USA Today: LOVELOUD Fest: Dan Reynolds takes action for LGBTQ youth

To see the full story, Images, and Video, see the article on USA Today here.

When Dan Reynolds, lead singer for Imagine Dragons, served a religious mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LGBTQ issues were sometimes a conversation he and his companions would have to foster. 

When someone would bring up the topic – is it OK to be gay? – he'd open up a pamphlet and say, "Well, not really." 

"I wish I could have re-knocked on some of the doors on my Mormon mission," Reynolds says, remembering his views on being gay. "That's not my personal belief now." 

More: Why LGBT youth in Utah consider suicide

Since his mission, he's had a change of heart when it comes to the LGBTQ community – especially the youth in Utah, who are at a higher risk of suicide. And he wants to do something about it with a festival dedicated to celebrating love for the LGBTQ+ community: The LOVELOUD Music Festival. 

"What I'm looking to do is create an event that brings all the community together, the far left, the far right, the people in the middle, to have positive conversation to raise awareness and to talk about how, as a community, we can improve to create a safer, more loving and accepting environment for our LGBTQ youth," Reynolds says. 

The inaugural event will take place Aug. 26 at the Brent Brown Ballpark at Utah Valley University in Orem, which will feature performances by Neon Trees, Joshua James, Walk The Moon's Nicholas Petricca, Krewella, Aja Volkman and, of course, Imagine Dragons. 

Tickets are available at loveloudfest.com.

"I think especially in the climate we live in, there's a feeling of divide often between the orthodox religious community and the LGBTQ community," Reynolds says. "I know there are a lot of people in Utah who have big hearts and are ready and willing to show love and acceptance, and have already done that. But I think there's also feelings of confusion. What LOVELOUD is about is kind of bringing everybody together in one place to talk about how we as a community can be better and how we can show true love and acceptance to our LGBTQ youth."

More: Homelessness inspired one Utah man to advocate for youth who struggled just like he did

Reynolds, especially, wants to do something in Utah where suicide is the leading cause of teen deaths. He mentions he's had many friends – some LGBTQ and some not – who have passed away due to suicide, and he notes that LGBTQ youth in Utah are eight times more likely to commit suicide.

"How can we fix this instead of just blaming it on the high altitude?" he asks. "There's a larger problem at hand."

Reynolds really began getting attention as an LGBTQ ally after the Imagine Dragons song "It's Time" appeared on "Glee." He says after the show's version of the song aired, he began receiving letters from LGBTQ fans expressing how much that song meant to them – although many of them wrote that they feared he didn't accept them since he was a member of the LDS faith. 

Since then, though, he's accomplished much as an ally, even earning the Trevor Hero Award from The Trevor Project this year for helping increase visibility and understanding of the LGBT community.

His increased voice as an ally led to even more letters. 

"I've received some on both ends," he says. "I've received a lot of letters from people who have said, 'Thank you for standing up and speaking about this, thank you for being an ally.' And I've also received a lot of letters from people saying, 'You've lost your way, and I'm sad that you feel this way.'" 

More: Equality Utah takes S. Utahns back to glam at Equality Celebration

"I think I've just become more impassioned to stand up" for the cause, he adds. 

He punctuates the sentiment with a thought on Mormonism, stressing that his view that the community needs to accept and love LGBTQ youth doesn't mean he believes Mormons themselves are "bigots" – and he counts himself as an LDS member. 

"It's not to point a finger at Utah, it's not to point a finger at religion, or point a finger at anybody," he says. "It's just to say, how can we do better as a community? That's the goal of LOVELOUD."

"I believe to be gay is right and perfect," he adds. "But that doesn't mean there's not room for people who have their religious beliefs to come to the table and say, 'You know what? I want to learn how I can show my love and support for the LGBTQ community."

The LOVELOUD festival is designed to ignite relevant and vital conversation and what it means to love and support the LGBTQ+ youth in the community, according to a media release. 

All the performers are donating their time to the cause, and all proceeds from the event will go to the LOVELOUD Foundation, which lends support to charities such as Encircle, Stand4Kind, The Trevor Project and GLAAD. 

"All the people I know in the Utah community that I'm close with – Mormon, not Mormon, Muslim, Catholic, anybody from orthodox faith that maybe was raised to believe that to be gay was a sin – a lot of those people are really good, wonderful, loving people who I think have a hard time with that notion," Reynolds says. "It's a hot-button issue. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be talking about it. I think that it means, above all, we need to talk about it."

If you go 

LOVELOUD Fest

When: Aug. 26, doors open at 5 p.m., music begins at 6 p.m.

Where: Brent Brown Ballpark at UVU, 800 W. University Pkwy., Orem 

Cost: $11 - $25 for general admission, $200 for VIP package

Tickets and information:loveloudfest.com

Follow Matthew on Twitter and Instagram, @MatthewJGeek; email him at MJacobson@TheSpectrum.com; call him at 435-674-6234.

 

Jacob Dunford