So, I was thrilled when she recently found time in her busy schedule to chat with me.
You and I met last year on Twitter, when we were both tweeting our support for fundraisers benefiting the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which uses music therapy to help young adults in need and works to prevent drug and alcohol abuse among young people.
Yes, we did! Twitter is a great resource for connectivity.
There are so many aspects of the Amy Winehouse Foundation besides its work with drug and alcohol charities.
They donate to homeless and eating disorder charities, and to a charity that helps vulnerable women who have recently left prison to help them from returning to a life of crime.
They even donate to a charity that helps disadvantaged people with mental illnesses escape the city and learn how to grow, produce and market their own crops. They pick up valuable qualifications along the way.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, actually. It’s a very special charity.
I totally agree.
I discovered the Foundation through my love of Amy's voice and music. I'm still devastated she's no longer here making great music.
This is how I discovered the Foundation also. It still breaks my heart that I never got to meet her or see her perform live.
|Amy Winehouse by Bright Smoke|
You have been quite candid in interviews about your own struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. Is this another reason you're drawn to the Foundation?
Well. Due to my own experiences with these, I naturally connected to Amy’s lifestyle and understood the battles she faced in regards to addiction.
I followed her music almost right from the start; and when she died, it really shook me to my core. I suddenly realized I needed to make drastic steps towards recovery so I could truly devote myself to my music and art.
I support the Foundation because I believe it is doing something extremely important in making people more aware of the struggles Amy dealt with. It is breaking down that taboo against discussing addiction. It’s something we really do need to talk about. There’s no shame in any aspect of addiction.
You can read online my full story in my "open letter."
When you and I first connected through Twitter, I was intrigued by your name, Bright Smoke. The obvious question is: what does it mean? Were you inspired by Romeo's attempt to describe love in "Romeo and Juliet?"
It is directly related to "Romeo and Juliet."
One of my closest friends, Kat Basquill, actually came up with the name for me. We were knocking around ideas, when she suddenly came out with "Bright Smoke" from Romeo's line, "feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire."
I instantly thought, “That’s the one!”
The first time I watched your music video, "Parallel Minds," I was an instant fanboy. I must admit I was blown away by your voice and your song.
Thank you, Mike!
Thank you for making lovely art.
Who are your major musical influences?
That song I actually wrote about wanting to move to New York one day, despite the fact I’ve never been! I’m quite drawn to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which seems to have a thriving art and music scene.
I listen to a very wide variety of music. From T-Rex, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin right through to Nas and Damian Marley, Toots And The Maytals, The Everly Brothers and classical music.
|Jimi Hendrix by Bright Smoke|
I would say my songs, as they stand with just myself and a guitar, are mainly reminiscent of the 60’s and 70’s folk movement. And of singers like Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, and Melanie Safka, who I grew up listening to and just adore!
When did you start singing?
I think I started the moment I learned my voice was capable of being used in such a way.
I started writing songs at an extremely young age.
I’ve kept every piece of paper with every lyric I ever wrote. My spelling and handwriting are ridiculous on some of them! Maybe one day I’ll have an exhibition with them all.
I can definitely imagine them as a montage on a gallery wall.
In your music video, you play the guitar. Do you play any other instruments?
My first instrument was actually the flute, which my dad also plays.
I had lessons at my regular infant school from about 7 years old.
I was brought up going to folk festivals, so I quickly picked up how to play penny whistles. And, then, the Irish drum called the bodhran.
I got my first guitar when I was 12, as it seemed a natural progression to accompany my songs.
I never had a single guitar lesson. To this day, I still use my own codes for bar chords, as technically I don’t have a clue what I am playing. [Laughter.]
About two months ago, I started learning the cello.
I love the cello, especially J. S. Bach's unaccompanied cello suites.
I am really enjoying it. It’s tricky learning an instrument in a completely different key, though.
I read sheet music and what I think is a B is actually a D on the cello. Very confusing!
I'm definitely impressed. I'll never show anyone how badly I play the air guitar.
Yes, this is my debut into the art world. It’s something I still can’t believe is finally going to happen!
How do you think your music informs your art?
|Marc Bolan by Bright Smoke|
I see a very strong connection between my music and art.
I mainly paint musicians. I listen to their music whilst painting them. I find this has a strong effect on the color palette and techniques I use.
Music of course is an art form itself, so the connection between the two is organic.
What's next for you?
There are so many answers to this.
I have one of those forever-scheming, impulsively creative minds, but I have narrowed it down to starting rehearsals and demoing my songs as a full band.
Then I'll be on a bohemian/musician/hunter-gatherer spree over the festival season to see if I can round up a rabble of free spirits perfect for the band for the long term.
I obviously have the exhibition to look forward to. The launch night [May 5] is also my 26th birthday and marks two years of sobriety.
Congratulations on both!
I've also just rebooked my charity skydive on May 21 for the Amy Winehouse Foundation.
My main goal is to keep up this level of creativity and keep pushing my music and art out there, in the hopes of building a solid fan base, so I can tour all the time, meet amazing people and connect with them through my music.
For a couple of dates on their UK tour, I recently joined the band Will And The People as their support act. I watched a show just before the tour ended and thought to myself: If I can get that many people from each city to come and watch me play and have an awesome night, well, that's my definition of success!
Connect with Bright Smoke on Twitter. She is participating in the Skydiving for the Amy Winehouse Foundation fundraising event - Yes, Bright Smoke will be skydiving! - on May 21, 2014. Please donate what you can here.