When Michael Ray delivered “Get Her Back,” a track from his upcoming Dive Bars & Broken Hearts, he knew he had a song that leaned into the difference between how people feel and how they act. Recognizing that life sometimes stings, the dark-haired traditionalist from the heart of Central Florida also knows that most people don’t have to act on their impulses.
With a line that sidesteps acting out or trafficking in bitter gossip – “I wasn’t raised like that”– the terse power midtempo reflects on how things go wrong and what happens in the aftermath. It’s an exercise in self-awareness and a vocal performance that works a triple entendre from recognition to reflex to rejecting the obvious response. It’s also a masterwork in country music’s ability to misdirect the obvious not just once – clamoring to get the girl back turning into craving retribution – but twice – that desire to strike back cooling to the reality the last thing the singer wants is the person who’s done them wrong.
“I was raised on country songs that turn what you think on its head,” Ray explains. “You think you know what the song’s all about, then you hear the hook – and it’s something completely else. That’s what the greats like Haggard, Cash or Conway were all about. So, when I heard this, the way it flipped the script twice, I knew I had to cut ‘Get Her Back.’ The way it’s written is so tight, and then what Michael Knox did in the studio? The track is so sexy, he really intensifies that sense of what’s going on here...
“And it made me wonder, how could we do a video that has that same kind of ‘think it’s one thing, but it’s actually something else’ kind of appeal? It wouldn’t be easy.”
Enter Spidey Smith, the photographer and director who’s worked with a litany of today’s most barrier pushing stars across genres from Eminem to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Good Charlotte to Cypress Hill to Duran Duran. With a dark, saturated palette and a set of detectives with flashlights, the director behind Ray’s backwater brimstone and business “Holy Water” conjures a storyline that appears one way but is distinctly another.
And at the center of it all, Ray delivers the truth of his song to a wizened, heard-it-all cop in a bare-bones debriefing room with the video running and an observation window that provides a second perspective. Balancing footage of what was and what’s unknown, the ponytailed interrogator leans into the potential suspect’s narrative, weighing his truth as he hands over black and white pictures from the scene of the crime.
Beyond the moments of the former couple’s life together, there are the unknown to both men scenes of the woman with her friends, with her dog, with her phone fraught and incessantly yelling into a voice mail of someone who’s not picking up. It is there that the crux of the video unfolds. As the woman stumbles, Ray is loading a truck with firewood unaware of all that is happening elsewhere – and when he returns the call, there is... no answer.
“Leave it to Spidey to find the edge and the mystery,” Ray says with a laugh. “He understands that place where you want to snap, but then you settle down and you just move on. To be able to find a way of showing how far you can stand from the fire – and still get burned, how you can do the right thing, which sometimes is nothing, and just keep moving? It’s a tough line to walk, but he did. And for everyone who’s ever been in a position of not wanting to look back, well, this clip’s for you.”