Imagine Dragons will join a who’s-who of performers, including Miley Cyrus, Ed Sheeran, Florida Georgia Line, Drake, Lorde, Bruno Mars, the Chainsmokers, and more this Sunday, May 21, at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas.
For Imagine Dragons, who performed a cover of “Stand By Me” at the show in 2015, the Billboard Music Awards is always special because it is a hometown show. And this year is even more special for frontman Dan Reynolds for two reasons — or maybe three.
“It’s perfect ’cause it’s 15 minutes from my home [and] especially right now with my wife feeding these two little girls — and they’re either eating, pooping, crying, or sleeping — so to be able to drive 15 minutes away really quickly, get off stage and perform and drive right back home is rad,” he says. “And then also the significance, obviously, of it being our hometown while putting out our third record that we’re really proud of, and being able to play one of the songs off it at the Billboard Awards. That’s rad, and it feels like things come full circle whenever you’re at home.”
The two little girls are his five-week old twin daughters, and the third album, due June 9, is Evolve. All three tie together very importantly as, now the father of three daughters, Reynolds is speaking out for social consciousness and equality on the band’s third album.
“I believe very strongly every individual should see themselves as beautiful. Whoever they are, whatever race they are, whatever sexual orientation or choices that they have, and however they want to identify — they should love themselves and be grateful for who they are,” he says. “For me, I came from a really self-conscious place, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve found to be grateful for who I am inside and out. So this record shows that hopefully to other people and will help them to feel more ready to embrace themselves as well.”
For Reynolds, being a dad is a big part of what is motivating him to voice his beliefs now. “Now that I have three little girls, my music is fine and I hope that it’s something they enjoy, but it’s very likely they’ll get burnt out on it just like me,” he says laughing. “Hopefully what remains, at the end of the day, is what their dad believes in. You only can say so much of that in a three-minute song.”
Of course, there are three-minute songs that do say a lot. One of those for Reynolds is John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
“The whole feeling of that song and how it comes across has never been preachy to me,” he says. “John Lennon, for me, has definitely inspired me more than any artist as far as that goes.
“As far as specific songs, I love ‘Black Skinhead,’ by Kanye West. I felt like it was very in your face and very brutal, but the extremeness of it was very awakening for a lot of people. As people would say in the Twitter world, it caused a lot of people to be woke. So I think Kanye West is a really good example of someone, whether he’s always right or wrong or whether you agree with him or not, he is politically charged.”
Back in 2014, Reynolds and the rest of his Imagine Dragons band mates delivered a very memorable Grammy Awards performance of “Radioactive” and “m.A.A.d City” with Kendrick Lamar. Since, that performance, Lamar has become arguably the loudest and most respected voice for social change in music.
Reynolds draws a lot of inspiration from the success of Lamar. “Kendrick Lamar, to me, is equal, to a lot of the bands of old as far as his relevancy and his activism and the weight of his voice in the consciousness of his writing,” he says. “He really is poetic and I think has done more for the world than any rapper since Tupac, in my mind. I really respect him and his newest record is all I’ve been listening to for the last month.”
For Reynolds, Lamar, Lennon and those great artists are the voices he hears when he writes music today. “I do like socially conscious artists and I gravitate towards them. It inspires me to try and be a little bit more socially conscious myself,” he says.
Well, that — and being a dad. “Whether Dad created music that was good or bad, or whatever it was — to me, it’s more important I leave behind something that’s a message of love,” he says.
The Billboard Music Awards air May 21 live on each coast at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on ABC.