Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons performs during the Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. The band will headline a show at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Monday night.
Imagine Dragons have gone from playing downtown bars like the Bunkhouse and Beauty Bar to headlining tours and earning Grammy nominations for their debut recording Night Visions.
It has been a hell of a year for Imagine Dragons.
Their debut full-length album, Night Visions, was certified platinum and is well on its way to reaching double-platinum status; their Night Visions Tour was one of the most successful tours in the world; and they have just been nominated for two Grammys: Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance, both for their hit song “Radioactive.”
They are about to cap it off with a New Year’s Eve Eve show at The Joint, but for right now, the band’s singer, Dan Reynolds, can only think about how good it feels to get a break from touring.
“Just to be home right now is amazing,” says Reynolds last week after getting back from Europe. “It feels strange. I think I’m still adapting to having time to myself during the day and to be able to be a normal human being since we’we’ve been on the road for about two years straight.”
The final portion of their Night Visions tour—Into the Night—starts in February, but in the meantime, a recent night out on the town with his family underscored just how surreal life has become for Reynolds.
“I went out to a meal and the server recognized me and said congrats on everything, and the people at the table next to us were secretly taking pictures of us,” Reynolds says with a laugh. “That whole thing was weird enough, but then ‘Demons’ came on over the radio, so it was just a strange moment.”
The band’s explosion onto the music scene—including peaking at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top 200 and having their singles “Radioactive” and “Demons” combine to top three different Billboard charts—was a surprise to all but the most staunch Imagine Dragons fans. Night Visions may feature a song titled “On Top of the World,” but the group certainly did not expect the song to be prophetic.
“I remember the first week we were hoping we would sell a thousand copies,” Reynolds says. “That’s the perspective we were going in with, just like we had for years: it was going to be our family and friends who’d buy the album and maybe some of the fans we’d worked up over the years. Selling 80,000 copies was mind-blowing to us.”
When Reynolds dropped out of college to pursue a music career and then formed the band in 2008, he knew the odds were against him. But he also knew it was a chance he had to take. He did not simply want to go for it; he needed to. The feelings he expresses in the band’s first hit single, “It’s Time,” are a summation of this experience.
“I wrote that song [when] I was dropping out of college and doing something that was really risky to me, and to my family,” he says. “My mom and dad were pretty leery about me pursuing music as a career, but at the same time, it was also a song about new beginnings and starting fresh.”
Reynolds knew a leap of faith was necessary because there were no other legitimate options available.
Music has always been cathartic for Reynolds, a release, an escape, so for him it was about pursuing something he loved rather than continuing down a path which did not suit him.
“A lot of people go through that time where they aren’t happy with where they’re at psychologically or with habits in their life or things they wish they were doing but aren’t doing, so that song was about a new beginning and doing music full-time because I decided I couldn’t do anything else,” Reynolds says. “It wasn’t real for me to do anything else. Music was all I had done throughout my teenage years and it takes all your love, all your passion.”
His love and passion for music are made clear throughout Night Visions, whether it’s in the free-spirited, foot-stomping, hand-clapping “It’s Time,” or when he looks to exorcise the troubles of his past on “Demons.” But Reynolds also has great love and passion for his city. His feelings on the band’s recent performance at the Life is Beautiful festival is a testament to this fact.
“It was a really proud moment for me,” Reynolds says. “I’m a native Las Vegan, and my family is a third-generation Las Vegas family, so I have a lot of pride for the city. I feel like Life is Beautiful is a moment that Vegas has needed for so long, to say, ‘Hey, look, there’s a real arts scene in Vegas. There are tons of people who are doing cool things, and here it is.’ Whether it’s the First Friday events I’d go to growing up, or going to the Bunk House, there’s lots of cool community bars here that I feel have never really gotten to see the light of day, and I think Life is Beautiful is a step in that direction of people believing more in the arts scene here.”
As one of the most notable members of the Las Vegas arts scene, Imagine Dragons has helped set a high standard for what to expect from the music scene here. Not content with simply making rock and roll music, the band has also filled their recordings with organic, electronic and urban elements. From the beginning, Reynolds has not just been interested in making music, but in pushing boundaries and letting the band’s creative energy take the songs where they needed to go. But that is not to say that Night Visions is without surprises.
“I don’t think we thought we’d create an album that would have so many urban elements to it,” he admits. “I listened to a lot of urban radio growing up, and I loved Tupac, Biggie, and hip hop in general. ‘Radioactive’ and ‘Demons’ and some of the other songs on the album have a more urban edge to the rock sound. We wanted to show people a different side to Imagine Dragons from the get-go so we wouldn’t surprise anybody on album two or three or four.”
Imagine Dragons has been a revelation to the music world. Their energetic performances are riveting and their musical diversity is highly engaging and refreshing. But perhaps the band’s most intriguing characteristic is how down to earth they are. Maybe that is why people feel like they can take pictures of Reynolds in restaurants, and of course it helps that he has a healthy perspective about all the attention.
“The way I think of it is, no one would even be bothered if the whole world was just more friendly, and everywhere you walked people stopped you and said, ‘Hey, how are you doing today?’ and took 30 seconds to do that,” says Reynolds. “These people who are stopping you just because they want to take a picture? It’s the same amount of time as if someone wants to say ‘hello.’ So instead of looking at it as being invasive, you can think of it like there are a lot of kind human beings in the world and maybe you’ll get to share a moment with one of them.”
For now, Reynolds & Co. may be on top of the world, but there is truly no place like home. CL