Bright Light Bright Light is a Welsh independent singer-songwriter, pop music maker, DJ, and film lover based in New York. His music incorporates elements of synthpop, dance, and house music. Friday, October 30 is Bright Light Bright Light’s birthday, and it so happens to be the release day for Good At Goodbyes. The Orchard spoke to Bright Light Bright Light about his recent music, how he’s stayed connected and creative the past few months, and what he wishes people knew when it comes to the history of the LGBTQ+ community.
Your stage name is Bright Light Bright Light. What’s the backstory behind your name?
It’s a line from the film Gremlins. I’m a big 80s/90s film fan, and when thinking of a moniker, it’s the first thing that popped into my head – no idea why! But I like that it suggests something bright and shiny, dancefloor friendly and nostalgic at the same time.
How would you describe your music? Without putting a “genre” label on it, how do you want your music to make people feel?
A new fan who saw us open for Cher described me as “So gay, so dramatic, very lovable!” and I like that! It’s dancefloor-ready music with a heart and soul I guess. I want it to feel inspiring, offer a bit of an uplift or hope to people even in the sadder songs. I’d describe it as sad pop / pensive dance / electronic geek … who knows!
Your latest album Fun City features some fun collabs. What went into some of these collaborations? How did they come about?
They were so fun. Because Fun City is about LGBTQ+ community and history, I wanted to fill it with as many LGBTQ+ voices as I could, as the album isn’t about me, so I reached out to some long-standing friends and some new people to see if I could make it happen. I knew Jake, Andy, Brendan, KAYE, Justin Vivian Bond, Big Dipper, The Illustrious Blacks and Mark Gatiss as friends before making the record, so I knew I was keen to include their talents. A friend at Amazon Music turned me onto Caveboy and I fell in love with their debut. Initial Talk is my favourite producer, so I asked him to produce “This Was My House” and his production was SO NYC 80/90s crossover. It gave me the idea to ask Niki & Donna as it reminded me so much of their work with Madonna and they said yes which was amazing. Sam Sparro has been a long-standing favourite so I emailed him and we became friends which was lovely.
What did you want listeners to take away from this album?
I want them to think about what LGBTQ+ people have written into a very troubled history, but I want to show that there has always been hope in spite of some very bleak times. I really hope that the variety of people on the record shows how much fun being part of a community is, and how powerful some LGBTQ+ voices can be. Most of the songs you can appreciate on a surface level without thinking about LGBTQ+ issues, but with “It’s Alright, It’s OK” – about gender identity and LGBTQ+ struggles – and “These Dreams” – beginning with Syvlia Rivera’s iconic speech – I hope that people take away that you don’t need to be LGBTQ+ to enjoy LGBTQ+ content, and in fact you have been for decades without realising it, so to not compartmentalise “LGBTQ+ life” from “life” or culture in the way that it traditionally is seen.
Mainly, I want people to find something in there that speaks to them and makes them feel… not just “less alone”, but PART of the album and journey.
How have you been staying creative and connected the past few months?
God it’s been really hard, I won’t lie. I spent the first 6 months of lockdown / COVID live streaming weekly DJ sets and making live sets for various festivals, which was good, but also a little sad as I really miss DJing and performing in a space so much. I’ve just finished my first film score for a short horror film, have been working on another score, have been composing and writing non-pop work, doing some writing and remixes for other artists and doing lots of DIY projects around the apartment as I spend so much time there! Lyrically, I’ve felt very out of practice, but it’s been nice to be musically creative in other ways.
October 11 was National Coming Out Day and the month of October is LGBTQ History Month in the United States. How do you champion for LGBTQ+ rights and how has your music been a platform to amplify voices? What do you wish more people knew about the history of the LGBTQ+ community?
The whole purpose of Fun City has been to amplify not just voices, but the community. When I tour, I try my best to find local LGBTQ+ artists in each place, and LGBTQ+ talent to be part of the shows. I constantly fundraise for as many LGBTQ+ organizations as I can with ebay items, special physical products with donations etc. I do what I can on an independent level.
Moreso, I wish that non LGBTQ+ people truly understood the prejudice that we STILL face every single day. Trans Women are murdered at an ALARMING rate, Trans Men less so but equally violently, and there are people in the governments in both the US and UK (most notably to me as a Brit living in the US) who are working to remove human rights that we fought to have in place, simply out of spite.
If you see someone in the LGBTQ+ community who is speaking up about LGBTQ+ rights – you listen. You understand that revoking Equal Marriage is an atrocity. You listen that we do not deserve to be made to feel less than human. My one wish is that people have empathy for the LGBTQ+ community. You do not need experience to have empathy – it helps, but it’s not a prerequisite. I can empathise with how exhausted and anxious a new mother must be without birthing my own child, a heterosexual person can understand the distress of being told that by being LGBTQ+ they are “less than”.
You performed on Graham Norton’s BBC One TV Show with Sir Elton John in 2016 and opened for him on tour for 55 shows. That must have been a once in a lifetime opportunity. How was that like? Take us back to those shows!
It was absolutely the most mind blowing thing. I don’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t know who Elton was, so to go on tour with him for THAT MANY shows is still so surreal to me! The crowds were huge, the cities we went to were absolutely incredible, his team became family, and I still talk to many of them all the time! He’s just the most supportive artist and friend you could dream of.
We had so much fun on tour. We used to go record shopping together – he’s a huge vinyl collector like me (obviously his collection is much bigger!!). I’d be in a store and would email him like “Do you have this Pointer Sisters record?” or he’d email “Do you have the Phil Spector Christmas Album?” and we’d find little surprises for each other. It was so special.
It was REALLY amazing to perform on the Graham Norton show together though – even in 55 shows we were never on stage at the same time, so it was a real lifetime achievement moment for me to be on stage with him on National TV.
We know you love Mariah Carey. What’s your favorite song from her Rarities album and why? Any message from her new book that particularly resonated with you?
I am such a huge Mariah Carey fan! I’m so thrilled to see “Everything Fades Away” on that Rarities release. It was on the UK version of Music Box as a bonus track so I’ve been listening to it since I bought that album when it came out! For a new discovery, I’ll say “Cool On You.” I love it. Super slick.
From her book, I’m still only on page 140 or so (I’m a slow reader these days), but listening to her early childhood and moving to the city, it’s incredible to see what she achieved, and hear more about the references in the songs. It’s a very arresting read.
You say music is all about connection. What do you think the music industry can do to further band together and create a stronger future?
I think it’s a difficult and very long-term process to make something truly change, but I think some of the gatekeepers need to change. I think more transparency is needed, where it’s possible to achieve radio play, equal footing when it comes to review space in magazines, or inclusion on playlists etc. Lots of companies and lots of leading voices in the industry are working to forge some kind of stronger future, but we’re a very long way off. The music industry needs to recognise that while there are lots of LGBTQ+ outlets and specific playlists, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be considered on a pop playlist, as an example. Equal representation is very important – BIPOC artists, artists regardless of gender, LGBTQ+ artists – the differentiation between the different communities should be used to highlight and amplify, not separate and exclude. But I look forward to being part of that conversation, and I’m so, so grateful to all the publications and brands who are working to represent all artists as much as they can. I know that there are lots of structures to reshape in order for people to achieve their goals!