By Kris Kielich
Tyler Glenn has seen a lot for a man of 32. He was raised within the Mormon Church in Utah, and in 2014 came out as a gay man. He’s been a AAA superstar with his band Neon Trees and has seen the rise of hits he’s helped to write, like “Animal,” and “Everybody Talks.” He’s lived a sometimes tumultuous life, but with that comes change. With change comes the true measure of a man. Now on the flip side of that coin, Tyler is working and touring independently for the time being and just released a solo album titled Excommunication - which addresses his fallout with the Mormon church after coming out. It’s as honest and truthful record as you’ll hear this year, but it’s still in the vein of who Tyler is: someone who speaks his mind and is always looking for hope. After getting the chance to speak with him, I was so humbled to have an honest conversation with a man who is insightful, optimistic, and caring. We were able to discuss his music, his process, his feelings, advice he has for those struggling with themselves, and the power of giving through creativity.
Punk Out: What are some of the most attractive aspects of putting out a solo record that you didn’t anticipate when you started?
Tyler Glenn: I think one hundred percent it’s the lack of a ceiling on creativity. I don’t want to paint it like I’m saying making a record with a band limits creativity. I felt like I didn’t have to check with anyone. Thematically, with what the record’s about, which is my life over the past year, it serves the record really well to be completely my own thing.
PO: With pop music always being a part of the fabric of your projects, was it an easy transition to an even more electronic/pop based sound on your new record?
TG: Yeah, I wrote a lot of the record on my own in my apartment just pacing around. So a lot of the songs started in a very electronic way. It’s funny how band-y it ended up sounding to me though. I’m an alternative rock guy at heart so there’s definitely a live sound that kind of snuck in there.
PO: There’s a lot of lyrical honesty and openness with this record. Do you think this record is a sort of cathartic experience for you?
TG: It was completely cathartic. More so than any other record I’ve ever done. I’ve always told the truth on my records and I talk about what I’m experiencing at the time. But having gone through a paradigm shift in my early thirties, and music was what I turned to in order to get my feelings out.
PO: As time has passed and so many changes have passed in society, have your inspirations in society changed with the times?
TG: I think so. When I wrote “Habits” I was in my early twenties. As records have gone on, I’ve always felt open minded. I really love hearing other people’s stories. The way I’ve grown more comfortable with my own sexuality has changed from seven years ago. And the acceptance in society in regards to progression for LGBT rights. I’m more comfortable using pronouns and frankly talking about being gay in songs.
PO: You seem to be in a unique position where you understand both pop stardom with Neon Trees, but now also a more independent vantage point. How would you contrast those experiences?
TG: I didn’t know that making a solo record would be so raw and personal. Even before I knew how the record was going to be, I stopped caring about chart success so much and the whole radio thing. That’s still a thing I think is wonderful, but at a certain point it became more about how I could express myself. I told myself I was on this earth to create, so I wanted to know how I could create something raw. I could be completely creative and not have any worries about whether it’s one thing or another.
PO: As someone who understands going through being seen as not enough or different, what’s the most important message you would give to someone struggling with issues of self-worth or self-consciousness?
TG: I don’t want to make a blanket statement. But I find those who have self-worth issues to be the most empathetic, beautiful people because they’re thoughtful. They may sometimes overthink what they’re doing. I used to feel like a wallflower, but it’s served me well as I’ve gotten confidence. If you listen to your core and know that you have something special, that’s important. But I still go through some of the same things sometimes.
PO: What about any advice you have for kids who are afraid to come out due to the consequences of judgement?
TG: I like to be an example of coming out that was positive. I came out at thirty, and I came out being an active Mormon. It brings a degree of fear of judgement. And I came out thinking that my sexuality wasn’t something to be proud of. But when I did come out, my friends and family embraced me with actual warmth and excitement. It rocked my world. I’m aware that a lot of people come out and it’s not positive for them, but I want to be an example to quell people’s fears. I feared my whole life coming out, but when I did I realized it wasn’t something to be scared of and it really helped me begin living.
PO: In all of your career, how do you still manage to find the intimacy between you and the audience when you perform? How important do you think that is to hold on to?
TG: It’s the thing that drives me. I’m just starting to do club shows with this new music. A lot of them don’t have barriers and I’m right there with the crowd. It’s one of the most special connections I can have with people. They’re singing back things I’ve written and taking it into their bodies and minds. It’s what fuels the show. I always hope for that.
PO: Where do you expect your future to take you? Where do you hope to go? What’s your next big goal in both life and music?
TG: I used to have a very narrow view of what my future looked like, but now it’s wide open. I do expect to always be creating something. I hope to discover how to continue how to contribute to society, whether that’s through music or opening a bar in a town. I just want to continue to give something that is rewarding for people. My next goal is to look at next year and finally put a lot of pain and heartache behind me with my identity and I hope to do a tour on this record which represents what this record truly stands for.
Tyler Glenn is a man who knows who he is and wants to give of himself to better those around him. And when an album comes out of that desire, you had best believe it’s as pure a record as you can get. Excommunication is now available for purchase on iTunes,Google Play and Amazon.
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