The singer opens up about involving herself in every step of crafting the visual for her first release as an independent artist.
Just weeks ago, Pia Mia walked the red carpet at the Los Angeles premiere of her feature debut in After. Making the experience extra special was the fact that her latest single, "Bitter Love" — the anthem for the movie adaptation of Anna Todd's wildly popular YA book series — resounded throughout the theater as Pia's name flashed onscreen during the film's closing credits.
But rather than bask in the glory of her career milestone, the pop star wasted no time as she ran home to slip out of her cascading Galia Lahav gown and coordinating jewels. She then hit the road again, making her way three hours north to Santa Maria, California's Foxen Vineyard & Winery that very night. The countryside locale is where Pia decided she would film the video for "Bitter Love" — which also happens to be her first independent release since leaving Interscope Records in late 2017.
The two-day, 30-hour shoot was not only creatively fulfilling for Pia, but also served as a crash course in filmmaking. Without a major label behind her, every aspect of crafting the dreamy visual fell on the 22-year-old's shoulders. From hiring director Alex Delgado to styling her own looks with the help of fashion guru Shalev Lavan, Pia says that bringing "Bitter Love" to life provided a steep learning curve — but ultimately helped her grow as an artist.
"Because I'm self-funding it, it's not a $200,000 video. It's a lower budget, but I wanted to invest in an amazing crew and also put that money onto the screen," Pia tells Billboard, adding that she used cinema lenses from the '60s to give the clip a "timeless" feel. "Everyone worked so hard on this video because of their passion. There wasn't one person who didn't give it their all and I am so grateful for that."
The Guam native is also grateful for her co-star, Galan, a purebred Andalusian stallion who's won multiple world championship titles. "I hardly have any experience horseback riding — let alone riding a star like Galan," Pia admits. "But we were best friends by the end of the shoot. There were times on set when he would just follow me around in the field. We definitely bonded. The video wouldn’t have been possible without him."
Below, watch Billboard's exclusive premiere of the "Bitter Love" video — which also features a previously unreleased scene from After — and keep reading for more from our chat with Pia about producing the project herself.
How did you land on the concept for the music video?
I had a bunch of concepts I was thinking of and I scratched all of them once I saw Alex Delgado's treatment. It was so different than anything else I saw. I immediately fell in love with the idea of the sweeping landscapes, the horse, the barn, the beauty of it all. I'm not kidding you. I saw the treatment and was like, "Let's go get a horse and shoot!"
What went into choosing a horse as your co-star rather than casting a love interest?
The horse, Galan, he is kind of representative of my "Bitter Love." I thought it would be cool because not only did it feel like the best representation of the song for me personally, but it also gives fans a different way to look at the song outside of After and interpret it for themselves.
You look like a pro riding Galan in the video. Was it important for you to do your own stunts?
Yes, for sure. When I got the treatment, I was like, "Let me first make sure that I can ride him and that I'm comfortable." Because I didn't want to fake it in the video. After a few days of training, I learned how to walk him, how to trot and how to canter. I love to find things and become obsessed with them. It happened with music. It happened with acting. And now it's happened with Galan and I feel like riding him has made me fall in love with horses. Who knows? Maybe I'll compete one day.
What was the most challenging part of making the video?
Maybe the editing. It's really hard because it's not like a movie where you have a script and every little detail's written out for you. You can make a music video a million different ways. It can be frustrating — and it's also similar to mixing a song. You have so many different options, angles, takes, closeups. There are so many different roads you can go down, so it was very frustrating at certain points and we spent two days in a dark room playing through every piece of footage. But I feel so relieved now that it's over and I'm very proud of the final product.
What have you learned about yourself throughout the entire journey of rolling out "Bitter Love" as an independent artist?
I've learned that you have to stick to your gut. When you get these feelings that you should go for something, you really should do it as intensely as you can. Because with "Bitter Love," every step of the way, I didn't know exactly what I was doing or where I was going. I just had a feeling that this is the road I should be going down. I'm here to entertain and to be creative and to inspire people. I also hope to represent strong women and show that you can do it all on your own. You can be a businesswoman from a young age and be successful at it.
What's been your favorite fan reaction to "Bitter Love" so far?
Just seeing my fans going to see the movie with all their friends. They're sending me videos of themselves crying as "Bitter Love" is playing and they're singing it. The whole combo of them having just finished the After movie and seeing [my character] Tristan and all the characters — and then hearing "Bitter Love," tears in their eyes, just the emotion of it all is so touching. Even my sister was crying at the premiere, too. [Laughs.] Everyone was crying! Happy tears, of course.
Tell me about your decision to include more footage from After at the end of the video.
We got to shoot so much stuff in Atlanta, but not everything got used in the final cut of After. And when the movie came out, we saw the fans saying, "We're missing this part of the movie. We want to see the conflict between Tessa [Josephine Langford] and Hardin [Hero Fiennes-Tiffin]." We weren't able to squeeze all of it in, so we wanted to give this scene to the fans and let them know that we see them, we hear them and we're doing this for them.
Now that the dust has settled a bit with "Bitter Love," have you thought about your next music release at all?
Yes, there is definitely more music coming — likely very soon. I can't say final dates or anything like that but I'm so excited for the fans to hear it and for them to continue on in this new chapter of my career.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.