Q&A: Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons
Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynolds is honest and forthcoming during interviews. He desperately wants fans to understand the message behind the Las Vegas-based band's debut album, "Night Visions." He also reveals he suffers from depression and anxiety, which made things a little tricky when he began playing live.
Imagine Dragons formed in 2007 in Sin City and inked a deal with Interscope Records in November 2011. The quartet worked with Alex Da Kid on an EP called "Continued Silence," which hit No. 40 on The Billboard 200 album chart.
Shortly after, "It's Time" was released as a single and peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award in the Best Rock Video category, and had a lengthy run on 2012's Alternative Top 10 charts.
Banking on that success, Imagine Dragons entered Studio X in the Palms Casino Resort to finish recording "Night Visions." The collection, released last September, peaked at No.2 on The Billboard 200 album chart selling more than 83,000 copies.
Dan Reynolds took the time to speak to SoundSpike about the band's tour, the stupidity of alienating fans, and being covered on "Glee."
SoundSpike: Are you surprised at the success you've had so far?
Dan Reynolds: I don't think anybody could have ever predicted the year we've had. We've been totally blown away. We're so excited about it all. I've never really been the type to set my heart on anything because you never want to have it broken. We set low expectations. We did the best that we could to create an album that we thought was special. We hope that other people would see it the same way. To have a reaction like this has just been really wonderful. As an artist, It's very gratifying.
The audiences at your shows are varied. There are indie kids, pop fans, arena rock fans.
I've always felt like we've never wanted to alienate any fans, or create niche-type music. We wanted to create something that we hoped was just good music. We never understood artists who create music that would hold back from some listeners. Or we're too cool for certain people to listen to us. I'm happy to see the avid alternative listeners, or indie fans or whatever that title would be like our music as well as moms and kids We're just creating music that we feel has a message that needs to be told. Whoever likes that, that's all fine by us.
What is the message that you hope to get across?
I think that from start to finish our album has a theme to it, just running the gamut of human emotion. There's some songs that are a little darker and some that are a little happier, much like life is a bit of a rollercoaster of good and bad. At the end of the day, we definitely want to leave a message of awakening and new beginnings. I think that's what "Night Visions'" theme as been--it's never too late to make changes for the better and hopefully it ends up being an album that's uplifting to people of some sort. My whole life I've struggled a bit with depression and anxiety and I always kind of sought music as my own personal crutch or aid. I always wanted to create music that I felt that someone could listen to and relate to. It doesn't mean it's all happy and rainbows. There are songs on the album that are dark and have darker tones to it. Still, if someone can relate to that and feel they're not alone that's what music and art is about for me.
That's really honest of you to talk about your depression and anxiety. I don't know how you perform on stage every night.
I've come a long way. [Laughs] It's been an adventure to say the least. I've had to push a lot of boundaries for myself.
What is the songwriting process like for Imagine Dragons? I understand you worked on the album for a couple years.
Starts on Wayne [Sermon, guitarist] or my computer. Ever since I was little I kind of would come home and construct some sort of song and write lyrics to it. I've written hundreds and hundreds of songs since I was little. Wayne is really good at composing music. I'll write all the lyrics and melodies. But he's a great composer. So he'll compose things as well and send them my way and I'll write melody or lyrics to them. It starts with me and Wayne and then we'll bring it to the band and that's when it really comes alive. They fill it out and put in their two cents. It's a very collaborative process at the end of the day.
How was it to work with Alex da Kid?
Alex is awesome. He's both like a mentor and a friend. He has so much experience. He's an incredible artist. He really is a great songwriter and great producer. He has a great ear. He has a good ear for interesting sounds and knows how to sonically get those sounds. We would bring ideas to him and he really knows how to be not too hands on, but let the artist breathe and do what is most natural. He also helps you achieve more experienced sounds, deeper bass sounds and deeper snares. Everything we've always done, we kind of stretch the sound to make it sound as big as possible. We like big sounds and percussively driven music. With his experience in hip-hop and urban music, also from his British undertones I think he's able to help achieve sounds on the record that we would haven't have been able to get quite as good without him. He really has been a huge asset to the team.
How did you feel about being covered by the cast of "Glee"?
We thought it was cool. We thought it was a good way for people who maybe wouldn't hear alternative music or who wouldn't listen to that type of music, to be able to hear it and to experience it and to kind of hack into fans who wouldn't normally be into the whole indie rock type vibe. We thought it was a good way to reach those people. I think, always as an artist, to have anyone cover your music. I think that's cool. I don't understand artists who say, "No, you can't cover my music. I don't know if you're cool enough." That's such a pretentious thing for any artist to say. I felt like if someone wants to cover your music, it's a humbling experience.
Have you started writing new material?
Yeah we're always writing new stuff, even when we're on the road, or at home, off tour. We're kind of habitual writers. We kind of have a lot of stuff in the works.
16 - Morrison, CO - Red Rocks Amphitheatre
20 - Orem, UT - UCCU Center
21 - Boise, ID - Idaho Botanical Garden
23 - Edmonton, Alberta - Shaw Conference Centre
24 - Calgary, Alberta - BMO Centre
29, 30 - Hollywood, CA - Hollywood Palladium
31 - San Francisco, CA - America's Cup Pavilion
1 - San Diego, CA - SDSU Open Air Theatre
3 - Phoenix, AZ - Comerica Theatre
7 - Nurburg, Germany - Nurburg Ring (Rock am Ring)
8 - Nuremberg, Germany - Zeppelinfeld (Rock In Park)
14 - Bergen, Norway - Various Venues (Bergenfest)
15 - Aarhus, Denmark - Adalan
19 - Tonsberg, Norway - Slottsfjell Festival Grounds (Slottsfjell Festival Grounds)
24 - Boston, MA - Bank of America Pavilion
25 - Wantagh, NY - Nike Air Jones Beach Theatre
27 - Whites Creek, TN - The Woods at Fontanel
29 - Toronto, Ontario - Echo Ranch
30 - Cleveland, OH - Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica
2 - Chicago, IL - Grant Park ( Lollapalooza)
10 - Osaka, Japan - Maishima Outdoor Activities Center
11 - Chiba, Japan - Makuhari Messe
15 - Hasselt, Belgium - Kempische Steenweg
24 - Reading, England - Richfield Avenue (Reading Festival)
25 - Leeds, England - Bramham Park (Leeds Festival)
30 - Atlantic City, NJ - Borgata Events Center
15 - Indianapolis, IN - Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park
17 - Rochester, MI - Meadow Brook Music Festival
20 - Washington, D.C. - Merriweather Post Pavilion
23 - Orlando, FL - UCF Arena
24 - Tampa, FL - USF Sun Dome
26 - Houston, TX - Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
27, 28 - Dallas, TX - Southside Ballroom
30 - Minneapolis, MN - Roy Wilkens Auditorium