Imag­ine Dragons’ singer Dan Reynolds on how his LoveLoud ini­tia­tive helps LGBT youth through mu­sic, fes­ti­vals and film.

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT #225 - By Marc An­drews

AS THE LEAD singer of one of the big­gest Amer­i­can rock bands of the last decade, Dan Reynolds of Imag­ine Dragons prob­a­bly isn’t the first per­son you think of as a straight ally for our com­mu­nity. Yet, that he is, with­out a doubt.

Dan, who grew up in a strict Mor­mon house­hold, is the heart and soul be­hind LoveLoud, a live mu­sic event that raises money to fight teen sui­cide and en­cour­age ac­cep­tance of LGBT youth in Mor­mon Bi­ble Belt – Salt Lake City, Utah.

This year, Dan teamed up with Te­gan Quinn (the gay half of Te­gan And Sara) and the event raised over one mil­lion dol­lars for LGBTIQ char­i­ties like The Trevor Pro­ject, En­cir­cle and The Te­gan And Sara Foun­da­tion. Not only did con­cert go­ers see Imag­ine Dragons, Zedd, Mike Shin­oda (of Linkin Park), Grace Van­derWaal, Tyler Glenn (of Neon Trees), Vagabon, AW, and Cameron Es­pos­ito – but Utah’s Gov­er­nor, Gary Her­bert, de­clared July 28 LoveLoud Day in Utah. Plus, the gay man who runs the world’s most suc­cess­ful com­pany, Ap­ple CEO, Tim Cook, popped by as a guest speaker.

But wait, there’s more! Dan’s new film Believer, about LGBT youth sui­cides in Utah, pre­miered at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val in Jan­uary and on HBO on in June. Clearly, Dan is a man of many rain­bow colours. DNA de­cided it was time to get to know him! DNA: Are you still on a high from the suc­cess of this year’s LoveLoud con­cert?

Dan: Yeah! There was a very small team putting it to­gether. It’s al­ways scary. We went into the night not think­ing we’d be able to raise one mil­lion dol­lars and then, some­how, we mirac­u­lously pulled it off.

An amaz­ing achieve­ment. We wish there were more straight guys like you in the world – where have you been hid­ing? [Laughs.] Be­hind the Mor­mon Church!

Didn’t you man­age to get a state­ment from the Mor­mon Church that they vaguely sup­ported your ini­tia­tive?

Yeah. They put out a state­ment for the first fes­ti­val re­ally sup­port­ing it and then for the sec­ond fes­ti­val they put out a vague state­ment. I wasn’t too happy with it and think they could have done a lot more. The thing is, for the Church to ac­knowl­edge any­thing LGBT is a huge step. I’ll take it, and maybe they do get it, but one of the things that I talked to them about was putting out a small state­ment say­ing, “We stay by…” which saves live and that many more Mor­mon par­ents are more lov­ing when their child comes out to them, re­gard­less of their the­o­log­i­cal be­liefs.

What in­spired you to stand up for the LGBTIQ com­mu­nity with LoveLoud?

I had quite a few gay friends grow­ing up. One in par­tic­u­lar, in mid­dle school, was Mor­mon and gay and he was tor­mented by feel­ing in­ad­e­quate, feel­ing like God was not happy with him and he was un­clean, and filled with de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety and all the things that come along with that. To be a Mor­mon you have to do a mis­sion, so he didn’t come out un­til after his Mor­mon mis­sion and, even then, to this day he still strug­gles with ac­cep­tance and let­ting go of re­li­gious guilt. That’s so de­struc­tive for our

Peo­ple told me when I die God is go­ing to be mad at me for mak­ing more kids gay.

youth. It’s not just Mor­monism, but all ortho­dox re­li­gions. I’ve lost a cou­ple of friends to sui­cide over the years, one of whom was LGBT, and

I felt enough was enough. It takes such lit­tle ef­fort for me to do some­thing like this. I have to ask, “Why aren’t there more straight, white, het­ero­sex­ual, priv­i­leged males in this in­dus­try help­ing out?” My an­swer is, I don’t know.

Did peo­ple in the mu­sic in­dus­try ad­vise you against do­ing this; that it would be bad for your band?

