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Britt Lightning

By Lori Smerilson Carson | Photos Jay Skolnick, Larry Marano, Chris Schmitt

One known fact is, if you set your mind to do something well, you will achieve that goal. Britt Lightning is proof of that as this extraordinarily talented guitarist has not only made her mark worldwide in the music industry, but she has also taken her highly skilled abilities and knowledge to help continue building and expanding the Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camps that are now nationwide.
Catching up with Lightning just after she and rock band Vixen (whom she’s the Lead Guitarist) played in south Florida which followed the Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy camp there, she revealed details about the camp and her role as the Musical Director, information about camps that will be held in the next several months, new music from Vixen and what fans and future campers can look forward to.

SFL Music: Let’s talk about the camp. I heard you had a lot to do, basically ran everything. What exactly did you do at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp?

Britt Lightning: Aside from all the planning, helping hire talent, this camp was a little different from other camps in that we had a COVID Compliance Officer on set the whole time, and so everybody needed to get PCR tests and things like that. You know, a couple of people did test positive right before the camp, so we had to be really flexible to be able to shuffle around bands. Make some last-minute changes. Everybody really had to be flexible and open to that. So, that was one new challenge that we faced this year, but it worked out great. We kept everybody safe. We took daily temperature checks and people wore masks. All in all, you know, we have a crew, we have some tour managers that help assist the bands, and we’ve got the van drivers. We’ve got the food. We’ve got the catering. We’ve got the counselors. We’ve got the headline talent and we’ve got the campers. So, keeping everybody on track and keeping everybody to a tight schedule is definitely something that takes focus and you know, in addition to helping make sure things ran smoothly, I was also a band counselor. So, that means that I was one of the rock star mentors that had a band that I coached and I helped along, and I actually ended up performing with them because my guitar player in my band ended up not being able to attend last minute.

So, in addition to helping run things, I was learning music, playing with the band, coaching the band. So, it was a lot of work, but it was amazing! Everybody is incredible that’s on our team. I mean, we would never be able to do these camps without the amazing counselors that really put their heart and soul into you know, sharing their gifts and their experiences with the campers and just really being encouraging and inspiring and real role models. The fact that we have such a crew makes things easy, and another thing we did different this year was we hired all Berklee (College of Music) graduates to assist for our assistants. We call our assistants tour managers. So, when somebody needed an extra backup singer or an extra this, people could just jump in. In addition to that, our technical crew or the production side of things, the people that handle the gear and amps and the drum kits and loading in and out, they are all musical. We even had our stage manager giving a guitar lesson to somebody in down time. So, everybody really chips in and helps out and picks up the slack where needed and everybody has the same goals and everybody’s heart is in the right place to help make it a really magical experience.

SFL Music: How did you get involved? Did they reach out to you? How did that come about?

Lightning: I had heard about Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp and just kind of seen things here and there on friends Facebook pages and stuff, other musicians, and I didn’t really understand what it was about. One day in 2019 I was just, I got to sit down and just do some research. What is this? This is intriguing. So, I just read all about it. Read through the whole website rockcamp.com. I read all about David Fishof, the CEO, Founder and learned his history and was really interested. Actually, I just happened to friend request David and sure enough right after that, he must have looked me up and was like, “would you like to be a counselor at one of our camps?” And I was like, absolutely! Count me in, and I did my first camp as a rock star mentor counselor in 2019 and it got some great reviews from the campers. We get a lot of repeat customers too. David always says “we’re in the crack business.” Like people come and they can’t get enough. They’re hooked after one camp. So, a lot of the campers you know, gave good feedback on me being a new counselor and were like “oh, you’ve got to have her back.”

I also have a degree in music business from Northeastern University, so somebody had mentioned to David you know, she knows her business too. Not only is she a musician, but she understands the business side of things and can really help out with that, and so David and I got together and decided that I’d help out with planning future camps and helping run things. Then right after we had that whole discussion, COVID hit and he was like “oh, I guess we’ll be taking a break for the year,” but neither of us thought that was a good idea. We were like, we got to find a way to keep the brand going on through this time, and so we came up with the idea to put on these online master classes that we did over Zoom and we really brought the talent into everybody’s houses through their computers you know, during this time when everybody was quarantined, and it turned out to be really magical. We ended up getting the top stars like Alice Cooper, Roger Daltrey, Joe Elliott from Def Leppard. We had amazing guitar players like Steve Howe of Yes, Steven (Steve Stevens) from Billy Idol, Marty Friedman from Japan. We had producers like Steve Lillywhite calling in from Jakarta. We had Shep Gordon, Alice Cooper’s manager from Hawaii. So, people connected from all over the world. We had campers signing on from all different countries to just be on these Zoom sessions and connect with artists and we did over a hundred and sixty of them during the height of the pandemic when we couldn’t have the live camps. Then finally with all this anticipation, we finally got this first camp underway here. It was originally scheduled to be in November 2021. We never expected that we’d still be dealing with COVID, so we ended up moving everything to 2022, and so this was the first camp back that Jay (Skolnick, Publisher, SFL Music Magazine) saw us at and it was a success. It was just so good to just be out of our bubbles and all be together, and just feel a common energy and love of music together, and it was magical.

