Rod Thomas is known for a particularly effervescent brand of dance pop; it comes as no surprise, then, that his stage name is Bright Light Bright Light. Thomas caught the attention of legendary British musician Sir Elton John, who took the singer under his wing. John's influence is palatable in Thomas' recently-released single "Running Back to You." A single from his new album Choreography, the video features emotive interpretive dance, colorful hands, and relays a message of love and acceptance. The song is also a radio-ready pop smash in the making that owes as much to Depeche Mode and 80s synth as it does to Elton John, who is featured on the track. With such a resume under his belt, Thomas, now based in Brooklyn, is more than ready to continue conquering the air waves.
Popdust caught up with Thomas to talk about his new single, working with Elton John, and how moving across the pond changed his sound.
What inspired the visuals for "Running Back to You?"
The video was made alongside the last two, "All In The Name" & "Symmetry Of Two Hearts," in a 4 day shoot, all working with choreographer Steven Hoggett (Harry Potter & The Cursed Child). I wanted to make something moody and dreamy, but full of energy. It's part inspired by Erasure's "Blue Savannah" video, part inspired by big 80s and 90s choreographed pop videos. We wanted to make a video where an empty world got filled with weird dream-like things until in the end it felt like being inside a nightmarish neon snow globe, to give that idea of being trapped inside your own mind and unable to escape a particular thought and feeling. But then it gets shaken up and the energy and colour explode. Plus, I wanted to do a big group number, and it felt so fabulous.
You've been an independent artist for all of your career; how has growth on your own terms rather than under a big label shaped your sound and artistry?
It's definitely meant that there's been freedom to shape the artistry as I wanted to. It's meant that I've made very close friends with my creative teams, and that's been really wonderful and really important. It's been hard, because obviously budget is a huge problem, always. I fund everything, so there have been times where I couldn't achieve an aesthetic, or an idea had to be put on hold, but on the whole it's been an amazing learning experience.
You've worked with Elton John on a number of collaborations now; how does "Running Back to You" stand out?
He does backing vocals here, rather than lead, so it's insane to have such a talent very subtly flesh out the track. I really love the 80s wash on this track, and as that was the decade I first became aware of him in, it felt like a perfect fit. Even though he's not hugely prominent on this track, his tone is so gorgeous, and I love how our voices work together.
Do you have any dream collaborations?
Many many many many. Kate Bush, Kelis, Royksopp, Basement Jaxx...there are so many for different reasons. There are so many talented musicians out there. I'd also love to work with Alison Moyet and Martha Wash, two of my favourite powerhouse vocalists growing up.
What were you listening to when "Running Back to You" was still in gestation?
Pointer Sisters. For about a month, all I listened to was "Contact" by Pointer Sisters. I wanted to make an album as fierce and euphoric as that. Plus it's amazing running music, and I wanted to make songs that felt that good, and they helped me improve my running a lot!
Since moving to Brooklyn, have you seen your perspective or sound draw inspiration from the burgeoning music scene in the borough?
Yes, especially inspiration from the people in the borough. I've met so many wonderful people who work so hard at their artistry, but also love to collaborate. I've found people here amazingly warm, and really inspiring both in their work ethic and their openness. I found a group of musicians that I work with regularly in a way that I never found in the UK. That's been so great. Plus the people running some of the venues in Brooklyn—like my friend Eric's C'Mon Everybody in Bedstuy, have such a nurturing attitude to their community and to the artists they book, it feels so good. Believing that you live somewhere where people care about the work being made is so awesome.
Is Choreography in conversation with Cinematography?
Yes, Cinematography is a collection of covers of songs (and film imagery) that inspired Choreography.
To reiterate in specific to the video, how do you think the choreography in "Running Back to You" relates what you're trying to say in the video and, ultimately, in the song itself?
On a very simple level, the hands coming in and out, holding back, pushing forward, is how your thoughts and fears tug and tear at you when you're in an emotional limbo. The final dance sequence which flickers between a solo dance then a full group number is kind of representative of how sometimes when that emotional awakening comes, you can feel so powerful, that you have the force of an army behind you, but the energy fluctuates and you go in and out of being the leader and a passenger. I wanted the video to be uplifting and fun, as the song isn't about being totally sad and trapped but how sometimes you actually love the feeling of being stuck on someone, it's addictive and it's draining, but being in love can make you feel alive in a way that few other things can.