If you type "Neon Trees singer" into Google it will finish your search with either "comes out" or "gay."
Tyler Glenn didn't foresee it becoming a headline when he came out of the closet to Rolling Stone in a March interview talking about the band's new album, "Pop Psychology."
"I never planned it to be a big deal," he says in a phone interview. "I wanted to come out publicly because I wanted to be able to say to fans that come to the show, 'You’re awesome and you can accept yourself for who you are.' I always said that, but now I was able to say that fully. And when I was able to do that in Rolling Stone, it made more sense because it was music-centered and we were able to talk about the record and I appreciated that. So I was surprised when it got picked up on a lot of other news and became a bigger deal than it was."
Perhaps what made it a bigger deal is that although Mr. Glenn is originally from a San Diego suburb, he and the band broke out of Provo, Utah, and all four are members of the Mormon church, which takes a strident stance against homosexuality. The singer was surprised, though, to receive messages from Mormon church leaders offering support.
"I’m really happy with the way it’s turned out and I’m really happy with the opportunity I’ve gotten to talk about coming out and being religious, how it’s OK and you can do both. And that’s kind of my message these days, that it’s OK to say you’re figuring it out and it's OK to not have to choose one or the other. I think that’s powerful for a lot of young kids who struggle like I struggled."
Although there have been a number of prominent rock stars who came out at one point or another in their careers — including Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Michael Stipe and Boy George — Mr. Glenn says, "I don’t know a lot of frontmen in modern bands right now that are gay. I think for me, Laura Jane Grace in Against Me!, that was a really powerful story, but she transitioned and came out in a different way. For me, I think my message was that I’m gay and proud of it, but I’m also Mormon and I also have faith and I’m trying to figure that out and I’m part of a church that maybe doesn’t always recognize their gay members, and I think that was a powerful statement, I guess."
In terms of what Neon Trees does as a band, he says, this doesn't change anything.
"It’s not a gay show and we’re not a gay band. I’m a gay guy that sings for a band, but I think the show has always been a little gay anyway. I think I always performed the way I perform and we’ve always sung about the things we’ve sung about."
The band, which formed in 2005 taking elements of New Wave and alternative rock, debuted in 2010 with "Habits," scoring the driving hit single “Animal." It followed that in 2012 with "Picture Show," featuring the even bouncier hit, "Everybody Talks." Neon Trees hit some turbulence though on the tour with The Offspring when Mr. Glenn clashed with unruly fans. They finished the tour but canceled remaining dates that year as Mr. Glenn was melting down.
What pulled him out of that funk and led to another vibrant pop-rock album in "Pop Psychology" were sessions with a therapist his mother found for him.
"I mean 100 percent inspired it," he says. "I needed a lot of time for myself that I had never taken, and I wasn’t very good at it when I started, and seeing a therapist and talking to her and kind of searching a little inward for the first time in a long time, it really helped me find some breakthroughs and some moments where I was very uncomfortable seeing a lot about myself. I think that what could have been really dark ended up being really colorful and celebratory, and that bled into the record."
He credits his band members for infusing the material with color and making songs like the single "Sleeping With a Friend" and "Love in the 21st Century" percolate like Neon Trees songs.
"A lot of the record was a lot more lonely. I think a lot of my songs start very small when I write, but when the band gets ahold of it, they become flashy. We’ve always want to be true to what Neon Trees sounds like. It became a more energetic, uplifting record, even those there's serious subject matter intertwined in it."
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