Jamey Johnson’s highly-anticipated music video for “Playing the Part,” directed by Matthew McConaughey, premieres this week.
The video, shot in Los Angeles in late September, marks two important firsts. It is the first music video ever directed by McConaughey and the first video from Johnson’s critically acclaimed 25-song double album, The Guitar Song, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and No. 4 on the Billboard 200.
“Jamey and this song both have a great sense of humor, so I wanted the video to have a ‘wink’ to it,” says McConaughey. “For any video, if you like the song, you should like it even more after you see the video. I wanted this video to support the lyrics, and elevate the song.”
With his extensive film background, he wanted his first foray into video directing to feature a compelling narrative so that it wouldn’t be an ordinary music video. “This is a story with a beginning, middle and a surprise at the end,” he says. “I started out with a 250-pound stripper leaving work in the morning, and ended up with a man in a gorilla suit getting fired from used tire store.”
When McConaughey told Johnson that the video would be pretty “carney,” Johnson said, “Get as carney as you want.” About working with his friend, Johnson says, “I don’t think I could have dreamed anything better.”
McConaughey first heard Johnson’s music about 2-1/2 years ago on an AM radio in his brother Rooster’s barn. “We’re in this little barn and it was echoing from this tiny radio,” McConaughey says. “I said, ‘Damn, this is a good song, Rooster.’ And Rooster said, ‘It’s called ‘In Color.’ We didn’t know what artist it was, so we looked it up and it was Jamey. I went immediately and bought Jamey’s album and said, ‘This album is an instant classic.’”
McConaughey met Johnson during the 2009 Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas, where Johnson received the Song of the Year award for “In Color.” McConaughey presented the award for album of the year, for which Johnson was also nominated. “I thought That Lonesome Song was the best album that year, but he did win best song,” McConaughey notes. “I met Jamey backstage, he hit on Camila, we shared a few laughs, and we stayed in touch.” A few months later, McConaughey’s girlfriend, Camila Alves, secretly asked Johnson to perform at McConaughey’s 40th birthday party.
During one of their conversations, McConaughey, a Texas native, invited
“When Jamey won, he said, ‘You can donate my winnings to Gamblers Anonymous,’” McConaughey says. But McConaughey discovered that the organization didn’t accept donations, so Johnson told him that the bet would be settled if McConaughey would publicly announce that he lost the bet, which he did in a magazine.
After Johnson completed his album, he called McConaughey and said, “I’ve got a new single and I want you to direct the video for it.” McConaughey responded, “Sure, let me listen to it and find an angle.” “I had a few initial ideas,” recalls McConaughey. “But after Jamey and I talked about why he wrote it and where the song came from, it was clear that I needed a man in a monkey suit.”
“Playing the Part” was one of two Los Angeles-inspired songs Johnson penned for The Guitar Song.
Johnson, who is currently on tour, will perform on NBC’s The Tonight Show with