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Imagine Dragons singer ahead of hometown gig: 'Vegas is the reason that we're a band'

Dan Reynolds
Nevada Public Radio
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Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons in 2017.

If you haven't heard of Imagine Dragons, welcome to Earth.

Over the course of 14 years, this Las Vegas band has become one of the biggest acts in the world. They've sold 46 million albums, 55 million singles. In 2020, they sold their song collection for about $100 million. And their songs have streamed online more than 100 billion times.

Their tour, which hits Allegiant Stadium on Sept. 10, sees them playing the biggest venues of their career.

And to be honest, it does come after a somewhat tumultuous five-year period for the band singer Dan Reynolds. He's dealt with mental and physical health struggles, confronted the Mormon church and nearly split from his wife.

On top of all that, there was the pandemic, but he and his bandmates spent that time holed up in their studio with legendary producer Rick Rubin. The result was last year's double album called Mercury – Acts 1 & 2. It addresses grief, loss, loneliness and other raw emotions inspired by Reynolds' personal life.

He joined us via Zoom from New York City. 

The band has been on tour since January, the first of theirs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reynolds said distance made the heart grow fonder, but it’s different. “I think COVID really made everybody aware of how it’s a blessing to be able to gather.”

The show on Saturday will be the biggest show by a Las Vegas band in Las Vegas. In the beginning, they played shows at First Friday and smaller venues like Bunkhouse.

“We really look at this show as the most important show of the tour,” he said. “Vegas is the reason that we're a band. 100%, we would not have stayed a band if it weren't for Vegas, right? It's not just, ‘Hey, Vegas is our hometown.’ The reason that we actually have a career is there are people in Vegas who stood by us, put us on stages, that put money in our pocket … We're always thinking of ways to make it special. And we have some plans for this one in particular that I'm quite excited about.”

He said his family will be at the show, too. 

“My dad still gets on YouTube every day at work and watches our show from the previous night,” Reynolds said. “And then he’ll go home and tell my mom about it.”

Despite that, he still considers himself the black sheep of the family. He said he grew up in a conservative Mormon home, where his brothers all got doctorate degrees and he dropped out of college. 

“I just happened to get lucky. In a lot of hard work, it kind of all came together and paid off in a way that now we can look back. My mom's like, ‘Well, of course it was the right path. But at the time…” 

On the new double album and loss

“In the last five years, I lost a lot of people that are really near and dear to me. I lost my sister-in-law. Cancer came and took her from us within a year. And I sat in the room, my brother and her, just me and them, and watched her be here and then not be here. And that was my first time witnessing death with my own eyes. And then I sat with my brothers, called their seven children, and had to tell them that mama passed. It made me see everything differently … the things that you think matter, don't matter at all.” 

“Our business manager passed away from cancer, my ex-girlfriend passed away from cancer, my best friend since childhood took his own life. And this all happened during this time period. So I couldn't help but write about that. Act one is really focused on the immediacy of losing someone you love, and act two is recovery. And what does that look like? And how do you memorialize that person? How do you get past grief? And I don't think you ever do.”

On working together and therapy

“It's really hard. To be honest with you, there's a reason that almost every single band at this level breaks up or at least loses a member or two along the way. I think first and foremost, egos and finances are the core of most of it. We made a deal over a decade ago that I think was the best thing we ever did, which was we just split on songwriting, and we just split it with each other. And that putting that just aside from the get go makes a huge difference.”

“We've been to therapy, we actually did band therapy, I didn't even know this existed. But there were like these two women who specialize in band therapy. … It was super difficult, super hard. It's crazy what we've been through together. It's such a weird, weird life. And so it's hard to navigate exactly where the problems are. But that helped a lot. And now we're in a position where we're closer than we've ever been. I mean, we are like, knock on wood. But we're getting along near perfectly …”

On what keeps him in Las Vegas

“I love Vegas. There's things about Vegas I don't love. I don't love how hot it gets in the summer. It didn't bother me when I was young, because you're just a kid. You don't think about it. As I get older, I'm like, ‘Man, this is this pretty, uhm …’ I feel a certain familial sense to the people of Vegas. A loyalty. I see Vegas over the years, so many people who tried desperately to bring culture to Vegas in a way that it's hard. Like it's hard to bring it to Vegas, it's like a hustle that other places just take for granted, right? You go to Seattle or Portland or New York City. There's the farmers market and there's 100 of them … all these cool bars and live music and performers on the street. And Vegas doesn't have that until it does. And when it does, it's just because someone really hustled.”

On mental health

“I would like to tell you that I've conquered depression and it's not a part of my life. And I found a golden bullet to it, or silver bullet. It's still a thing for me. You know, I literally over the last month went on and off depression medication, anxiety medication, ADHD medication over the last six months. I've tried so many different medications. I tried ketamine therapy. I've done ayahuasca, I've met with tons of different therapists, psychiatrists, and long story short, it's a work in progress.” 

“And currently, I'm on nothing, because I was too afraid to change my stage persona, and then I'd feel numb … I'm a very fearful person of change. I have friends who got on medications and it's great for them. And there's people who are super anti-medication So I'm not any of that. I'm just like, whatever works for you to get you through what is a scary, hard life. … Mentally, I'm doing okay.”

On his impact with LGBTQ Mormon youth

“I have no idea as far as members of the church, [but] I can't even tell you how many letters we've got. Or even me meeting people at meet and greets at LOVELOUD … has absolutely started conversations in the household, changed minds, softened hearts. So many kids have come out to their parents at LOVELOUD on the festival grounds. It's incredible. It's incredible. It's been the greatest joy of my life to be a part of LOVELOUD, it's always my favorite day of the year.”

“It's made an impact. The statistics in Utah are changing ... I would guess that as more and more Mormons, or people of Orthodox faith feel this way, that's the greatest way to hit leaders, because they're going to feel that pressure. And that pressure is the only way to change. And of course, the Mormon leadership needs to change where we plead, we beg with them. And that's the goal of LOVELOUD is to bridge that gap. It's a tricky balance that is really difficult, because a lot of times you want to yell – yelling doesn't always do what you need it to do. You got to sit down at the table together, and that's been the goal.”

Dan Reynolds, singer, Imagine Dragons

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Mike has been a producer for State of Nevada since 2019. He produces — and occasionally hosts — segments covering entertainment, gaming & tourism, sports, health, Nevada’s marijuana industry, and other areas of Nevada life.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the online editor for Nevada Public Radio. She oversees and writes State of Nevada’s online and social media content.