By Lyndsey Parker, Yahoo Music | Imagine Dragons were the most successful rock group of the past 10 years, scoring the top three rock radio hits of the decade with “Believer,” “Thunder,” and “Radioactive.” The band is on hiatus right now, with frontman Dan Reynolds telling Yahoo Entertainment, “I’ve been on the road for 10 years. Long story short, music will obviously be a part of my future. Imagine Dragons will carry on. We’ll tour. But as of right now, I’m trying to take some time off.”
But Reynolds isn’t taking time off from using his position of privilege for good, speaking out about various important issue — like mental health, at-risk LBGTQ youth in the Mormon community, and the autoimmune disease ankylosing spondylitis, which he has lived with for the past “seven or eight years.”
“I want to emphasize it’s really not me, being, like, ‘hero Dan’ … My role is I’m a really privileged rock-star guy who’s been given this incredible life and platform; I’m cisgender and I’m heterosexual, so I have all this privilege and platform. The question is, when you have that, what are you doing? … More than anything, I’d say people of privilege need to really listen and step back and be part of the dialogue.”
Ironically, ankylosing spondylitis, or AS, nearly halted Reynolds’s career before he had a chance to be in this position of privilege. “When it started for me, I had a lot of pain in my SI joints, my back, and it had no cause or reason,” he recalls. “It got to the point where it was really debilitating, and it was right when the band was starting. We were unsigned and really trying to hustle, living on the road, and then in an excruciating amount of pain. It was a really scary time period for me. … There were shows where I couldn’t move onstage; I was totally standing next to a microphone and not moving at all. I thought that was the end of the band. I really thought, ‘This is it for me,’ because no doctor could figure it out. The pain was just getting worse, and I couldn’t do what I loved and what I wanted to do.”
Thankfully, after two frustrating years, a rheumatologist finally diagnosed Reynolds with AS and put the singer, now age 32, on a treatment plan. “It really saved my life, and saved my career,” he says. Now his goal is to raise awareness with his Monster Pain in the AS campaign, so that others don’t have to suffer like he did.
Reynolds has also “struggled with depression and anxiety since [he] was a teenager,” so he’s part of that national conversation as well. He makes the important point that Imagine Dragons’ success didn’t “cure” his mental health issues, just as fame and fortune seemingly didn’t ultimately help Chris Cornell or Chester Bennington. “I can only speak for myself, in saying that nothing has changed for me with the fame or money or success,” Reynolds notes. “When I realized a lot of my dreams that I had since I was a little kid, you think, ‘This is going to bring me ultimate happiness,’ and it’s just not the case. Even today, it’s a lifelong battle for me with my health, with mental health. … Depression it can be a long, foggy, numb existence. You have to be up for a fight.
Read the rest of the interview here, along with videos: