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It's a steamy afternoon in a sun-soaked loft in Los Angeles and Allison Janney is in full clown makeup preparing for her dance solo.
"Should we not even address it?" Janney joked of her dramatically painted eyes and bright red nose.
"Let's just talk like we're absolutely serious," she said while settling in for an interview on the set of Rachael Yamagata's new music video, directed by actor-filmmaker Josh Radnor of "How I Met Your Mother" fame.
The seven-time Emmy winner and "Mom" star had no qualms with the physical transformation for Yamagata's "Let Me Be Your Girl."
"I've always loved her music and I've never done a music video. And I thought, 'What the hell?' Definitely I'm all about doing things I haven't done before and I'm having fun," Janney said.
The unlikely trio took a quick break between takes to chat about the project, Yamagata's newfound optimism and her brand-new album, "Tightrope Walker," with a tour stop set at the Urban Lounge in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 15.
How did you get Allison Janney to agree to this?
Yamagata • There was a lot of money involved.
Radnor • You've got to pay to play with Janney.
Yamagata • No, I was very fortunate. We have a mutual friend, Emily Wachtel, who is a champion of my music and talked to Allison about my song and just convinced her to do it.
Janney • No convincing at all! I knew of Rachael way before my friend Emily asked me to do this because I use music a lot to prepare for when I act. And there are several songs of hers that would make me feel things and I love her music. And then Josh and I went to [the same] college. … He directed me in "Liberal Arts."
What's your vision for the video?
Radnor • I started listening to the song and for some reason I just had this image of Allison putting on like funky kind of clown makeup and then just dancing. I was like, "I would really love to see Allison dance to this song in a clown outfit." And that's how the whole thing started.
Janney • Probably one of my favorite things to do is dance. I do a lot of dancing by myself in mirrors and it gives me a lot of joy. I think I'm not alone. I think a lot of people are private dancers.
Is this is a bigger production than you're used to?
Yamagata • I've definitely done like that one camera [shoot] and I am the wardrobe and standing at Lowe's ordering paints. The last video I did … we were hanging tarps from trees and climbing ladders by ourselves. So this is fantastic that we even have a fruit platter available.
Radnor • It's a killer fruit platter.
Allison, what are your go-to Rachael Yamagata songs?
Janney • Her song "Quiet" … every time before I have to cry [on set] I listen to that and I'm like, "Oh my God!"
Radnor • She's talented, Rachael Yamagata.
Janney • She's very, very talented.
Yamagata • Can I get a copy of this? Because before I go onstage I'd like to watch it every time.
What was your inspiration for "Let Me Be Your Girl"?
Yamagata • This is one of those like put your windows down, drive, songs of joy. … My sort of calling card in music has always been these troubadour of heartbreak, get-your-soul, emotional breakup songs. … This new record is a different side. I finally think I figured out how to express the optimism that I feel in life into art.
How would you describe the new album?
Yamagata • Almost like Tom Waits and Nick Cave meet Roberta Flack. There's beautiful cinematic songs. There's saxophones and banjos and drumming on ladders in the middle of the woods and French spoken word. It's a smorgasbord of sound. I keep describing it as if you're thinking of quitting anything then this might be the record for you. Call me Pollyanna. I'm changing my tune.
Rachael Yamagata in concert
With Pressing Strings
When • Saturday, Oct. 15, 7 p.m., doors at 6:30 p.m.
Where • Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $20-$22; Ticketfly