It’s an absolute tune haha!
Gray: The oldest cast member is a famous pole dancer and had the best dance moves on set by far.
Is it important for you to be selective when you collaborate?
Dickinson: Yeah, and because I don’t come from music videos, it’s also whether Rose is into my idea that isn’t like a traditional music video, even though ‘Afraid Of Nothing’ is still within that remit.
It’s also testing for a relationship because you’ve got to open yourself up to a different kind of dynamic. But it definitely helps with the closeness because you can get to things quicker without that sense of carefulness and trepidation around being offensive. We’re so close that we can just be very direct. And I think she was the same with me, where if I had a crap idea, she’d say, “No, we’re not doing that.”
Gray: It really worked on this song and for this video because I come from a music world, and a lot of my videos to this day have felt quite nostalgic and 90s, and some of them are quite lo-fi. Harris comes from a real cinema background, and I think the combination of us both just brought about this really interesting premise. It feels like a little film.
Were there any specific instances you can think of where you had a creative difference in the making of the video?
Dickinson: I feel like certain ideas that I had were a bit more grotesque or risqué! And Rose said we couldn’t do that because she was worried about possible backlash. Whereas I just want to put it all in. But it really works. The balaclavas even, they’re not that severe, and it’s not a highly aggressive or violent statement. A balaclava could be many things, but the setting of it in a court, there’s a political element to it that you have to make sure you’re fully game for. There is always going to be a conversation and an interpretation of that.
Would you say that the experience has made you want to collaborate more frequently?
Gray: Yeah, it was a very creative household for a couple of weeks.
Dickinson: It was a fun job. Also, there are a lot of our friends in it and people that we’ve both worked with on different levels. And it wasn’t a massive production. Everyone was aware of that, and they really chipped in to help. It’d be nice to do something on a bigger scale and have more resources and time.
Your careers have been on the up and up over the last few years. Considering you’ve been together so long, how has it been to see you both grow and achieve as much as you have?
Dickinson: It’s great. It’s a weird old word.
Gray: It’s silly. We have to laugh about some of the experiences that we’re having sometimes.
Dickinson: We actually met Madonna the other day, and we were just in the cab on the way home giggling.
Rose, what do you have coming up in the next few months that we can look forward to?
Gray: I’m working on my debut album at the moment. Early next year that’ll be finished, and I’ll be ready to go into the album campaign. I’m hoping to do lots more shows next year. And I’ve got some potential exciting features as well. I’m just finishing the album, which is my favourite part of being a musician, just being in the studio. Especially now it’s getting colder!