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Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds on their new album 'Loom'

(SOUNDBITE OF IMAGINE DRAGONS SONG, "NICE TO MEET YOU")

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, HOST:

We love it when NPR listeners call in, and here's one from Las Vegas.

DAN REYNOLDS: All growing up, my entire life, my Mormon mom - all we would listen to is KNPR on the radio.

KURTZLEBEN: Yes.

REYNOLDS: There was always NPR. She was just like, this is reliably good information, and we get to listen to - and a lot of classical music.

KURTZLEBEN: This guy also happens to be a rock star - Dan Reynolds, the frontman of the band Imagine Dragons.

REYNOLDS: My mom's going to listen to this, which makes me really happy, 'cause I'm always trying to make her proud.

KURTZLEBEN: Dan's mom has plenty to take pride in.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NICE TO MEET YOU")

IMAGINE DRAGONS: (Singing) Oh, yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah. What could ever go wrong?

KURTZLEBEN: Imagine Dragons has won a Grammy, has been streamed billions of times, and they're now releasing their sixth album. It's called "Loom.".

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NICE TO MEET YOU")

IMAGINE DRAGONS: (Singing) Oh, yeah, yeah. Anyway, it's nice to meet you. Anyway, it's nice to meet you. Anyway, it's nice to meet you. Anyway, it's nice to meet you. I was buying you flowers.

REYNOLDS: I really love the word loom. I've always thought of it as bad. Something bad is coming your way, but really, it could be anything is coming your way. It could be good, and I also love the double meaning of it, just kind of representing a loom, and all of these kind of pieces coming together to make something beautiful.

KURTZLEBEN: Take me back to when the inspiration for this album, "Loom," struck. What was happening in your life?

REYNOLDS: A lot of changes. I had just gotten out of a 10-year relationship. I think that that's the main theme, probably. It's really a record about a relationship and the end of it and the beginning of it. And what does that mean? And how do you coexist together and be happy and make peace with it?

KURTZLEBEN: All right. Well, "Loom" begins with a wake-up call of sorts, with a song literally called "Wake Up." Why the need to wake up? Wake up from what?

REYNOLDS: It's really about waking up from my own mind. I get really numb very easy. When I was in middle school - I think, like, right when my hormones were kicking in - I found myself being quite cloudy in my head and started therapy at a pretty young age and found that I kind of have to get out of my own head, and that song is just about that. I would sit down and kind of write down points for my therapist in my notebook about who I wanted to be.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAKE UP")

IMAGINE DRAGONS: (Singing) Everybody's coming for you. Wake up. Everybody's coming. Wake up. Bodies dropping everywhere. I'm waist up. Everybody's coming. Wake up.

KURTZLEBEN: There's also a lyric in this song I was curious about. It says, wake up. They're coming. In the context of what you were just telling us about, with what's going on in your head, who's the they you're referring to?

REYNOLDS: For whatever reason, it might be how I was raised. I have seven brothers, one sister. I was raised Mormon. I went on a Mormon mission for two years. I'm no longer a practicing Mormon. I'm just - I'm not a religious person. But because of that, all my brothers are doctors and lawyers, and there was always this sense of anxiety, I guess is what I'm getting at, this need to be better. In some ways, it pushed me - right? - and it made me be better. Like, I had to be an Eagle Scout 'cause all my brothers were Eagle Scouts, and I had to go on a two-year Mormon mission 'cause that's where you're supposed to do. I had to go to BYU, and then I got kicked out. Yeah, so I had this general feeling of kind of a need to do something.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAKE UP")

IMAGINE DRAGONS: (Singing) Everybody's coming. Wake up. Got a case of the take-or-leave-it. Give an inch, and I'm bound to seize it.

KURTZLEBEN: Is it difficult for you or cathartic - or both - to write music about potentially difficult things in your life?

REYNOLDS: It's always very cathartic. I wrote my first song when I was 11 years old. I stole my microphone from my older brother, and I was listening to a ton of Enya, actually, at the time...

KURTZLEBEN: (Laughter).

REYNOLDS: ...So I would just record, like, 20 of my voices trying to sing soothing songs to my pimpled, like, glasses, middle school self. I found it to be so calming and cathartic. And then it just became a routine thing that I would do every day.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GODS DON'T PRAY")

IMAGINE DRAGONS: (Singing) No turning back. You know I've seen too much. My venom went and turned to rage. Yeah, paint it black. Don't need a Midas touch. My sentiment is center page. 'Cause I've come. I've conquered. Water's parted. Now I'm here to stay. I've won. I've lost. I've paid the cost. And I'll never break until doomsday.

