Local Current Blog

Behind the Scenes: Moise collaborates with a childhood friend, director Effy Kawira, for dreamy and dark ‘Tennessee’ video

Minneapolis-based R&B artist Moise’s latest music video, “Tennessee,” begins as a nostalgic golden dream and twists into a nightmare. Featuring a cherry red convertible and tender moments with a smiling girlfriend, played by Naomi Seleshi, “Tennessee” evokes a feeling of wistful nostalgia before introducing an element of sour jealousy and revenge. The song comes from Moise‘s debut album, Postcards I Forgot to Send, which came out last August and has garnered the attention of fans local and beyond.

Director Effy Kawira brings a distinctive perspective to the project. Elements like the rich color scheme and effortless intimacy between the characters in the video can be found in other examples of her work. Kawira has directed music videos for artists such as Dizzy Fae, Alec Benjamin, and Obi Original as well as producing several short films. Her style complements Moise’s smooth vocals and downtempo grooves naturally and the pair’s easy artistic chemistry comes from friendship spanning many years.

“We literally have known each other since we were playing on the swingset together as kids,” Kawira said.

“There was a time when our families moved apart and we got disconnected,” Moise said, “And then we ended up reconnecting last year at a Dizzy Fae show and I found out she was directing videos now.”

Subtle moments in the video point towards cracks in a glowing couple’s honeymoon-like affection as the girlfriend sneaks a glance at Moise’s phone and twists the trajectory of the video to a darker place. In the song’s final moments, she pulls a knife with Moise’s name on the handle from a selection of similar weapons enscribed with the names of other ill-fated men.

“The song is about someone leaving you, and that pain is captured in the video,” Moise said. “When someone you love moves away it’s like a piece of you is leaving.”

“We took that to the extreme here,” Kawira said. “At the end she literally takes his life and that felt like a representation of what was happening in the relationship in the song.”

Kawira’s eye for color and detail make many each shot from “Tennessee” look like it could be pulled from the video and framed. When asked if there were any challenges that emerged during filming, both Moise and Effy immediately burst into laughter before answering in near unison: “The egg,” referring to a closeup of an egg frying in a sepia-toned pan as the couple gleefully make breakfast together.

“When I have shots in my head like that, they feel important to the mood and the setting and I want to make sure to get them right,” Kawira said. “The yolks kept disintegrating or looking wrong, so we probably went through a dozen eggs to get that final shot.”

The video was premiered through the Majestic Casual YouTube channel, an outlet both artists looked to for music discovery before having their own work featured there.

“Majestic Casual is one of the first places I remember turning to to find new music online,” Kawira said. “Having the video premiere there really felt full circle.”

The nostalgic style and intentional color palette give the video a dreamlike quality to the video as the shots toggle between a home camcorder view and third person angles.

“I’m inspired a lot by the films I loved growing up, directors like Wes Anderson and Tarantino, other old movies, photos of my parents too,” Kawira said. “I immediately knew I wanted a sort of ’70s color palette. I feel like things were simpler then, and that reflects the blissfulness and simplicity of the story we were telling.”

Behind the Scenes is a biweekly feature spotlighting Minnesota music videos. To submit your video for consideration, e-mail fridayfive [at] mpr.org.