SFL Music: You mentioned your music business degree. Do you incorporate that when you’re counseling the bands or is it mostly structured for the music and creating music?

Lightning: Yeah, I feel like I incorporate that more in the day-to-day stuff of planning the camps and you know, doing artist contracts, setting dates and contracts with the venues and gear and things like that, but we do, do master classes during the camps, so we have stuff on business too. Yeah, it’s just useful to know all the things. To be well rounded. I mean, you can be the best guitar player in the world, but at the end of the day, you’re doing it to make money. It’s a business. If you’re doing it as your profession, it’s a form of business, so you should have some business sense. I think for all new up and coming artists and stuff. I think all the musicians do share that. All of our counselors kind of share that knowledge or the story about not knowing and how that can be you know, not great. You can make mistakes, I mean, even Roger Daltrey on one of our Zoom calls during the pandemic was saying like, “never, ever sign a contract when you’re walking on or off the stage.” People get in these bad situations. You know, you’re on a high doing a show and somebody comes up and presents you with something and you’re just not thinking. You’re not in a business mindset at that time and you make mistakes. So, being business savvy is you know, it’s important.

SFL Music: Is there anything else specifically that you recommend to up and coming artists?

Lightning: Oh yeah. We do songwriting round tables where we have people bring like new songs in front of all the counselors and go around and everybody gives feedback on it. That’s awesome! Tips about getting into the business. Tips about auditioning. Tips about being in a band. How to act in a band. A lot of times people don’t realize it’s about how you play, but a lot of people can play. A lot of people are really talented, but living on a tour bus or being on tour with people you know, day in and day out and knowing how to interact and be cool (she laughed). That’s a huge part of things too. Your personality and how you treat people. We talk about how to practice, how to avoid burnout, how to just live in this business. It’s a crazy business. It’s a crazy world. Takes a lot of dedication. A lot of people telling you no, you shouldn’t do it. It’s not stable. A lot of people telling you no, getting turned down for bands and auditions. Sticking with it is huge, but also being smart about it.

SFL Music: You started originally in an all-female band, Jaded from Boston. Is that where you’re from?

Lightning: Yes, I grew up in Boston. Yeah, I had my band there for a while. We did some tours and I loved it. I mean, we had a great time, but it’s hard being an original band and trying to climb the ladder and you know, make money and survive. I was booking the band and writing and you know, doing all the things and it just got to be a lot of work. Then a friend of mine said, “you know, you should really just, if you’re getting burned out on all that, you should just consider auditioning to be like a gun for hire for another band and then you can just get paid to plug in and play the guitar and you don’t have to worry about all the other things. The logistics, the booking this and that.” And I didn’t really realize that was an option at the time. He said, “yeah, Lady Gaga’s having an open audition next weekend actually. She’s replacing all of her band members. You should go.” So, that was my first audition and although I didn’t get that audition and I was very discouraged and I thought, Oh. Well, if I didn’t get this one audition, I must not be meant to do this for a living. You have these thoughts. It’s easy to get discouraged especially when you’re in a creative field like that ‘cause you take it personally ‘cause it’s you. It’s your art. It’s hard to stay positive, but then a couple months after that audition, I got a call for another huge pop artist.

Another huge tour, and it was because they had seen me at that audition. So, you just never know. You always have to have your best face forward. You know, put on the best show you can and like people always say too, you can play in a club with two people in a room. You could be in the mid-west somewhere in this bar and you think it’s a nothing show and so you might not try hard, but you never know. That one person in the back of the bar might be you know, the owner of a record label. Those things happen and that’s how people do get breaks, so you just always have to be on, and always be true to yourself and yeah, never let your guard down. Like keep on keeping on. The counselors tell these stories and everybody has an amazing story. Everybody has so much history, the people that we hire and stuff, so it’s an amazing place to really learn and hear these heart-to-heart stories because you know, when the artists are there, they’re not there promoting a record. They’re not there promoting their tour dates. They’re there to give back and share their experiences and love of music and that’s what Roger Daltrey always says about the camps. Why he keeps coming back. It’s like, it makes you remember where you came from. It makes you grateful for things, and look back and see the journey.


DEERFIELD BEACH – JANUARY 08: Dave Mustaine of Megadeath poses for a portrait during the Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp at Markee Studios on January 8, 2022 in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Photo By Larry Marano © 2022

SFL Music: You had Dave Mustaine and Steve Morse with this one?

