BRIGHT LIGHTS, BRIGHT LIGHTS
He’s the gay man singlehandedly reinventing shiny pop with a little help from his pal Elton John. Meet Bright Light, Bright Light (not his real name!)
DNA: There’s a trend in pop for new artists to radically rename themselves. Was this the thinking behind Bright Light Bright Light?
BLBL: I just think Rod Thomas sounds so boring [laughs]. When you create something there’s so much to play with – sound, imagery, video, creative – why not do something fun with the name as well? Really, if people see someone show up on a blog or charts or whatever, it’s easy to assume it’s a person with guitar or piano and potentially a little introverted. The aim for my music was to steer away from that. I thought a name would tie in all the production, writing, DJing, remixing and stylistics.
Why go double the Bright Light?
It’s a quote from the movie Gremlins.
You’re quite prolific. What’s the release plan for 2017 looking like?
[ Adopts Sandra Bernhard voice] Oh honey, you can’t even imagine! Always working, always creating. I have the first month or two at home without touring, so I’m looking forward to making some new material. I’ll be working
Choreography as an album for a while, touring and getting everywhere I can, but there will be some new songs to add to the mix.
You’ve garnered a lot of attention from the gay press. Have you courted it intentionally?
Obviously my publicist pitches to gay press but the organic reach to gay press has been really lovely, particularly abroad. It’s been cool to see who’s read about the music from other sites or people, and how the music has found its way to an audience. Referencing Erasure, Kate Bush, Elton John and Björk as my influences, there was bound to be some gay connection as audiences go, but it’s been so brilliant.
Where are you on the spectrum of sexuality?
I don’t often think about it, but I guess I’m just a plain old, young, gay man.
Elton John has been a big supporter of yours. How did you meet?
We met through his management company back in 2008 at an event. He’s been so, so good to me. I went to see him play a show in Philadelphia when I was in NYC shortly after we met and we hung out and chatted. A year later I left the management company but he kept his eye on what I was up to. He called me when he heard my first record and liked it and we quickly became good friends. He’s been encouraging in a world where the industry wasn’t looking to support someone like me. His support was a godsend. I’ve never met a bigger music fan and that’s the most encouraging aspect of him – that his passion for music has never faded. He took me on tour and I played 55 shows with him, and obviously that helped immeasurably with finding a bigger audience and selling records. That was so incredible.
He appears regularly on your records. You manage to keep twisting his arm?
Yeah, I have no idea [laughs]. He loves making music. He loves to collaborate, as you can tell from his career, and as we’re good friends it makes sense to work together. I just think, okay,
would Elton like this song? I send things to him and if he likes the track he says yes. It’s mindblowing to me.
Has Elton given you any specific mentoring notes about surviving the industry?
Yes. To keep focused, keep level-headed and have fun. I look at his career and there’s always so much humour and joy in the visuals that accompany the music. He’s been having a blast the whole time. It’s inspiring.
Is it easy to fall into the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle of a pop star?
If you find that kind of lifestyle romantic, I suppose so. I have zero interest in drugs and having sex with every man around the corner. I feel most happy when I’m with friends or making music and feeling creative so, for me, that kind of life has very little appeal. There have been plenty of times when people have made me feel super boring for being like that but, honestly, I want to make music until I die. If I party endlessly I’ll have no voice. If I piss away my money on drugs and drink and going crazy, I can’t afford to make music. I find wasting talent and money so fucking boring. I’d rather be thought of as some kind of reserved Victorian and actually get to record, travel and have a brilliant time than be a party animal and wake up next year with no money, voice or future.
Were you bullied at school?
There were a few little things but I was fine. I was pretty lucky.
Who were your musical idols when you were growing up?
People with strong identities who were very clearly identifiable no matter what they did: Björk, Elton, Grace Jones, Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Pet Shop Boys, Erasure and George Michael. They are the people who helped me dream big and inspired me to look a bit harder at the world and see what magic was just over the hill.
Who’s your diva?
It’s a very close tie between Mariah Carey and Bette Midler. I love them both so much. Probably Bette’s The Divine Miss M is my most listened to diva record, but Mariah makes me so happy. I’ve been to her Christmas show the last two years and she’s so in tune with all the diva ridiculousness that makes her fans happy. She’s super smart and really fun. But Bette’s story, her career, her voice… I mean, so f lawless. I was watching an old video of her bathhouse
The pop star lifestyle? I have zero interest in drugs and having sex with every man around the corner.
performances the other day and it’s just so magic.
When did you realise you wanted to be a fulltime pop star?
When someone told me I never could be.
What kind of day jobs did you give up to pursue your dream?
I worked at a music company that distributes lots of independent record labels for two years at an exciting time in music. I learned so much from them. That’s how I knew how to run a label and release my own music. They distribute my records now, so it’s been a lovely full circle. Oh, also bar work and some crappy temp jobs. We’ve all done those.
Are you currently romantically attached?
What do you look for in a partner?
Funny and fun, interesting and interested, did not vote for Trump.
What do you consider you best attributes and your most beautiful flaws?
I think I’m pretty funny, mostly, and I have a great record collection. My most beautiful potential f law would be my love of ’90s pop culture. But I’m willing to broaden my horizons [laughs].
Important DNA question: speedos, board shorts or nude at the beach?
What the fuck are board shorts? I’m gonna say those so I sound like I know the lingo.
Have you had many gay stalker fans?
Ummmmmmm… not as such.
That doesn’t sound very convincing.
There have been one or two people who have been borderline intrusive, but mainly online and you can shut that off if you need to.
What causes are close to your heart?
I became an ambassador for Local Giving in 2015. It’s a charity that helps small, local charities. They’re amazing, and I worry that people aren’t aware of charities that aren’t the main ones. Obviously, Elton John AIDS Foundation, Hetrick-Martin (NYC LGBTQ Youth) and so many of the amazing AIDS/LGBT charities who work tirelessly. I’m always blown away by how generous people can be. I try to do what I can to help.
What’s your best move on the dance floor?
I couldn’t even say… it’s just all in the moment, isn’t it? Cue, no idea, totally on the f ly.
We hear you also love a show tune.
God, I love musicals. My parents took me to see shows all the time growing up – you know when your local theatre has productions. Little
Shop Of Horrors was my favourite and that really influenced my fixation on storytelling in my songs. I love that there’s real narrative in shortness, and the drama and the over-the-top emotions get me every time.
What’s your message to the readers of DNA?
Dream big. Go out and live your best lives. I come from a small coal mining valley in Wales where nothing happened and people told me I’d never get anywhere in the music industry. I worked super hard and dreamed huge and now I work with Elton John and have a Billboard hit album with no label help. If I can do it, you can do it. Go for it!
Bright Light Bright Light: “I’m just a plain old, young, gay man.”