I’ve had the privileged to interview the lovely, witty and super talented, Heather Bright aka Bright Lights.
Bright Lights is an American pop singer-songwriter who has recently exploded into the dance world. Her powerful voice and beautiful compositions makes her one of the most sought after singers in all of electronic music. Responsible for several career-defining hits including Porter Robinson’s “Language,” Hardwell’s “Never Say Goodbye,” “Thomas Gold’s “Believe,” and 3LAU’s “How You Love Me,” she is also featured on Zedd’s #1 Clarity album.
In addition to her singing, Bright Lights is also Grammy-nominated for her songwriting on Justin Bieber’s “Somebody To Love”and Fantasia’s “Even Angels.” With her debut single “Runaway (Feat. 3LAU)” racing up the charts, a full-length album in the works, and support from the many artists she has helped along the way, Bright Lights is quickly becoming an international fan favorite.
Name: Bright Lights (Heather Bright)
Current City: Las Vegas
DF- Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Bright Lights- I grew up in a very small town in South Carolina. It has a lot of dirt roads and it’s in the middle of nowhere. I went to school in Boston. I was first a pre-med major and a music minor. Then I decided to kind of take the leap and shoot and try for music. So then I went to school at Berkley Boston, music school. I was there for 3 years. I didn’t graduate, I felt I kind of got what I needed. I went to NY where I didn’t really know anyone. But I felt I could start a career there. You know they say “If you can make it in NY you can make it anywhere”. So you know a little girl from a small town in South Carolina figured New York would be the perfect place to start. There’s where I started my songwriting career.
I started writing full time. It did take me about 4 years of full time writing to actually start making money off it. I worked 40 hours a week on my music and then I worked another 40 hours a week waiting tables. That’s how I’d payed my bills.
One day I met my first manager. He brought me out to LA and showed me the ropes out in LA. I started working a lot in LA. LA took me to the next level. New York gave me my stripes and allowed me to craft and sharpen my pen but when I think of LA, it’s where I really took off. So I was writing for some really big pop artists. But I didn’t feel like I was doing what I was born to do. There’s was always something inside of me saying “this is not it” So about 3 years ago I started my own artist career. I started a brand. An artist called “Bright Lights”. It’s been great. From working for some big pop artists to doing something on my own. I’ve been so much happier. For me being happy and feeling full filled is really my goal. I’m making some great records right now. You know as a writer for other artists you don’t get to play around with stuff like fashion. You don’t get to figure out what your album cover is going to be and what the music videos are going to look like. Switching to an artist opened up a whole new world of creativity for me.
DF- Talking about fashion inspiration we think you really have an amazing look. Was this “look” your idea?
Bright Lights- Bright Lights is based on a screen play that I wrote with a friend. Cause there’s a story behind bright lights. It’s a movie, it’s a video game, it’s a comic book, a live show, all that. So in creating these characters I wanted to create a character that could really stand out. I mean in her world she really stands out and is on the run…and always on hiding The character always embodies that vibe that we’ve set for her in the beginning.
The characters name is Mona. That’s who I play. She’s the girl with the purple hair. In terms of fashion and designing, most of her costumes serve a purpose. There’s one boot in particular, where she can knock on the floor 3 times and a knife pops up from the top of the boot. It’s tactical, but she’s also sexy and cool at the same time. The costumes are very useful (for what she’s doing).
Mona definitely has super powers. That’s her big thing, If I think of another female with tactical fashion gear and stuff I’m thinking about Lara Croft. You know how she’s always wearing cool stuff, but it still serves the purpose.
I’m very influenced by a lot of Manga. I love comic books. Bright Lights really allows me to explore more of what I love: comic books, video games and stuff like that. You can see the influence. As the project starts rolling out more and more and I start uncovering a little more about the characters you see a more about the influences. Even movies like some of my favourite ones like Wizard of Oz, Blade Runner and the Fifth element. You’ll see a little of those characterisations coming through in the work as well.
DF- Do you feel different on stage?
Bright Lights- Oh yeah, I go to a different place. I have to be able to go to a whole other place in my mind. If I can’t have this moment on stage where I feel like nobody is watching and I’m by myself and I’m just having this moment and I’m not paying attention to what’s going on, if I can’t get to that place, then I’m not fully enjoying the show. It’s sort of losing yourself in the middle of the show.
Before I go on, you can catch me in the back, singing and doing push ups and meditating. That’s how I get ready for my show and that’s how I get in the right frame of mind.
DF-Is it a part of you that’s performing on stage?
Bright Lights– Absolutely Mona is based on me, Mona is just an exaggerating version of me plus she has super powers. I don’t actually have super powers… or do I… lol?
The show is very energetic. It’s probably one of the most energetic shows you’ll ever see. I’m in the dance world right now that’s where I got my start as an artist. A lot of my shows are in dance clubs. The audience are used to DJ’s who show up with a black or white shirt on, and they don’t come from behind their boots, some of them step on top of the table but that’s it. So it’s always interesting when I bring my show to these clubs and introduce it to dance audiences they’re sort of blown away because there’s no one who’s delivering a show like this where dancers come out and do choreography. It’s pretty unique and really cool. And I’m singing a lot of the time. I usually sing about 10 songs a show. So people really get into that. I DJ during the show, but it’s not what I do.
The fashion part of the show is something that I did not really expect that would wow people in quite the way that it did, especially considering the audience. I love high fashion design too. And it’s something that I haven’t let my fans know yet. I just did a full high fashion video that is a cover of Kanye’s single “Heartless” which is by the way a free download for the fans.
