Tyler Glenn :: Out Among Neon Trees
"You are never gonna get / Everything you want in this world / First things first / Get what you deserve"
"It began when I learn how to face myself / And I’m still deciding if I’m something else / I’m a million different people all the time / But there’s only one of me to get it right"
Two different song lyrics from Neon Trees’ "Pop Psychology" that offer a fair bit of insight into the man, the band and the changes that have occurred over the last year. In particular, Tyler Glenn’s journey can be heard and witnessed in pretty much every tune off the group’s album. All of which chronicle the struggles of coming to terms with life - its many fragments - just as they are.
For Glenn, coming out was a major piece of that story, his acceptance of life, on life’s terms and learning to live authentically as a complete human being. His "out and proud" transformation is enigmatically laid out, particularly in the song "Living in Another World," if you listen carefully.
These are not unfamiliar struggles. Growing up, trying to understand what that even means, love, pining for things you believe you want and think you need, trying to figure out what’s important, who’s important and how to relate and manage all of those challenges... Maturity and perspective that doesn’t always come easily. Growing up as a Mormon complicated the process, partially due to the church’s stance on homosexuality as a "serious transgression," though Glenn is quick to point out that he still identifies as one.
As Neon Trees’ success grew, so did the challenges of managing his feelings and there were moments when they were on tour that things got out of control. That is what eventually created the impetus for Glenn’s "stepping back." That and a confrontation with those who cared most about him. He talked about how he’d always known about his sexuality, but wasn’t ready to deal with it publicly, starting in small steps.
"The process of coming out was a long one obviously. Once I started doing it with the people I loved and trusted, they showed a lot of excitement for me - and a lot of love back - it made it easier."
Deciding what to do next according to him was much less difficult and he chose to take the next step in a big way. "The piece that I did in Rolling Stone wasn’t really scary to me because, really, the scariest part had already been done."
Though he said outing himself in the article was easier, when asked what the biggest surprise was about the process he offered this: "I guess maybe it was the fact that my mom didn’t know. I thought she totally did, so that was a surprise. Most of my life I thought that she had probably figured it out and was just waiting for me to do it. But she was genuinely surprised - which is interesting."
Most parents tend to see their children as they want to see them, not always as they are, though as he says, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. "I think that some figured that they [his parents] must have known. I actually think that in some ways it’s really kind and sweet that they weren’t focused on my sex life. They were actually more involved in all of the other parts and that makes sense to me."
There is a major shift in mood with the band’s "Pop Psychology" album, and Glenn explains the timing and his personal transition during the process of creating the album. "I’ve been kind of an unhappy person for the last few years and I got really good at compartmentalizing my feelings during that time. I think me getting ready to turn 30 and then actually turning 30 made me approach my life with a sort of newfound zest for it."
When it came to what motivated those changes, he continued with more of why: "I mean it’s a bit cliché, but for me looking back, I sometimes look at my 20’s with regret; obviously because of waiting so long to come out and for getting way to good at compartmentalizing stuff. I think there was sort of this chance for me to do it differently. Turning 30 is such a milestone birthday and I just wanted to treat it as such, to actually respect the idea of moving on from the past, that type of thing."
You can really hear it in the music, it’s almost like you can feel his evolution; the maturation that was occurring comes through musically and for certain, lyrically. He talked about that. "I started writing the record while in therapy and what could have been a really dark album, ended up being the most upbeat and almost celebratory sounding one."
It’s interesting and more than a little telling that not only do you hear the changes musically, when you look at the development of his style physically over time, there is also a marked change. It really has gone from dark to light and bright - even in the choice of his hair color from his signature black to platinum blonde. He said this while discussing the evolution: "I’ve been into fashion since I was 12, so it kind of is a thing for me that I enjoy. I’m glad people notice the changes, not everyone gets that and I am proud of it."
Coming out is different for everyone. For some it’s just a given and there really is no great struggle; for others it can be daunting. Glenn shared what it has been like for him since opening the closet door: "I’d say that the biggest change really, is not having to ’hide’ anymore. It’s fun to be able to say things like ’that guy’s cute’ around my friends and the band. They don’t even bat an eye, and we talk about it like it’s nothing - that kind of normalcy that I didn’t have. It was causing a sort of toxicity in my life because I didn’t have balance. It’s those little moments that you get being out that are really the biggest change."
A line from the Bible, "And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free," came to mind and I mentioned the toll of living less candidly.
"It’s not ’real’ at all when you do that and the truth is pretty relentless when you don’t."
Neon Trees is now a phenomenon in the music world. They have been on the charts since the band released their debut album, "Habits," back in March of 2010. Who doesn’t know the hit "Animal?" You may also remember that particular song based on the commercial for Las Vegas during the same period. Appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman and many others helped to cement them in America’s musical conscience.
Their "Picture Show" album followed, with the mega-hit "Everybody Talks" as its centerpiece. Then came the tours: The band travelled with The Offspring and Dead Sara, later joining Maroon 5’s world tour and in November/ December 2013 with Taylor Swift, one of many spots and appearances on their road to fame.
I asked Glenn about his measure of success, when he felt like they had crossed over to the next level. "Hearing music on the radio, hearing music in a store or hearing your music, say in a restaurant, that’s really rad for me and totally fun. I think also, just the idea that when you go to towns you have never been to and large quantities of people turn up to listen to your music and see us play live, that still does it for me. It doesn’t go unappreciated in my mind."
Gratitude is a good thing, and he has a great deal of it around knowing and appreciating his audience. "No matter if there’s a band doing better or more than you, regardless, the fact that people are coming and have paid money to see us is still really special to me."
Glenn talked about the band’s celebrity and how it has changed their perspective on and in the world. "We’ve had a lot of those moments, but sometimes when we’re in the middle of nowhere it can feel like you haven’t and that is a really refreshing thing." He continued,"I kind of love the sort of degree of fame, where it’s not manipulating or destroying your life, but instead you are able to do what you love and still live your life."
There is some of that perspective he spoke about earlier. Pop Psychology is doing well; when asked about the album, Glenn had this to say: "It’s so great right now. We’re getting to play the music from it [the Pop Psychology album] live a lot right now, and the response to it has been great. People already know all the words to the songs, and that is just so cool. You don’t always get that right away when you put out new material; that’s kind of how I gauge its success."