Imagine Dragons Frontman Dan Reynolds Talks About LoveLoud’s Return
The straight, cisgender leader of a rock band can be the last person you would expect to be such an advocate and ally of the LGBTQ community.
But there’s also Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynolds.
Imagine Dragons have become one of the most popular musical groups of this generation, with nearly 57 million monthly listeners on Spotify. In 2018, they were the most streamed group on the platform, and three of their songs – “Believer”, “Thunder” and “Demons” – received over a billion streams. But talking to Reynolds — who sat down with TODAY in Seattle while on tour — you feel none of the arrogance or ego that can come when talking to a rock superstar.
Instead, he focuses on his mission as an ally.
Reynolds has easily taken the place of one of the staunchest defenders of a community to which he does not really belong. This stems from growing up in the fourth generation of Las Vegan, raised in a very conservative Mormon family, where he experienced firsthand some of his family members who struggled to reconcile their sexuality with their religious teachings.
In 2018, Reynolds produced “Believer” – a documentary that examined “the intersection between LGBT people and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”. In 2019, he used his band’s acceptance speech for Top Rock Artist at the Billboard Music Awards to speak out against conversion therapy. Last year, he donated his childhood home to convert it into a youth center for vulnerable LGBTQ youth. And this year, her LoveLoud Fest returns after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
“For me, I’m just thinking about selfishly creating a festival that I want to go to,” Reynolds told TODAY via Zoom of what’s happening in the lineup selection, which this year includes Willow, The Aces, Neon Trees and Brazilian pop superstar Anita.
“I would love to see Anitta live. So it’s a hodgepodge of a lot of different things, but the main thing we’re trying to do with LoveLoud is also bring families in. It’s supposed to be this queer festival which you want to go to while being family friendly. What we try to do is get conservative and religious families to (attend) because they are the families that need it the most.
The 34-year-old musician creates a space where the intersectionality of religion with sexual and gender expression can merge in a family environment. In addition to the music lineup scheduled for May 14, 2022, a lineup of speakers is expected to feature a litany of topics that impact LGBTQ youth, from suicide prevention to mental health to homelessness.
“It’s the families that their kids are being taken out and not being accepted and being told all kinds of dangerous things,” he added. “Frankly, these parents, they think they’re giving their kids the right things, but they don’t have the tools and the education to know how much it hurts your child when you indoctrinate them with these false principles. So that’s what we’re trying to do, there’s a lot to do and it’s quite nuanced, but hopefully we get better every year.
Founded in 2017, the annual festival takes place in Salt Lake City, a Mormon stronghold, and raises funds for the Reynolds Foundation of the same name. From there, funds are distributed to various organizations, including Encircle, the Tegan and Sara Foundation, the Trevor Project, and Equality Utah, among others.
“I’m just a big believer that change doesn’t happen by two sides standing on the other side of the fence throwing rocks,” he said. “Change happens when people come in, sit down and there has to be some kind of mutual respect to start with.”
On what he’s learned the most about himself from his wedding ring and producing LoveLoud, he said he’s flawed, “gonna mess things up,” and that life ain’t pretty, but It’s okay.
“You’re going to make mistakes along the way,” he said. “I think that’s a big part of the problem. Straight men are afraid of pronouns because they’re afraid of being wrong. Try it. Life is so nuanced. You’ve learned all the other nuances. Why can’t- you not try this? It’s really not difficult. I’m not saying fair pronouns. I take that as an example, but it’s like all these straight people are afraid to do something stupid or say the wrong thing.”
Reynolds – who shares four children with his wife since 2011, Aja Volkman – urges members of the heterosexual community to step back from inaction lest they make a mistake, and instead take a step towards active participation and by above all, education.
“The biggest offense is to stand there and say, ‘It doesn’t affect me. It doesn’t matter,” he said. “This Is make a difference. I strongly believe that all the pieces of the puzzle must be put into the puzzle and one of those pieces is the heterosexual white male who has been the enemy of everyone for a long time. The only way to change is to accept and understand that we have to learn.”
“I just believe we should sit down at the table together.”