Rod Thomas (stage name Bright Light Bright Light) is a Welsh, London-based independent singer. Bright Light Bright Light incorporates many elements of nu-disco into his music, also branching into synthpop, dance and house music. His 2014 album, Life is Easy, was his first album to chart in the UK, reaching No. 139 on the UK Albums Chart as well as peaking in the top 20 on the UK Independent Albums Chart and the top 3 on the UK Indie Breakers Chart.
During his stop in Chicago, Illinois, we sat down and discussed his album, digital streaming, and touring with Elton John.
Josh: How’ve tours been going?
BLBL: Well this is the first day of this tour with John, but I’ve spent the last year opening for Elton John. Which has been kind of insane, playing venues that are way way bigger than I ever expected to play. Toured the UK, America, and Russia, it was really incredible and kind of a whirlwind. You just kind of end up at the end of it and you’ve been all these crazy places and beautiful locations but then at the end all you can remember is the inside of a van. But this is going to be really cool, I’m a huge fan of John’s and love his record.
Josh: Having been all over the world, with Elton John, what is the dynamic like between touring the UK and the US?
BLBL: I think they are very different. All the places were pretty different in terms of how people react and how they show enjoyment. So like Americans go a little more overboard. It’s pretty cool, especially in Denver where they were all really stoned. (laughs) I think America is an amazing place, and as a foreigner touring you feel so welcome in so many places. It’s a really cool experience to travel from the middle of Whales where I’m from to places all over the US that I’d only ever heard of before. It feels pretty amazing to me to feel so welcome, I never really expected that.
Josh: So tell us a little bit about your record, its been out a little over a year now.
BLBL: It’s sort of a snapshot of the year I had before that. I had moved to New York because I wanted to see life from a different point of view, I had lived in London for a really long time. I met some completely brilliant, completely bonkers people and had such a brilliant year. It was a strange, gorgeous, interesting, challenging and really rewarding year of meeting people and learning how a different country works. I really felt like just a different person, kind of shed a lot of the worries and stresses I had when I lived in London, which is something that happens when you live somewhere for a really long time. And then I put all that into this record, it’s about making peace with things that maybe have got you down and helping you see the good things you’ve got in your life. Touring America was a big part of that for me, being able to see the world outside of the bubble I was in. So it’s a reflection of the kind of optimism that I found.
Josh: Awesome. For people that haven’t listened to the record, or to you, what track would you say on the album is the track that they should listen to, to see who you are as an artist.
BLBL: I think, I’m going to select 2, one is the duet I did with Elton John “I Wish You Were Leaving”. It is kind of who I was before I moved to New York, its about an event and person that prompted me to leave. And then “More Than Most”, I think is really best representative of me and who I am now. It’s a song that I wrote for a friend of mine in New York, who had a run of feeling down, and defeated, and stuck, and just the things that happen to people who work and live in a big city. And it’s just a message about remembering that you have a lot of good stuff going on, that people really like you, and just to remember the good things. It’s really the mantra that I’ve had the last like 2 years, and I’ve really tried to hold on to that. Everyone has their own ups and downs, no matter how minor they may seem to others, everyone has these things that really bother them. So it’s a song about perspective and its what I’ve tried to achieve.
Josh: So coming from London, and living there for such a long time. Many tv shows and movies show London and New York to be very similar, did you find this to be true or what was your view of the move.
BLBL: I think they are completely different, I mean there are similarities in the general structure of them, but the energy is so much different. London I find to be very tense and fast paced. Because the streets are so narrow you are always in this crazy rush to get everywhere and you feel like the buildings are right on top of you and you are always in a rush to get somewhere. In New York the streets are massive and there is room to move around. You have so much space, and you can move and see the sky. There’s a lot of impressive architecture as well in New York, the scale of it is kind of overwhelming. I did see a lot London growing up in the UK on television shows, but so much of my favorite movie reference is New York, you know Home Alone 2, Ghostbusters, Moonstruck, there’s so much linked to that city so living there is sort of like a dream come true.
Josh: What are some places you’ve been or that are on schedule to go to, you said with the Elton John tour you’ve hit a lot of them, but is there still a list of places you feel like you have to go to.
BLBL: Right up until we played here in August, Chicago was on that list. I’ve heard about it so much from friends that have lived here or played here, its kind of an obvious place to come. I’m really happy to be here. I really like several of the places that I’ve been, Seattle was really cool, San Francisco is gorgeous, LA is so intensely weird. I would really like to go to Toronto and Montreal and Vancouver and have some proper time there. In the states, probably somewhere in the Midwest, I’ve never really been anywhere just in the heart of it. Places that you really only go to if you’ve achieved a certain level of success, somewhere that the Wal-Mart buyers can know who you are.
Josh: With your record, speaking of distribution, what’s the difference between the US and the UK or do you see much difference in that.
BLBL: I haven’t noticed too much of a difference, the scale of it is massive. I work with a distributor for the US called Red, they are a part of Sony, so they put my record out physically as the distributor. They did an excellent job, one of the really cool things about tour was I got to see my record in so many stores. In some places I even saw it on listening stands, which was really cool. I didn’t expect to see my records in stores like that, but it also didn’t really feel any harder than getting it out in the UK. So I think there are still some really excellent people working in the industry and in the stores to help push artists. People buying the record for the stores I think still have the same passion as they use to, so as long as you put something out worth listening to then it will get put out there.
Josh: How do you feel about Spotify and the whole digital streaming side of it. Have you noticed it affect you.
BLBL: I don’t know, I get asked this a lot and I still can’t decide. I think for me its probably quite good that you pop up on like a suggested listening list. I think it can detract from sales, probably does, but they are too far down now to really think about or worry about that. I think it is useful, because people can share playlists and things like that. But I am worried about what like Apple Music is going to do.
Josh: So what are the plans for the future, after this tour run.
BLBL: I’m working to finish up my record that will be coming out next year.
Josh: As that progresses are you going to be releasing singles before, or just little teasers.
BLBL: There will be something ahead of the record, its more of a summer feeling record, so I don’t want to release anything from it while its gloomy and cold.
Josh: Awesome, definitely looking forward to the new record. Thanks for taking the time to do the interview.
BLBL: Thank you for making the trip to do it.