Seattle’s Caela Bailey is attracted to the colorful, the unique and the flamboyant. And, as a lifelong resident of the Emerald City, she has seen many manifestations of what she loves go extinct. Whether a favorite bar demolished or an artist friend forced out of the city, Bailey laments these losses. And, as an artist, she attempts to subvert the pain from those disappearances with bouquets of eye-popping performance. Her latest, a beautiful video for her song, “Belltown Crawl,” features a swath of local creators—from Chocolate Drizzle producer Keon Volt, to superstar burlesque producer/performer and all around advocate, Briq House, to rock ‘n’ roll singer Eva Walker. The production is a love letter to Seattle’s creative explosions.
We caught up with Bailey to talk about the shoot, her relationship to the city, and one of the sexiest moments in music video history.
Do you live in Belltown?
I do not. And I don’t know if I could because it’s so much, like, extraness. But that’s why I think it’s so great. Belltown is a place where I love to go to when I want to be a little wild and weird. It’s one of the last remaining odd neighborhoods in Seattle where I feel weirdos congregate. It’s got a jazz club, a little theater, all these restaurants and art bars. You have all these things that allow for, really, not rich people to go hang out. Seattle is becoming a place that caters to people with money and that doesn’t always foster an atmosphere for artists. Belltown is one of those places hanging on for dear life.
Why did you want to record this song and produce this specific video?
My dad actually wrote this song 30 years ago. It’s his song. But with his help and some incredible musicians, I took it and made it my own. The lyrics were so relevant to him when he wrote it and it’s almost even more pertinent now.
You wanted to release it on the one-year anniversary of the Trump inauguration. What is it about the video that provides context for the current administration?
First of all, I’m just pissed. I’m pissed that this ridiculous spoiled child is speaking for our country. This has been such a tension and stress-filled year. He has given permission for bigots to spew hate and violence, families to be split apart and deported from their homes, he has rolled back protections for the environment and animals in the most crucial moment on earth, and is nonchalantly tweeting about nuclear war?!? I mean truly, fuck this guy and the current Republican party for allowing this horrifying nonsense to continue. We are living in a corporate political takeover. My response and antidote to that is showing and promoting all the love and creating art that reflects the times. I have been taking a strong look at myself and my role in the system. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by people from every background, religion etc. all my life. When you are exposed to different ideas & cultures, it is blatantly obvious to see that we are all one people on this earth and our differences make us beautiful.
We also wanted to link this video with the Trump inauguration and the Women’s March because this video is very femme-centric. All the masculinity in the video is in support of femme energy. If we can survive this administration the future is female. The two people who crush the Donald Trump figure in the video are me and Briq House. I personally want to crush him. But in an ideal world, it would be a black queer woman who gets to stomp him out, just take him down and everything he stands for, that’s who deserves it the most and there isn’t anyone better than Briq House to metaphorically do the honors.
How did you put the glamorous cast together?
Those are my friends and my people! Also, most people in the video are Seattle born and raised, which I love. I like that there are so many people who know this city for what it has been. I feel so lucky to know so many beautiful people who will, like, wear pink spandex or a sequin leotard and dance in the middle of the street. I feel so blessed and inspired by all those people. And we’re trying to have fun in a time that’s so hard and so weighty on everybody. The theme of the shoot was “Partying in the apocalypse.” We’re still out here! Seattle is a colorful place that has raised all of us to be freaking rock stars.
What did you learn about yourself or the city while making this video?
Seattle is disappearing and it’s traumatizing as hell. The Upstairs—the big scene with a whole bunch of ladies at that bar—it’s gone as of now, closed. I want to capture these places and this moment. All of these things we thought would never leave are being taken from us. But on the flip side there are places like the brand new art bar, Jupiter, that immediately feel like home. Creating this was a reminder of what Seattle has been for me—it is the place that raised me—and I’m watching it transform into something unrecognizable. The city is gentrifying so quickly and we are watching everything we loved, essentially be bulldozed. That’s not healthy. Not to mention, the city is built on native land to begin with, so even the things we have come to love were a trauma for others. Change is inevitable but you just hope people doing the changing care about culture and creating something that will be interesting and unique for years to come—but I don’t get that vibe from the people coming in. It feels like it’s all about making money.
How does it feel to have the sexiest shot ever in a video with that kiss between you and your partner, Takiyah Ward?
It feels great! That’s a gooooood kiss. It makes my mom just a little uncomfortable every time, to see me in a passionate kiss like that. She looks at me, like, “Oh my god!” But what’s great about that moment, you cringe a little bit because you think, “Oh, that’s personal!” That’s a real kiss right there, a kiss that comes from a lot of love. It’s real sexy and feels like you were just let into a window there. It feels good.
Would you ever do such a big undertaking like this again?
We did this video so renegade. It was just me producing it, Celene Ramadan (Prom Queen) directing it and Chris Word (longtime Belltown resident) with his camera. I have so many videos I want to make. That’s my love after singing and performing. I think I have one more of these renegade videos in me before we need a bigger budget. The videos I’ve done so far have been such minimal budgets. Thank god for good friends!