Sunday, July 6, 2014
How We Met: Elton John & Rod Thomas
The release of his eponymous second album in 1970 marked the start of a prolific career for the singer-songwriter (left in picture), who has racked up more than 250 million record sales worldwide. He is co-founder of the Rocket Music management company and the Elton John Aids Foundation. He lives in the UK and US with his partner David Furnish and their two children.
When I started Rocket Management three years ago we brought in a stable of acts and Rod was one of them. I met him a couple of times at a few Christmas parties and he was very shy; eyes down at the ground, and quiet. The Elton effect is always intimidating, I'm afraid– I hate it – and for Rod, I think initially there was an intimidation factor. At the time, he was a singer-songwriter and didn't really know where he wanted to go, and we parted company as far as management went.
It all came together for him when he started to find his musical direction as [electro-pop act] Bright Light Bright Light. I heard his album [2012's Make Me Believe in Hope] and was so pleased; it reminded me of classic Pet Shop Boys records, which played a big part in my life, so I called him up and said, "I love the new direction, Rod." I loved that he'd found himself on his own, and was determined to make his kind of music. We saw one another more after that and we became friends.
I took Rod on holiday to my house in France with a bunch of my friends for a week or so. We'd have breakfast together every day and he became a really valuable friend. Once he'd relaxed, I realised he was very funny and we talked music all the time. It's lovely to see someone who is so shy at first become a more confident person. He's a real character, a snappy dresser and is not afraid to send me up.
All my true friends don't treat me as Elton, but as an equal. Now he doesn't stand on ceremony and if he thinks I'm doing something and he doesn't like it, he'll tell me. I'm always playing him new stuff of mine and asking, what do you think? Even now that I've made so many records and I'm successful, I have moments of complete self-doubt and he'll sit me down and tell me the truth.
He makes the music I'd like to make but don't know how to, so when he asked me whether I would consider singing on his new record, "I Wish We Were Leaving", I said I'd love to. But I'm a bit of a Luddite and I'm not electronically minded. So I said, "You write the song and put the track down and if it fits my voice, I'll do it." It fit perfectly; I love singing miserable songs if they're done well.
I'm taking him on tour with me in the summer because I want him to get him some exposure, as he's not on a major label and does everything himself. I have a friend for life now, and I would like to see him sell millions of records and be very popular. We'll see how it goes, but If I can help him along the way without spoiling his journey, I'd love to do it.
Rod Thomas, 31
Thomas, aka Bright Light Bright Light, is an electro-pop singer, whose debut solo album, 'Make Me Believe in Hope', released in 2012, was shortlisted for the Welsh Music prize. His follow-up, 'Life is Easy', is out now. He lives in London
I was part of the influx of young people into Rocket Management. I met Elton at a Christmas do several years ago, and I was so nervous that all I said was hello. It's difficult in a big company with lots of managers, and when things didn't work out, we parted ways. I didn't realise he was keeping tabs on me, but when my first album came out, he rang me. It's mind-blowing when you're at home, doing the dishes, and Elton calls you.
His career is exemplary, going from playing in a bar to selling million of records, so it's overwhelming when he gives you the time of day. After he rang and said he liked the record, I felt I had something, and that I was finally on the right path; it gave me confidence. After that we became friends quite quickly, which was a huge surprise; my family can't really fathom that I'm friends with Elton. He's got a fiery, naughty personality, and he's so alive – more than a lot of younger people.
We talk about really mundane things: who's at Wimbledon, what friends are doing, what films to watch. One night we were talking about music and I said something about the 1990s; he went into another room and put on Blackstreet's [1996 hit] "No Diggity", dancing around the table saying, "Oh my god, this is such an amazing song," before putting on an En Vogue track – you wouldn't expect that. I've made him mix tapes, too, pretending it's something he should be listening to, but really sending him a load of shit, such as Gina G or a B-side track by Corona.
I remember him telling me how he was terrified of festivals because he didn't feel relevant to a young crowd. He was doubting himself in terms of whether he was still exciting to young people. He was forgetting that songs such as "Rocket Man" or "Your Song" are timeless. So last year I was like, "You need to play Bestival this year – it's my favourite crowd and it'll be the best thing in the world." I convinced him and I remember him saying, "Well, it had better go well, then, hadn't it." And I gave a nervous laugh. But he was brilliant and when he came off stage afterwards, he looked happier than I'd seen him at any show; he was thrilled that all these people had been going out of their minds.
He's so fun and irreverent, it's impossible not to enjoy time with him: he's got so many stories and so many strings to his bow, it inspires me to work even harder. He's taught me that there are no miracles about how you make your own luck.
Bright Light Bright Light's new single , 'I Wish We Were Leaving', featuring a duet with Elton John, is out tomorrow. Bright Light Bright Light will be supporting Elton John on his European tour this month (brightlightx2.com)
at 11:47 AM