While driving around Los Angeles listening to her song “Easy,” Bonnie McKee would sometimes imagine what it’d be like to perform the ’80s-style power ballad in front of a camera. “Every time in the bridge, I would feel like crying,” she tells EW. “There’s something so pleading and desperate in that bridge that everyone can relate to.”
But the road to getting in front of an actual camera and sharing that emotion with fans wasn’t so, well, easy. McKee—known for writing chart-topping smashes for the likes of Katy Perry and Britney Spears—included the song on last summer’s Bombastic EP, which she released independently after a brief, rocky stint at Epic Records. “My original plan was to make a visual EP, but being independent is very expensive,” she says. Yet with a smaller budget comes greater creative control, and now McKee doesn’t have to answer to a label that might tell her to stop making videos for a 16-month-old EP. This time, she says, “When I get an artistic itch, I have to scratch it.”
That’s no exaggeration. In addition to the “Easy” video, which premieres today on EW, McKee is also preparing to share what she calls a “Christmas surprise” for fans later this year: an unreleased video for a years-old song, one that pre-dates her 2013 single “American Girl.” “We made this beautiful video when I was still at Epic that never got released, but I paid for it and own it,” she says. “I’m excited to finally share it with the world because it’s been floating around in my head for seven years.”
The “Easy” video hasn’t been gestating for that many years, but it’s been in the works long enough to have gone through several iterations. At one point, McKee thought about filming a single-shot, “Nothing Compares 2 U”-style video, but felt the concept had been done too many times by other artists. Working again with director David Richardson, who helmed her retro “Bombastic” video, she also considered flashier treatments before deciding on the understated performance video she felt best matched the song. “I knew I wanted to have a raw emotional broken down , because I haven’t really done that yet,” she says.
McKee wrote the song after she ended an eight-year relationship and started seeing someone new. “He wanted more than I could give, but I was not ready to be in a relationship again,” she says. “[“Easy”] feels like a hallelujah moment because it’s me realizing what I want and asking for that.”
Now that she’s completed all the visuals for the Bombastic EP, McKee is working on recording a full-length album and hopes to release new music early next year. Though she spent much of the past year in writing camps for other artists, she’s currently focusing on her solo work instead of collaborating with others. She says she doesn’t know, for instance, if she’ll work on the new LP from Katy Perry, with whom she co-wrote No. 1 hits like “Teenage Dream” and “Roar.” (McKee worked on several of those songs with producer Dr. Luke, who’s currently in a contentious legal battle with fellow McKee collaborator Kesha; “I think the whole thing is really sad,” McKee says. “I really can’t say one way or another.”)
“I’ve had a lot of successes as a songwriter, and I really have nothing to prove in that arena, so I’m just excited about the next challenge of pursuing this artist thing,” she says. And though she’s not opposed to signing with another label one day, for now, McKee is enjoying setting her own timeline: “It’s great to just reach out and give something to the fans when they’re hungry for it.”