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The unsigned artist booked on Graham Norton

Do Not UseDo Not Use 20/05/2016 By Michael Baggs

This week's musical guest on The Graham Norton Show is not The Weeknd and it's not Sia.

Bright Light Bright Light doesn't have a record deal, but he has secured a slot on one of the biggest shows on the BBC.

Having Elton John on his new track probably helped.

It's a huge opportunity for an artist with little budget and no label support.

"For as much as you can get blog coverage and online coverage, radio support - doing something on mainstream British television is something that you never really expect," Bright Light Bright Light, real name Rod Thomas, tells Newsbeat.

"It feels completely bonkers to be in a line-up like I am on The Graham Norton Show, in a slot that's normally filled by someone like The Weeknd or Years & Years."

He joins Russell Crowe, Tom Daly, Ryan Gosling and Elton on the show - so, no big deal.

The new single is called 'All In The Name'

A "hero" to Rod for many years, Elton first got in touch after hearing his debut album, Make Me Believe In Hope.

He had previously been signed to Elton's Rocket Management team.

That professional relationship was a short term thing but as friends, the two clicked.

"On a personal level we just laugh all the time," says Rod.

"We're both ridiculous people and share stupid pictures and videos, we share albums that we like.

"We swap music and we swap culture, which is kind of what you do with a normal friend except that it's Elton John and he's insanely famous."

The friendship grew into an organic professional relationship, with Rod now considering Elton a "mentor" and the two first collaborating on 2014 sad-banger I Wish We Were Leaving.

"It's really cool getting the perspective of someone who's a multi-million selling artist on some rubbish little demo you made in your bedroom," he says.

"He's one of these people who's worked from the ground up and he knows what different demo stages are like and how to change and amend songs."

Rod also joined Elton John on a 55-date world tour in 2015, where he played to much bigger audiences than he does his own sold-out shows.

It was certainly a far cry from the his early days, where every show left him out of pocket.

"I've been plugging away for a really long time," he says, stressing that while he's an unsigned artist, he's certainly no newcomer to the music scene.

"I set up my own label, did an intense amount of touring - losing money on that for a really long time."

Through hard work, an appreciation of spreadsheets and some A-grade pop tunes, Bright Light Bright Light has found commercial and critical success on his own terms.

"No one wants to hear this, there's a lot of spreadsheets and business planning that goes into being a cool independent artist."

"It is a long game," he says. "If you're an independent artist you should always be thinking about a career, rather than an immediate impact.

"For a long time I think it was really taboo and I did feel deeply ashamed for a very long time.

"You're kind of told if you don't have a deal you're a failure, which isn't true and isn't a reality."

Bright Light Bright Light releases his third album, Choreography, on 15 July 2016.

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