Lightning: Yes, we did. Ah, they are so incredible! Dave Mustaine. We have all skill levels of people that come to these camps, so we place them in bands according to their skill level. So, we have some more beginner bands verses more advanced bands or intermediate bands, and one of the more beginner bands said, “you know, we can’t really play any Megadeth songs. Yeah, we can do the Deep Purple stuff. We can do Judas Priest. We can do Iron Maiden, but we’re having trouble learning these Megadeth songs. Do you think Dave would play a cover song with us that he’s covered live before?” And so, we asked Dave, he said, “no.” He goes, “they’re here. They’re Megadeth fans. They’re gonna power through this and tell them, this is the easiest Megadeth song to play. Work on that. Don’t be worried. I’m gonna come in and I’m gonna show them exactly how I would do it.” So, he did. He came into the room with them. He said, “everybody, take out your cell phones. I want you to record exactly what I’m doing here. This is the correct way to play it” and blah blah blah. He really like broke everything down. It was pretty amazing.

SFL Music: What influences you when you write?

Lightning: You know, I’ve listened to a lot of seminars and heard people talk about their writing experiences and things, and I think the one thing that holds true that all the greats do say is that like, write from your heart. Write what you know. Write what’s true ‘cause you can try to make these songs that you think is gonna sound like a hit and everything, but I think sincerity is the biggest thing in songwriting and I think it comes across in lyrics. It comes across in delivery of the lyrics and the performance of a song and that’s the most important thing, and that’s what really touches people. I think everybody can sense when something is real. I think that’s one of the most important things in songwriting.

SFL Music: I saw that Vixen just played. Are there any new tour dates? Any new music videos? Anything else fans can look forward to?

Lightning: Yes. We are in the process of recording a new single right now. The drums are being recorded and I’m doing my guitar parts next. So, we’ll be coming out with that and probably a music video to go with it hopefully within the next month here. Then as far as tour dates, we just played a great festival this past weekend in Key West. It was a three-day rock festival. That was amazing! We’ve got the Monsters of Rock Cruise coming up and we’re also playing the pre-party for that. That takes place out of Miami. And then we’ve just got a lot of scattered festivals and casinos, and we’ve got something in Minnesota and Missouri. We’ve got a festival with Quiet Riot and Ace Frehley and some other bands in Nashville coming up in May. We’ve got (Las) Vegas coming up, and as the year progresses, we’ll probably have a larger run of dates in the spring and summer and hopefully some festivals overseas dependent on COVID and its progression or regression. So yeah, we’ve got some shows coming up and we’re definitely going to have new music.

SFL Music: So, people can keep their eyes open. Is there going to be an album as well?

Lightning: It’s gonna be a full album, but we’re gonna start just releasing singles just to get some stuff out there.

SFL Music: What got you into music in the first place? What made you want to play guitar and choose music as a career?

Lightning: I had always been into music. I played the flute and I loved to play in different orchestras. Wind ensembles and jazz ensembles, but then I heard Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” on a whim in a store, summer before high school, and it just totally captivated me. I don’t know why it got my attention like it did. I wasn’t really into rock and roll at the time. I kind of was like into hip hop and stuff. It just threw me for a complete loop and I was like, Oh my God! This is amazing! I want to learn how to do this. I want to be able to replicate the way this guitar sounds. It’s exciting and exhilarating. So yeah, I got all the Van Halen records after that and from there I got into rock from like the 80’s and that era because they had the crazy guitar solos and it was fun to play as opposed to kind of the more grunge music that I was growing up in that was popular at the time, as far as rock. I wasn’t really inspired by Nirvana so much. That didn’t make me want to pick up the guitar, but the shredding fiery you know, guitar sound from like Eddie Van Halen was amazing and that got me into Metallica and Pantera and more hard rock, but just amazing guitar playing.

So, then I just got a guitar and I locked myself in my room. I just practiced all through high school. I just wanted to be the best guitar player there could be (she laughed) and prior to that, I was really into horseback riding. I was into eventing, a hunter and jumper and doing shows, and I was really focused on that. Then as I got more into guitar, I started playing gigs and the horse shows were always really early mornings on the weekends and my rock shows I’d be playing, I wouldn’t be getting in ‘til you know, four am the next night, and so trying to balance both was crazy, and so I just made the decision like ok, I actually sold my horse for my first custom flying V and I just went all in. I started touring and started playing in bars and clubs when I was sixteen and my parents were not thrilled, but they were like my chaperones. They came to every gig and you know, made sure I didn’t get into trouble. My mom ended up being the merch lady, selling our t-shirts and stuff like that, and my dad would help me load the amps into the clubs and he was kind of like the roadie. They were super supportive and that’s how it all got started (she laughed).

