For Imagine Dragons’ frontman Dan Reynolds, there is one song on the band’s new album, “Origins,” out Friday, that really broke his heart: “Bad Liar,” which spoke the truths that he and his co-writer wife, Aja Volkman, weren’t yet ready to face about their crumbling marriage.
“It’s so weird — neither of us acknowledged what we were writing about,” says Reynolds, 31, who married Volkman, 31, of the alt-rock band Nico Vega, in 2011. “I think both of us knew exactly what it was about: our failing relationship. We didn’t wanna talk openly about our problems, yet we were willing to put it into a song together. So we wrote the song, and then a week later we separated.”
But while Reynolds was busy touring with Imagine Dragons — which Billboard called “by far the year’s most successful rock band” in 2017 — they never actually signed their divorce papers.
“We felt like there was more to explore before we went there,” he says. “So we started therapy, and it’s gone really well, and now it’s like we’re dating. Now that we’re back together, it’s really beautiful to listen to [‘Bad Liar’], even though it’s still a little painful.”
It’s been that kind of a cathartic year for Reynolds, who has led Imagine Dragons (rounded out by Wayne Sermon, Ben McKee and Daniel Platzman) from a Las Vegas band that he started in college in 2008 to one of the biggest groups in rock over the past decade. Along the way, they have scored a string of hits such as “Radioactive,” their breakout smash which won a Grammy in 2014, and “Natural,” the first single off the eclectic “Origins.”
And Sunday, Reynolds was recognized for his achievements outside of music: His passion-project film “Believer” — which examines the conflict between his Mormon faith and LGBTQ youth — won the Hollywood Documentary Award at the Hollywood Film Awards in Los Angeles.
“It’s been kind of a tough road to pave,” says Reynolds of making “Believer,” which is named after the 2017 Imagine Dragons hit. “I knew going into it there were gonna be some difficult conversations to be had. I lost some relationships with friends and people that I grew up with because they thought I was battling their religion, but really I wasn’t. What I’m trying to do is just make a safer place for our LGBTQ youth.”
To that end, Reynolds — who calls himself “a unique Mormon” — has started the LoveLoud Festival in support of LGBTQ youth in Utah. “No child should be put in that position where they’re faced with choosing between their family — i.e., religion, a lot of the time — or who they love,” he says.
Reynolds also has scored some points with his own kids — three young daughters — thanks to Imagine Dragons’ new song “Zero,” which the band wrote for the Disney animated film “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” out Nov. 21.
But it’s darker than you might expect for Disney fare. “ ‘Zero’ is a song about somebody who feels empty, who feels like nothing, but continues on and puts a smile on their face,” he says. “That’s kind of the theme of my life: a constant battle to find positivity in living, and feeling a little empty at times. I’m trying to fill that void.”
Reynolds has been open about his struggles with depression and anxiety, as well as the autoimmune diseases ankylosing spondylitis and ulcerative colitis. But, he says, “This year has been very healing for me … I would say I’ve dealt with a much lower level of depression this year than I have in the past decade, and I think that comes from living my truth.”
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