Emily Ritz was suffocated by fear. She had never released solo music before, and as she geared up for 2018’s Pattern Recess, she struggled to muster up enough confidence in herself and the work. Before touring the record, she unexpectedly found herself caught in a lovelorn web, a relationship that fizzled just as it began.
Then, it hit her. She had written “so many songs about trying to get it right, trying to heal, and trying to find love,” she tells American Songwriter over email. “I thought that maybe if I wrote a song about already being in love with myself and sang it enough times that I’d actually begin to feel that way. I wanted to become confident as my own partner and lover.”
“If I was to get on stage by myself for two months and potentially be alone forever, I needed to feel OK on my own, both musically and romantically,” she says.
“I’m in Love” was born out of sheer desperation and a deep ache to love herself. It’s never been easy for Ritz, but the singer-songwriter finally turned a corner with the song, now paired with an elegant and lush new visual, filmed by real life partner Taylor Schilling (“Orange is the New Black”). “I tend to write music when I can’t hide from my pain or confusion and need to make sense of it. I wondered what would happen if I wrote a song from the perspective of having already achieved a true sense of self love,” Ritz offers. “What if I sang about being in love with myself over and over again? Would I eventually really feel it? I have to admit, it kind of worked.”
The second offering to a forthcoming record, In Love Alone, out next year, “I’m in Love” (produced by Luke Temple) was written two years ago. In that timeframe, she could not have predicted she would execute such immense leaps out of an “alone and loveless” place or feel the thrill of her romance with Schilling. Ritz needed to grow, and she needed, more than anything, the time and freedom to do so.
“I knew then that it was the most important song on the album. It always takes me a long time to share new music. I tend to wait until it’s not so new. My last three albums were like that where I recorded it and then didn’t share for years,” she admits. “There is a lot of fear and desire to try and control the release. Waiting for the perfect timing or to find help and in the end waiting until I have enough energy and money to do it myself. I’m only now beginning to let go of that idea of control or perfection.”
The music video, Schilling’s first time ever shooting (with her iPhone, no less), witnesses Ritz crossing that threshold. She appears languorous in the waters lining the Maine coastline. She is finally at peace with and comfortable in her own skin. “I’ve got the most tender texture / Inside and out / Baby I’ll make the most ginger gesture,” she coos, lying on a bed of sticky seaweed.
The landscape coats the lens with intensely serene and beautiful imagery. The naturistic color palette calls to Ritz’s own paintings, often showcasing a woman’s visage filtered with mossy greens and abstract markings. “The textures and colors there are very much a part of my visual lexicon, so the idea of creating images of me alone way out there in the midst of it all felt romantic and beautiful. We wanted to create images of a woman fully inhabiting herself for herself, removed from the external gaze,” she explains. “Maine made those images not only possible but innately epic and beautiful. I fell in love with that landscape. In a sense, I was both in love with Maine and myself within it. It held me so I could hold myself.”
Ritz, previously known for her work in indie bands Yesway and Honeycomb, also draws upon the mood and expression of Toro y Moi’s “Say That” video, in which mastermind Chaz Bear seeks solace amidst vibrant greenery. “There are some gorgeous slow zooms and strange compositions of his body in the landscape. It was fun to play with similar ideas, though we only had a phone and small steadicam, which gave our video its own feel. The zooms are fast and awkward, and I love that. There’s an intimacy to the shots whether they’re from far away or close up. We wanted to try and emulate cinema verite in the form of fuzzy paparazzi footage from the ‘90s ─ of say Princess Diana on a yacht.”
With Schilling behind the camera, their creative dynamic was unsurprisingly natural and free-flowing. “We have very similar values and visions, creatively, so there was a lot of room for trusting and letting things flow. She was most familiar with the landscape and became my guide. As I followed her through the wilderness, I kept getting blasted with ideas and images of what shots I wanted,” Ritz recalls. “Taylor was often thinking the same thing as me, and it was so fun to talk about our concepts and ideas and also to just be experimental and try things out for fun.”
“By the time we started shooting, it was just a matter of getting to the locations real early for the magical fog and morning light. I learned to trust that what she was filming looked good since there was no monitor, and I was often so far away from her,” she continues. “I knew I wanted lots of zooms and a home movie and voyeuristic feel. We developed a system of agreeing on the shots and then kind of signaling each other from afar. It was really magical.”
What is most captivating is the juxtaposition of nature’s innate expansiveness and Ritz’s personal expedition to rediscover her worth. It’s both cinematic and intimate. Her voice pulls you into her orbit, and you forever linger, entranced by the beauty and artistic framework. A child of Northern California, Ritz has always gravitated towards such grandeur, quite stimulated “by the flora and fauna of coastal regions that are just bursting with lush colors and textures,” she says. “In California or Maine, there is an overabundance of flowers and succulents and moss, and lichen coat the trees and forest floor. Tide pools [are] full of half-plant, half-animal alien creatures. I feel as though they are my ancestors and my teachers. When I interact with them, I’m reminded of what is really important in life.”
Watch the “I’m in Love” music video below.