Singer Ally Brooke is ready to take fans “Higher” in her new music video, which she’s debuting exclusively with EW on the same day she premieres on Dancing With the Stars.
The former Fifth Harmony member teamed up with Norwegian DJ Matoma to make this soulful single with a techno twist.
While she’s been hard at work mastering the choreography that could win her the Mirrorball trophy, Brooke opted to keep her music video more free-spirited. “Hopefully later [fans will] be able to see some of my moves that I learned from the show integrated in a future video,” she says.
Watch the video above before reading what Brooke told EW about how “Higher” came together, and the positivity she wants to bring to this season of Dancing With the Stars.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did the song come together?
ALLY BROOKE: Yeah, basically I was in the studio and I was recording a bunch of different records and one of my managers played this song called “Higher,” and it was the song written by Emeli Sandé, and I heard it and I loved it. I loved the message, the vibe, the music, the melodies, everything. Then Matoma got on it and he did his magic on the record, and then we decided to put it out, but I was so excited for this one because I feel like the other songs that I put out are more flirty, sexy, but this is really a song about finding love within yourself. It has an uplifting message, your spirit is lifted and feeling good, and you’re just happy with the love you have inside yourself. So I love that this is kind of a new moment for me.
This isn’t your first DJ/producer collaboration. How does that usually work? Did you record it after Matoma added to the production?
I contacted him to hop on the record and do his magic. I already recorded the song before and then it was just about finding that right DJ feature, so I reached out to him and he amplified the record from where it was. I loved what he did as far as adding more piano and chords. Whereas the record before was a little bit more techno, he had a little bit more instrumentation which is really exciting, and you can hear that on the chorus and the bridge mainly. He did a great job, and I am so happy with this record. I can’t wait for my fans to hear it honestly. I’ve been performing it just as a sneak peek for the fans, and they’ve been dying to have it out so they could play it, and now [it’s] out.
After you heard what he did to it, was there anything that you circled back to and changed?
Actually, yes. So when he put his flare on it I felt like some of the bridge specifically could be a little bit softer. When I originally sang it, it was a little more soulful, but now the bridge is a little softer because it matches the music. I really am thankful I did that because now it flows really well, and a few of the verses I went back and changed a bit of the way I delivered it, and then he wrapped it up after that.
With your singles, you’ve played around with a lot of different genres. Is “Higher” another kind of experiment, or is this the sound we can expect from your future album?
It’s kind of a fun, I wouldn’t really say experiment, but opportunity to be able to put out a record that I really love and is not really like my previous singles, but is cool because it’s that kind of techno dance record. I love that being an artist, I can do whatever I want, that’s the best part. I have a team around me who’s all for it. I don’t have to just stick to the same sound and that’s kind of how my personality is too. I’m a bit of everything and I listen to so much music, so I’m able to draw from so much, and I love that this is just a piece of my story, and who I am as an artist. I’ve always wanted to put out those uplifting, fun, carefree messages in songs and this was just the right timing for that. I hope when people hear this record, they too feel that they can be free. They could find that love within themselves and can take themselves higher and let their love take them higher, just like the song says.
It does kind of feel reminiscent of the ’90s dance tracks that were paired with soul singers, so listeners would have that religious experience on the dance floor.
Totally, that’s what I love about it. You almost get that throwback feel with the record [with] a modern twist. I love that I’m able to really show my vocals on this. I’m very soulful on this record and have those big ad-libs and those big notes, which I know my fans just die when they hear me sing [them]. I’m glad I can give them that, a piece of who I am and a piece of my spirit.
What is the goal of the “Higher” music video? What are you excited about fans seeing?
It’s really great because the song itself has such a deep message, but the video is very fun and has some sass, but also has that joy in it. The goal of the video is to put another visual out for the fans so that way they could see it. It goes beyond just hearing the record but also visualizing it and having that music video piece with it. I love the different looks that I have. There’s this one outfit in particular that I love. It’s all neon and that’s my favorite look and I think my fans are going to really, really adore that.
Basically the video is a fun nod to the song — me coming into my own, being my own woman, and being in a space that is so free and fulfilled and happy. I am so glad that people are going to see me in that element, and you also get a dance aspect from my dancers, so it flows really nice together. It’s a great visual paired with the song. I can’t wait for people to see it.
You’re also on Dancing With the Stars, premiering tonight. What dance, of the ones you’re learning, would you want to pair with this song?
Ooh, maybe a freestyle because, again, the song is so free-spirited. I think that could be really great. Or maybe like a rumba — that could be really fun and flavorful. One of those would be really cool and I’d love to see how my partner would come up with the choreography for it. Hopefully, I can dance with the song or even the dancers could do that. That would be so awesome.
Dancing With the Stars is your second major reality competition after The X Factor. Did you find the journey of the show appealing, or are you excited about the competition aspect of it?
It’s both. I’m such a huge fan of the show. I grew up watching it with my mom and loving the dances, loving the transformation of the contestants. Of course, falling in love with the costumes. Oh my gosh, the whole show is such a fun positive experience, and you feel like you’re a part of these people’s lives. So this is an opportunity for me to be on one of my favorite shows, which is incredible, but also a way for me to challenge myself to learn, to grow.
It also ties in with my story of being in Fifth Harmony. I was made fun of a lot for my dancing and that was really horrible for me. It really broke my confidence and stole my joy, and some of that still stays with me. Even though I’ve proved people wrong in my “Low Key” video, and taking the stage as a solo artist, this is a chance for me to do it on such a different level. To prove to those people and also to myself that I can take on this challenge of baring it all on the dance floor, learning something entirely new and not being afraid of it; going for something that I love and challenging myself in a way that I never have before. That’s all really packaged into one and I hope that I could maybe even inspire someone else to do the same, go for something that they were made fun of or scared to do and say, “You know what? No, I’m going to choose to believe in myself and to do what I love.”
Are you excited for the dancing to speak for itself? This season’s cast announcement was kind of overshadowed by controversy.
Yes, I mean honestly I’m just so excited for people to get to know me through this platform. I feel like people never really got to see who I was as a person, and this show will be able to highlight that in a way that’s never been done before. The audience and my fans are going to go through this journey with me. You’re going to see me having those fun moments and laughing and having the time of my life, but you’re also going to see me sometimes still affected by the past and sometimes have those more vulnerable, emotional moments where I do get scared and I do get insecure. I hope to make my loved ones proud, and ultimately I’m going to have the time of my life because being on the show is a dream.
So you’re happy to have that platform to get rid of any of the other negativity that may be happening?
Exactly. That’s exactly my goal: to hopefully bring some positive fun energy and inspire someone through my journey.
And your fans are excited?
Oh my gosh the fans, they pretty much had no idea I was going to do the show, and they usually know everything, but they lost their minds. I know I have their full support and they’re going to be voting like crazy, and that’s all you can ask for, is to have that love and that passion, that that’s the one community that has your back.
This interview has been edited and condensed.