The video is my favorite part. And it’s the first time my fans see me in a high fashion world. I did 4 looks total, me wearing some of my favorite designers.
I think it’s so important the way that artist and fashion designers are interacting and the collaboration that they’re doing together. Because it can really set someone up as an iconic, to set them apart. For example Madonna and those cone boobies that was iconic and it was her collaboration with Jean Paul that I though was so cool.
I’m always looking to collaborate with new designers. There are particular costume designers that I work with. Maggie Barry is my number one designer that made my laser boobies costume. She also made my costume with the “hood” that has the led strip of lights that’s on the Runaway cover. She works with everybody, she’s done Lady gaga, Nicky Minaj, Miley Cyrus etc. I feel incredibly lucky to be working with her.
The laser booby costume was inspired by Barbarella. I just loved the film and everything about it. So I called Maggy and asked her if we could make a kind of Barbarella inspired costume with laser boobies. I’m in the dance world so my audience love lasers.
DF- What did you wanted to become when you were little? Have you always wanted to become a singer-songwriter?
Bright Lights- I always was a performer. My father was a pastor, so I grew up singing in church. After my dad was done with preaching he called me up and I would sing. I learned how to work the crowed, like early on in my career. But I didn’t think music was realistic. Like my whole life I just remember thinking “I’m going to be in the medical field”. My whole life I wanted to be a doctor. That’s why I was a pre-med major, my first year of college. I always thought “Of course I’m going to do medicine, I’m going to be a doctor. When I minored in music it was the first time I actually a produced a record. I produced it, wrote it, recorded the vocals. I played it for a few people just to be like oh this is a just project that I did for my minor, check it out. And people started to freak out, saying this is so good, When I saw the reactions of people I started to think I could do this actually for a living. I always wanted to help people. That was the number one reason for wanting to be in medicine. I think I got that from my parents. My parents are very generous in giving, my father is a pastor etc. I wanted to do something in medicine to help people. And then I realized I could use my music to help people. And to this day every show that I play I have someone coming up to me after the show and tell me “oh my god your song changed my relationship or your song saved my marriage. Actually someone told me this one time and it almost brought tears to my eyes because that’s the reason that I started doing this.
I feel I have a very interesting perspective on life. You could call me weird. I look at life from a very different perspective. I don’t often have the same view on a lot of things. I think about life a lot and relationships, what they really mean and what’s important. And so you can hear in a lot of my music that I’m analyzing life and how it is to me and how I see it. And sometimes it comes across as some of the most obvious things like “how you love me”. ‘How you love me” is basically saying “you can get whatever you want out of me”. I can be your dream come true, or I can be your worst nightmare. It’s all about how you treat me. If you give good, you’ll receive good. So a lot of my music is like me seeing things in my own life. Let’s strip all of this down, let’s take the emotion out of it for a second and strip this situation down to exactly what it is. And so I’ve been able to write some pretty introspective songs that way.
DF- Is it most from your own experience or from other peoples?
Bright Lights- When I write I sort of free style , I don’t really write anything down. When I’m writing I just put the headphones on and get on the microphone and whatever comes out comes out. And that style of writing, I’m telling my story . It’s what I’m experiencing it’s how I’m seeing things. When I was songwriting in the past , when I was writing for other artists, absolutely I would tell their story. But that kind of writing comes from a different place. It’s not the same style. I can’t write for myself the way I write for someone else.
DF-Could you also tell us about your name “Bright Lights?”
Bright Lights- Bright Lights is the name of the screen play. So when I started writing The screenplay with a friend of mine in New York we wrote it together. An that was the title , We titled the screenplay Bright Lights.
I started writing the screenplay before I started performing again. When I started to perform again and leaving the songwriting world I thought let me just develop this concept more and let me be this character that I’m creating. And since the movie was called Bright Lights that’s then I decided to call the brand overall.
DF- We really love your debut single Runaway. Could you tell us more about this song?
Bright Lights- I took a chance and flew this producer in from Switzerland to work with me in LA. I just loved his stuff, I loved the work, and the sound that I was hearing from him. And so we worked together for like a month and during that month we wrote Runaway. But it wasn’t finished. It was a great “Idea”.
So I played it one night at a show in Orlando and 3Lau (Justin David Blau) was there. And he came running out of the green room freaking out, asking me what song this was. I was like this is my new single. And he was like, oh let me help you with it, let’s talk about it, come see me after. So I went to the studio afterwards and played the album basically and he was just freaking out. He did a great mix master on the record. He got it ready for radio and for the club.
The hardest part of the record, is the end of it. Anybody can start a great record, but to finish it, like that last 10% of the record is what takes the most time and is the most frustrating. It can be a very frustrating time of the record because you already experienced the magic, like the magic is there that part is done. So now let’s get all the sounds in order etc. It’s just a lot of technical stuff that has to be done before even the band hears a single note of it. And Justin came in on that part and really helped with polishing it up. It was a great thing for us, it was my debut single. It was really a dream come true. This was the first record that was mine. I’m always writing for other people, even when I switch over to use my own voice and being bright lights. I’m still writing records for DJ’s, it’s still featuring Bright Lights. Cause this was the first record that was mine. It’s not featuring Bright Lights, it’s only Bright Lights. So that was a huge deal, not only for me personally but also in the business. A lot of people sort of like looked up in the music business, saying “oh wow she really made it happen”.
Next week we’ll post part 2, the last part of the interview, where Bright Lights talks about her upcoming documentary series, what her advice is for aspiring singers and songwriters and if you should rather be in LA or New York as an upcoming artist. So be sure not to miss it!
Special thanks to Chad Schubert from EMC|Bowery
Photography by Kenny Sweeny