All four musicians in Neon Trees gave one-on-one interviews to Utah Valley Magazine for a January 2013 cover story, but it was frontman Tyler Glenn’s quotables that stood out as brightly as his wardrobe. Now that this Pleasant Grove musician is squarely in the spotlight with this week’s Rolling Stone interview, we’ve dusted off the interview transcript to share more about this non-driving Californian who has called Utah County home since 2005.
Neon Trees frontman Tyler Glenn is a self-proclaimed momma’s boy and can’t wait to call her whenever he has good news. And Deb Glenn (who lists “Relief Society president” in her Twitter description of herself) earned his love by supporting him in his atypical interests growing up in California.
“She pushed us a ton at things we were good at,” Tyler told Utah Valley Magazine. “But she was never afraid of the stigma — she was fine with her 4-year-old boy in ballet instead of soccer.”
Tyler loved music and dance from a young age, and his Mormon mom didn’t worry about what other families in the neighborhood thought.
“I was an artistic kid, and I was happy that way,” he said. “But I was naturally shy, so I hid a lot. I tried to shy away from being called a musician. Gradually over time, I started calling myself an entertainer or a singer.”
And over time, he shared his talents with his classmates. He used his vocal chords to land the role of vice president of his student body in fourth grade by singing Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time.” He was in tears by the end.
“Funniest home video ever,” Tyler said.
When he got to high school, he used outlandish fashion to say things he couldn’t verbalize in words, which led this quiet boy in loud pants to turn up his volume and his popularity at a shocking school assembly.
“We sang Billy Joel songs, and everyone freaked out,” he says. “The last four months of high school, people were like, ‘This kid can sing, so he must be cool.'”
He chose not to attend his 10-year high school reunion.
“Although a lot of people were hoping I would be there,” he said.
Tyler always shows up when music is involved, but nearly everything else has been a bother — including having to find non-musical ways to earn a living. In high school, this vegan worked at Del Taco for five years.
“I was the only white kid there, but I did it to keep my parents off my back,” Tyler said.
Now he makes a living as one of the most famous musicians in the country, especially now with his feature story in Rolling Stone where he reveals that he is gay and Mormon.
But this isn’t news to bandmate Branden Campell and his wife, Emilie.
“We’ve watched Tyler struggle over the years to be comfortable in his own skin,” the Campbells told UtahValley360.com. “We fully support him being himself and being honest. Our love and concern for him surpasses any social/religious/political ideas.”
In fact, the Campbells say having Tyler go public about something so personal is a non-issue for them.
“He’s family and we love him,” the Campbells said.
Tyler’s social media followers love him, too. He wrote a 1,110-word Facebook post to his fans that concluded with: “Come out as YOU. That’s all I really can say. That’s what I’d say to me at 21, the scared return Mormon missionary who knew this part of himself but loved God too. You can do both. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.”
Tyler isn’t letting anyone tell him what he can and can’t do, especially when it comes to wardrobe. He gets much of his clothing from Corey Fox, owner of Velour in Provo. “He has such an eye for fashion, and he has sold me a lot of things,” Tyler said.
Tyler has been telling stories with his clothing since high school. He told Utah Valley Magazine he didn’t have too many vices and wasn’t a violent teenager, but he did rebel in one way: “My rebellion was with what I wore.”
When he started getting paychecks with commas, his first big splurge was a pair of $1,200 boots.
But this flamboyant performer has a quiet off-stage, day-to-day personality. And then 60 minutes before showtime, Tyler said he “switches personas.” He puts on his stage clothes and begins to move like a rock star.
“My manager finds it so funny that throughout the day I’m normal and we go for walks, but then he knows when I get in show mode,” Tyler told Utah Valley Magazine. “I put my clothes on. I’m looking at my reflection, and I move like I’m going to move when I’m on stage. He stops talking to me an hour before the show, because he says he’s not going to get the ‘normal Tyler.’ But I have to get into character. That’s what the kids have paid to see. I want to entertain them and leave everything on stage.”
Tyler’s off-stage life includes living in Pleasant Grove and getting around via foot, bicycle or rides from friends. He told Rolling Stone that he planned to get a driver’s license for his 30th birthday but decided to “come out” instead. Despite his lack of transportation options, he still manages to get around Utah County and shared some of his local “favorites.”
Favorite Utah County lunch: “Tomato soup at Zupas in American Fork.”
Favorite part of Utah County: “Downtown Provo.”
Main reason he lives here: “Friendships I’ve made. The weather. A ton of people doing things that resemble culture. I’m never embarrassed to say I’m from Utah County. When people come to town, they love it, too. The restaurants, the music.”