In their new single, Maddie & Tae ask: Can you die from a broken heart?
In the case of the hit-making duo, the answer is definitely no — but it certainly can give them inspiration for the song’s new music video.
A PEOPLE-exclusive peek behind the scenes of the filming reveals that Taylor Dye used her own experience with heartbreak as her muse when she acted out the tragic narrative. (She previously dated singer Jackie Lee, though she has been in a relationship with songwriter Josh Kerr for over a year.)
“Everyone is about to get a front-row seat to my biggest heartbreak,” Dye promises in the BTS video, and then she delivers a gut-wrenching performance unlike any of the women’s previous video work.
Dye, 23, says she was ready to try her hand at a dramatic performance when director Carlos Ruiz brought the idea to the duo: Dye would act out the story of “Die From a Broken Heart,” as partner Maddie Marlow, 24, would be the musical narrator.
“I actually am very passionate about acting,” Dye tells PEOPLE. “I’ve always had a little bit of an itch for it. … We wrote the song from such a personal space that I felt like I could really draw from that. And if this was to be my ‘acting debut,’ if you will, then this would be the perfect story to tell.”
A major motivation to be so revealing, Dye adds, is the number of fans who have shared their own heartbreaks with the two singers.
“Honestly, I felt like a really big hypocrite,” she says. “We released this song, and while we were talking about it, no one knew what I was going through when we wrote it because I hadn’t really expressed that. I hadn’t told anyone that, hey, this was really hard for me. Everyone was being so vulnerable and sharing their stories, and I felt like I should give them the same respect.”
In fact, Dye and Marlow co-wrote the song with Jonathan Singleton and Deric Ruttan just two weeks after Dye’s breakup in 2017. Singleton was the one who suggested the title, and the other three joined in to flesh out the idea.
“We came up with this super-vulnerable phone call between us and our moms,” Marlow recalls, “and we just started talking about our heartbreaks, what those conversations sounded like and started putting that into the song. But I knew what Tae was going through, and so I was kind of trying to protect her from having to go super-deep to where it was going to ruin the day, but also let her heal a little bit through songwriting.”
Dye says she was too raw to remember much about the session, but “I do remember it feeling close to home.”
By the time the duo started performing the song a year later, Dye says, the pain had been in the past tense for a few months. “I definitely healed by then,” she says, though she adds that singing it even today “still takes me back, especially now with the video.”
Though the dramatic scenes don’t mirror Dye’s actual story, both she and Marlow brought authenticity to the video by contributing ideas for the treatment. And yes, Dye confirms, those are real tears she’s crying. She wasn’t sure if she could cry on command, and her brother, Mason, who’s a professional actor in LA, suggested she try a menthol-infused tear stick. But about five minutes before the scene was shot, Dye decided to give it a go.
“I sat in a room when they were finished up my hair and makeup and I just made myself cry,” she says. “It sounds weird. I turned on a really sad playlist and kind of thought about sad emotions. Then closer to filming the scene, I did go back and kind of revisit some old stories.”
Marlow, who was by her best friend’s side through the split, wasn’t on set to watch Dye’s breakdown, and “I’m glad that I wasn’t there,” she says. Later, witnessing a tense scene between Dye and male lead Ricardo Hoyos, Marlow can be seen in the BTS video, whispering, “This is so hard to watch.”
“It just felt too real,” she says now. “It put me right back to when all that was going on.”
Dye, though, was processing the experience as an actor. “It felt exhilarating,” she says. “There was just something about telling a story and not moving my lips at all. It was absolutely fascinating. I was very into it.”
She also knew she didn’t have to bring any heartbreak home with her. “One of the weirdest parts for me, with releasing this video, is a lot of people are assuming that it’s about my current relationship,” she says. “I’m like, ‘No, no, no, no, no, that’s good.’”
Indeed, Dye credits Kerr’s presence in her life with helping her deliver the performance.
“He has opened my emotions like a friggin’ floodgate in the best way,” she says. “I feel like I’m able to articulate my emotions and not feel so ashamed of going there, and he’s been the one to teach me that. So literally the day of the video shoot, I was just so thankful that I have in my life. He makes me feel so comfortable to go there emotionally.”
Maddie & Tae are currently playing select dates, and they’ll be back on tour with Carrie Underwood on Sept. 12.
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