SFL Music: Your bass player (Share Ross) lives in the Miami area, right?

Lightning: She lives close to it.

SFL Music: She did a little with you and this camp, but you have the all-female Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy camp coming up in Los Angeles. You will be a part of that as well, right? (As she is the Musical Director for all of the camps).

Lightning: Definitely. I will be pulling double duty on that as well. Counseling a band and also kind of helping around the show and yeah, that’s gonna be exciting! It was coming up next week here, but we ended up postposing it. We postponed it yesterday just because there’s a current surge of Omicron right now in L.A. and L.A.’s really been strict about it with the mask mandates and things. People weren’t feeling a hundred percent comfortable here in L.A., so we moved that to Mother’s Day weekend in May. May 6th-9th. Still in L.A., but that’s gonna be incredible. We’ve never had an all-female camp before. It was my idea to kind of bring it to the table during COVID, there was one of my master classes. We did a women’s only class with Lita Ford. She gave me the idea really because we play a lot of shows with Lita. Vixen and Lita, and one day, all the other bands flights happened, but me and Lita’s flight were both delayed. So, we were sitting in the Sky Club together waiting for our flights and I just had a cool one on one with Lita just talking about girl stuff and our experiences as women in the music industry, and I just thought wow, this is so cool and so special, like if other people could, you know, other women could hear what she has to say like this in a safe space, that would be really special. So, we did a women’s only master class with her on Zoom and it sold out. It sold out faster than any of ‘em, and then I said to David when we were planning new camps, we should really do a women’s only camp. So, we asked these artists, Melissa Etheridge and Nancy Wilson, they were all about it. So, we got Kathy Valentine of the Go Go’s too, Orianthi. Everybody loved the idea of the women’s only, so I’m so excited about that.

SFL Music: So, it’s going to be just like this one, but strictly women only?

Lightning: Yes. The campers, the talent, the crew, everybody, photographers. Yeah, it’s gonna be just women in the business.

SFL Music: That’s wonderful! Were you on Live with Kelly and Michael?

Lightning: I was. Yes, yes.

SFL Music: Good Morning America and The Today show also? How were those experiences?

Lightning: Those experiences were awesome! That was kind of a bucket list thing. I always wanted to be on those T.V. shows. I grew up watching them. Every morning my parents always had it on T.V. The tour with Rachel Platten. I did most of those with Rachel Platten. She had that hit song “Fight Song” that was a big hit a couple years back. I did the radio/T.V. promo tour for that, and so we did get to do all those shows and it was a trip. It’s scary because a lot of those are live and think like when you’re playing a rock show you know, you can get away with more. Anything goes. It’s high energy, but those T.V shows and stuff, it’s such a sterile environment and you’re broadcasting live, so there’s no do-overs. You’re in a T.V. studio where you can hear everything and (she laughed) that was scary, but I got used to it. That was a really fun experience and of course, it’s always fun when you have people that you haven’t talked to in years you know, sending you emails, did I just see you on The Today Show? What a trip (she laughed).

SFL Music: Was there anything else you want readers to know? You’ve got the all-female camp and this camp will happen again next year at the same places (Power Station Recording Studios and Markee)? I think you also had Tony Bongiovi involved?

Lightning: We did. There’s always a recording package with the camps, and so we rent out a legendary recording studio. At this particular camp we did the Power Station with Tony Bongiovi. Yeah, we get an amazing producer and you get to experience, the fantasy of getting your song produced by an incredible producer in a legendary studio. Yeah, that’s a feature at every camp. That’s an option for people to join in on, and we have another camp coming up in that exact same location in March. March 10th-13th featuring Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Tico Torres of Bon Jovi and Vernon Reid of Living Colour. Then after that, we’ve got a camp in Las Vegas coming up with members of the Scorpions, Zakk Wylde and Sebastian Bach. And we have another one coming up in L.A., in February which is more of like a nineties inspired camp with Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden and Dave Krusen, the original drummer of Pearl Jam. That’s gonna be amazing, and then after that in April (in Nashville), we’ve got our first ever songwriting fantasy camp. We’ve never done one of those before featuring Desmond Child who has written all those amazing hits. All the Bon Jovi hits. A lot of Kiss songs, Aerosmith. He’s one of the top songwriters ever. And we’ve got guests like Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Steve Cropper, Felix Cavaliere, Marti Frederiksen, Damon Johnson. Some amazing writers that are gonna come in and do these writing workshops, and then we’ve got the women’s camp coming up in May that we just moved the dates to. So, we’ve got a full schedule this year and we’ll be announcing more camps too for the fall and the summer with different artists. So yeah, everybody can check it out at rockcamp.com and join the mailing list and we’ll send all the updates.

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