Ten years ago, four kids from Utah decided to pool their considerable musical talents and form a band. Tyler Glenn (vocals/synth), Brandon Campbell (bass), Elaine Bradley (drums), and Chris Allen (guitar) collectively determined to avoid the 3 D’s (drinking, drugs, drama) and commit themselves to learning and growing as musicians. There are many ways to describe the journey of life and Neon Trees reaches out, capturing the hearts of listeners with honest, compelling lyrics set to innovative music designed to get people dancing.
Fame is fast and furious. Neon Trees experienced a string of major hit songs in the last four years. The song, “Animal” was followed by wildly popular “Everybody Talks”, “1983”, and “Your Surrender”. No matter what type of music you listen to, everyone knows the words to at least one Neon Trees hit. However, sudden fame has its own challenges. While dining out, Glenn heard one of his songs being played in the bar. He said, “I still don’t get used to hearing music I write. Because, really, I still feel very small and insignificant a lot of the time. So when we do tours like this, when we are really focused on bringing out the fans, and not just people that are interested in the buzz around the record, they show up and sing along with the songs that they shouldn’t know, that’s when I feel (the excitement).” Fame may be hard to deal with at times, but Glenn will never take it for granted. He believes that if you get too used to your own notoriety, it can negatively affect the artist and the music. Glenn is grateful that he still feels exhilarated when people listen to his music.
Life imitates art. As a songwriter, Glenn composes his songs straight from the heart. While there are specific meanings attached to each piece, he revels in the fact that listeners may find other meaning in what he writes. Glenn stated that, “Once a song is out there, it’s not really mine anymore. I sing these songs every night now and sometimes I have to go back to a more awkward time. Where those people in my life I wrote about aren’t in my life anymore, they pop in when I’m performing. But, for me, I’ve let that go and it does take on a new life. I think music is a living thing.” Glenn related that a fan was drawn to the song, “First Things First” because, to her it meant being happy with who you are. Glenn actually wrote the song about working hard to achieve your goals, but was touched that the young woman found a personal connection with his music. In both cases, the song illustrated the moment when you are satisfied with yourself.
Why aren’t you happy? Too often, society pressures us to be happy all the time, when in fact, life is a series of ups and downs. Glenn describes a realistic view in the song, “Picture Show” with lyrics that say, “I’m positive I’m allowed to have a bad day.” Glenn explains, “I think, that to me, it still resonates, because it’s actually totally great to have a mediocre day—or even a bad day. I find when I do, I push through. There’s a breakthrough every time. I’m able to learn and then look back.” Differing emotions can be a catalyst for creativity and Glenn can now embrace sadness, as well as happiness, knowing that it sparks his musical imagination.
So what’s the story? The real story of Neon Trees is much the same as it is for all of us. The tale continues to grow as they experience everything –good and bad—that life has to offer. Recently, a potentially serious issue came to light, but instead of being fearful, Glenn turned to what he does best—putting it in song. Songwriting is a way of addressing and dealing with most obstacles life puts in his way. No matter what the situation may be, Glenn has a fascinating ability to transform it to music that stays with you long after the record ends. The artistry of Neon Trees translates celebration, resolution, and everything in between through a musical medium. It is a story of their life, but the story of our lives too.
Neon Trees’ current tour is much like their music. Billed as an “Intimate Night Out with Neon Trees”, the live show is electrifying, up close, and very personal. Playing to a sold out show at House of Blues Cleveland, Glenn took the stage with as much ebullience as the crowd. The high level energy gave way to audience interaction, as happiness and excitement glowed in Glenn’s eyes throughout. And when Neon Trees performed “Everybody Talks”, they were quickly drowned out by each and every person in the room who sang along with them. Dancing, laughing, and merriment (on stage and off) spread through the masses in a whirlwind of sound. I was so enthralled by the show, it seemed as if time stood still. I could have easily listened all night. Signed to Island Records, Neon Trees will continue to work on new music, because there is so much more to tell in the story of life.