Loneliness and grief are nothing new in pop music, but singer Magnus Riise is using American Sign Language to show how these feelings are shared and expressed across different communities.
The New York-based indie artist joined forces with writer, director, and actor Jules Dameron for Riise’s to direct the music video “Still Here,” the final visual from Riise’s debut EP Until Tomorrow. Riise sings the haunting song in a room surrounded by several people who sign the lyrics along with him, including Dameron.
“Still Here” follows Riise’s longing for a partner he can longer be with and the feelings and memories that come along with that. And while Riise’s heartbreak is his own, the sense of loneliness is one that can be shared by many.
“I was lucky to be exposed to the Deaf community in NYC years ago when I started helping out with a series of ASL Cabaret’s that I also ended up being on the producing team for,” Riise said. “I had seen such amazing performances from the Deaf community and I knew I wanted to prominently feature that somehow through this visual EP.”
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Thankfully, Riise found a collaborator in Dameron to make that dream a reality. When Dameron heard the song, the opportunity to work on the music video was a must.
“When I first listened to it, it got me crying like a baby. I understood it. It resonated with me,” Dameron said. “The feelings of emptiness, sadness and loneliness after the absence of a beloved one are powerful and this song made me feel validated for feeling this way.”
Dameron recruited several Deaf queer performers to express their emotions in a music video that creates visibility for Deaf queer people in pop music.
“This project involves 10 queer Deaf actors / performers, and this was absolutely my wheelhouse; being able to direct talented deaf actors and bringing out the emotion and rawness in their performance through music,” Dameron said. “It has been a privilege to be in this position to do all this in a single music video. It is also not a common occurrence where we can have so many deaf actors in one place oozing their talent together, let alone queer, let alone sharing their emotion!”
“Still Here” was translated into ASL by actor Joshua Castille (Accused, Spring Awakening) and features the talents of Amelia Hensley, Chelsea Lee, Gabriel Silva, Ian Sanborn, Joey Antonio, Jules Dameron, Malik Paris, Melissa Elmira Yingst, Samuel Langshteyn, and Shiran Zhavian.
“I think there are some similarities between the queer and deaf experience. Existing in a world that was not created for you can, at times, be extremely lonely. But both queer people and Deaf people have been able to tackle that loneliness through community and coming together,” Riise said. “I wanted this video to depict that loneliness, but leaving with the hope of what coming together in shared experiences can create and to show that on your loneliest and darkest days, there are other people going through the same thing. Jules really took to the concept and was an absolute dream collaborator, and I look forward to what we will create together next!”
Check out the music video below.
“I really want to speak from my own experiences; the stuff about mental health, toxic relationships, sex positivity– that’s all from my life.”
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