From director Don Argott, HBO Documentary Films and Live Nation Productions, the documentary Believer delves into the fact that the suicide rates in Utah, among members of the LGBTQ community, have skyrocketed since 2008, as a result of the Mormon church’s official stance on same-sex relationships. Looking inward at the affect these teachings were having on some of his own friends, Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds has decided to shine a spotlight on the culture he grew up in, in the hopes that through dialogue and conversation on a very human level, some changes can be made that will help save lives.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Neon Trees frontman and openly gay former Mormon Tyler Glenn (who is also featured in the film) talked about how he got involved with this documentary, what it meant to him to have Dan Reynolds reach out to him, after the two crossed paths for a number of years, getting the LoveLoud festival to come together, mending fences with his own band members, and his hope that people will listen to others speak their truth. He also talked about what it’s been like to make his Broadway debut in Kinky Boots, and what’s next for Neon Trees.
Collider: I thought this documentary was beautifully done, and I definitely appreciate you being so open, honest and vulnerable in this. I think it’s really so important and meaningful to put your story out there and have people hear it, who may think that they’re all alone when they’re not.
TYLER GLENN: Thank you!
How did you end up getting involved with this documentary? Was it just getting a phone call from Dan Reynolds (from Imagine Dragons)?
GLENN: Yeah, it’s literally how it plays out in the film. I’ve known Dan for probably the last 15 years, but never really known him-known him. We both had bands in Utah, and both of our bands found success and we would run in the same circles. I know his brother pretty well. I know his wife very well. I’ve known his wife for a long time. We’ve always had personal connections, but when he saw me going through what I was going through, a couple years ago, with coming out, and then with leaving the church and being affected by all of that, I got a text from him, one day. He was reconciling his own faith and where he was at, and I think he found commonality in reaching out to me. I was really touched by it. I had no idea that him reaching out to me would spawn the film that it did and also LoveLoud, with the foundation and the festival. It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful that I have a friend like him. It’s really cool that this person that’s been in my life, but who I didn’t really know, I now know, in a personal way. I see his genuine heart, and I think that’s really neat. It’s been great that the platform that he has, he used to let me share my story the way that I did. That’s really cool. It’s felt very validating, after having been very painful and hard. That’s been really nice.
At the same time, you went into doing LoveLoud with the best of intentions, but it almost didn’t come together. Was there a moment of panic of, “Oh, god, we’re putting all of this time and energy and love into bringing people together, and yet we might not actually be able to bring everybody together”?
GLENN: Yeah! It’s still crazy to think that it was only last year, last April, that this even all started. There were times where it was going to be way bigger and other artists were really excited about it, but then reality set in and it was really hard to put on that kind of event, where we were trying to put it on. It became this really grassroots, smaller thing. That day felt huge. I think what it has done is spawned this foundation now, where bigger artists are excited about it and more mainstream sponsors are excited about it. It feels incredible to see it go from this tiny labor of love to this really successful thing. It’s all steeped in trying to provide a safe space for LGBT kids. I think it’s one of the more pure things that I’ve been a part of, and that’s really exciting to me, as well.
I would imagine that any time you get on a stage in front of an audience, it must be a real rush and a real high that you get from the audience. Does you feel it even that much more, when you’re doing a show like this and it’s a part of something even bigger?
GLENN: Yeah. My band has played Pride events, and I’ve felt personally emotional and validated when I would play those, as well. To bring up a point, half of my band is still active Mormons, and my leaving the Church and my public faith crisis really affected the band for awhile. That day, and playing that event, and playing for that crowd, locally, was really personally healing because there was a lot of fear when I left behind the Church. My band was really scared about how it would affect the band. To be able to play for a crowd of Mormons, ex-Mormons, gay Mormons, and LGBT Mormons, at an event like LoveLoud, was full circle. I finally felt validated. My bass player and my drummer, who really took it hard, we’ve had real, authentic talks since that and since seeing the documentary. I just feel validated, so in a personal way, it’s been really healing, too. It’s really cool.
There are tragic stories in this film, but there’s also a lot of hope. What do you hope that people take away from seeing this documentary? If you can’t change the Church, do you at least hope that you can empower the individuals that are in it?
GLENN: What I love about how the way Don Argott made this film is that Don had nothing in this fight. He’s not Mormon. He’s not particularly religious. Don was summoned by Dan to make this film, and the way that he’s presented it is so that you can just hear people’s stories and experiences. I think when you take the time to listen to someone else’s experience and someone else’s truth, you’re changed. I’ve seen that, in my own life. Ultimately, I hope that when people watch this, even if they’re uneasy about the topic or maybe anxious about how to reconcile this because they still believe or they’re still religious, watching someone tell their truth, in a pure way, is a way to change hearts and minds. I think we saw that through LoveLoud and the first concert we put on. I just hope that it pierces the right people to watch it. It’s less about accolades, for me, with the film. It’s more about getting it into the nooks and crannies of this nation and this culture and saying, “Hey, these are real things going on, and people that are like you are being affected.” I really hope that that’s the ultimate take away.