Oh, yeah. We’ve had so many fans who’ve reached out [be­cause their par­ents] have told them they can’t go to Imag­ine Dragons shows any more. Peo­ple have told me that when I die God is go­ing to be mad at me for mak­ing more kids gay. I knew this was go­ing to hap­pen and it just doesn’t mat­ter to me.

Did it, in fact, strengthen your re­solve that you were do­ing the right thing? [Thought­fully.] Yeah, that’s ex­actly right. Es­pe­cially for those who are born within the walls of ortho­dox re­li­gion; they need peo­ple to speak up and say, “You’re not aw­ful, you are clean, pure and beau­ti­ful!” It needs to be from within be­cause I know how peo­ple in ortho­dox re­li­gions are. When some­one yells at them from the out­side they just shut the door. But when some­one, a fel­low Mor­mon and a pub­lic fig­ure, yells from in­side the house it makes them lis­ten, at least for a bit. The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple are good-hearted peo­ple and it’s just their lack of ed­u­ca­tion. It doesn’t even come down to big­otry; they lit­er­ally don’t know any­one who is gay so they are in­dif­fer­ent to it. The sta­tis­tics clearly show that if a child is not ac­cepted in the home or by their com­mu­nity, they are much more likely to take their life. That one statis­tic alone should be enough for all moms and dads of ortho­dox faiths to ac­cept and love their kids im­me­di­ately if they come out to them. They should not have a choice on that.

Apart from the mu­sic and the con­certs, you’ve also cre­ated the doc­u­men­tary movie, Believer on the same sub­ject.

I had an in­cred­i­ble ther­a­pist who told me it’s very im­por­tant to speak your truth, and I had not been do­ing that. I re­ally be­lieved in this film very strongly these last few years.

You have three young daugh­ters…

Yes, and as they grow up and find out about what their dad does I don’t want them to know me for just singing songs. I want them to know that I stood by my truths and used the priv­i­leged I was given to, hope­fully, per­pet­u­ate change for the bet­ter.

Some in the com­mu­nity find it hard to ac­cept a straight man be­ing in­volved in this. Direc­tor, Joel Edger­ton, who is straight, has been crit­i­cised for mak­ing Boy Erased, a movie about gay con­ver­sion ther­apy. What’s your take on that?

I think it’s very im­por­tant that LoveLoud is not

a plat­form for white, straight males or other al­lies to pat them­selves on the back and say, “Oh, okay, I’ve done my part, I’m help­ing!” It needs to be a plat­form to shine a greater light on our LGBT youth. I knew this would be a fine line to walk. It’s im­por­tant to pro­vide your plat­form when you’ve been given the priv­i­lege to be a win­dow. When the sun needs to shine in a cer­tain di­rec­tion, and you’re look­ing to help, it’s best to be a win­dow and let that light shine through you. I know Imag­ine Dragons have a lot of ortho­dox re­li­gious fans, and I knew I had an op­por­tu­nity to speak on this is­sue and cre­ate change about some­thing I felt strongly about.

How do you en­vis­age mak­ing that light burn even brighter?

At next year’s event, we want the en­tire line-up of artists and speak­ers to be LGBTIQ. We want the lead­er­ship of LoveLoud to be 90 per cent LGBTIQ. Al­lies are im­por­tant and it’s a tricky line to walk, but it’s im­por­tant that peo­ple’s mo­tives are cor­rect. I knew that peo­ple on the far left and the far right would have ques­tions on this. I know my truth and my rea­sons.

We thank you for that be­cause you’ve made some­thing hap­pen. Some­times you just have to fol­low your heart.

Are there plans to ex­pand LoveLoud to other cities and coun­tries in the fu­ture?

That’s the goal. There are a lot of places in the world that are des­per­ate for this. Brazil needs this, Rus­sia needs this des­per­ately – and we are fear­less. We dou­bled our at­ten­dance and the in­come that we raised for char­i­ties in one year. The sky is the limit, but we have to be very cau­tious as we grow.

Your mom must be very proud of you. [Chuck­les.] I ap­pre­ci­ate that.

Brazil needs this, Rus­sia needs this des­per­ately – and we are fear­less.

“LoveLoud is not a plat­form for white, straight males to pat them­selves on the back and say, ‘I’ve done my part, I’m help­ing!”

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