KURTZLEBEN: I want to get to another song on this album. It has the provocative title "Gods Don't Pray." What would you say is the message of this song?

REYNOLDS: Going back to my roots without getting too - digging in the weeds too much, I really struggled a lot with religion - you know, Mormonism. It was - even when I was 14, 15, I just couldn't - I couldn't find my place in it, and I couldn't find kind of a sense of self in it, and so that lyric kind of had come to me just randomly in the studio. You know, I always - I spent 25 years of my life praying and asking for forgiveness and asking for guidance and then feeling like I wasn't hearing anything, and that was really hard for me. And once I accepted that I didn't need to do that, my life became a lot simpler.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GODS DON'T PRAY")

IMAGINE DRAGONS: (Singing) We ain't never coming downstairs. Gods don't pray. Gods don't pray. Save it for somebody that cares. Gods don't pray. Gods don't pray. Love me...

REYNOLDS: So the song is about trying to find God in yourself and not needing to find it anywhere else, and I don't even know that I fully believe in a God, but I hope for beautiful things after this. And I think that I just am trying to find that in myself so I can give it to my kids.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GODS DON'T PRAY").

IMAGINE DRAGONS: (Singing) Gods don't pray. Gods don't pray. Gods don't pray.

KURTZLEBEN: I read that you and your bandmates are known for your love of video games. There was one interview where you said you've sometimes been late on stage 'cause you're busy finishing up a round of "League Of Legends." So first things first - what are you playing these days?

REYNOLDS: Currently, I'm playing "Elden Ring."

KURTZLEBEN: Ah, you and everyone else. Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF TSUKASA SAITOH'S "ELDEN RING")

REYNOLDS: It's so good. It might be the best game ever made. Like, I know that maybe that's a salacious thing to say. Oh, by the way, I also want to say, when I read that article about being late on stage, it's kind of laughable because we've actually never been late on stage, so I just want to clear up - we're very punctual people (laughter), and we take that very seriously. So I saw that article, and I was like, oh, my God, I'm never exaggerating ever because it was, like, genuinely a minute, like, late. We've never been late. We respect our fans too much.

KURTZLEBEN: I appreciate the fact-checking. Sure.

REYNOLDS: But yeah, I love - I loved games since I was young. The boys in my family, with eight boys and one Nintendo 64, trying to play "GoldenEye," like, "007 GoldenEye," it was just, like, mayhem, but it's such a social thing to me. Like, me and my guitars, when we're on the road, we'll play, like, "Diablo" together or something. Like, it's something to always bond us and pass the time and make light of kind of high-pressure situations and jobs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIRE IN THESE HILLS")

IMAGINE DRAGONS: (Singing) I don't think that I'm strong enough. I don't think that I'm enough.

KURTZLEBEN: I want to finish up by talking about one of the last songs on your album, the song "Fire In The Hills" (ph). It feels very inspirational. There are a bunch of WEEKEND EDITION staffers who are scoring some big points with their kids this week...

REYNOLDS: Yeah.

KURTZLEBEN: ...(Laughter) By you being on the show. You have a lot of young fans, and I'm wondering - does having that young following push you to write songs of encouragement like this one?

REYNOLDS: I love you asking this question, 'cause I've often thought about this 'cause my own kids also ask me to play my music nonstop, to a point where I'm like, geez - this is a lot for me, and so I'm always like, man, I wonder if - there's got to be other parents (laughter) out there like that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIRE IN THESE HILLS")

IMAGINE DRAGONS: (Singing) 'Cause there's fire in these hills, and I think I've lost the will. The more we try, the more we fail, but after everything, you're here with mе still 'cause there's fire...

REYNOLDS: I don't swear in my music. My grandmother - when we were young, and I did a lot of drama and theater, and my grandmother would always be like, don't be stupid that you need to swear in your writing, and that's, like, just so deep ingrained in my head. And then also, I write from a classical piano kind of background. Like, it was all Chopin and Beethoven and Bach, so it was very pop-centric melodies. Like, kids like that. Like, that - so there's a reason kids like to listen to Beethoven, and, you know, there's all those, like, YouTube Beethoven that my kids love and stuff. So looking out and seeing kids in the audience and being like, maybe this is their first show makes me so happy.

KURTZLEBEN: I could probably ask you for hours about classical music, but we'll have to do that another time.

REYNOLDS: OK, deal.

KURTZLEBEN: That's Dan Reynolds, the lead singer of Imagine Dragons. Dan, thank you.

REYNOLDS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIRE IN THESE HILLS")

IMAGINE DRAGONS: (Singing) 'Cause there's fire in these hills, and I think I've lost my will. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.
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