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For Neon Trees singer, honesty leads to confidence

For Tyler Glenn, frontman of the Provo, Utah-based pop-rock quartet Neon Trees, seeing a therapist was a breakthrough in more ways than one.

“It was definitely a profound thing,” said Glenn recently on the phone from Minneapolis. “I found that it was OK to have anxiety and it was OK to have some of the feelings that I had about myself.”

Glenn used his therapy sessions as a creative muse when he began writing songs for April's “Pop Psychology,” Neon Trees' third album, and the therapy gave him the confidence he needed to publicly come out as gay in “Rolling Stone” earlier this year.

Filled with bright, '80s-inspired hooks and anthemic choruses, “Pop Psychology” is the most cohesive set of songs Neon Trees — headlining Rams Head Live on Friday — have released to date. The album has no shortage of the youthful charisma that drew Top 40 listeners and the producers of “Glee” to the band's two biggest hits: 2010's “Animal” and 2012's “Everybody Talks.”

Glenn, 30, called the album a “celebration” of him coming to terms with his identity, but the journey was far from easy.

As a gay man and a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Glenn's sexual orientation stands at odds with his Mormon faith, which forbids homosexuality.

However, Glenn, who grew up in Southern California and completed a Mormon mission in Nebraska after graduating from high school, still finds many of the church's teachings to be true. He has not experienced any significant negativity from the Mormon community since coming out, he said, and his family and bandmates, all of whom are Latter-day Saints, have offered nothing but support.

“I think [many people] would be surprised how many Mormons don't feel the way that maybe the Mormon Church is presented in the media,” he said.

Glenn doesn't use the colorful real estate of “Pop Psychology” to grapple with the tenets of his faith, though. Instead, he expends his energy and skepticism on digital-age lust, unpacking the romantic anxieties of a generation of wired young adults entering their 30s.

“We are kind of searching for love because we're single,” he said, “and yet we find that our only options are either bars or apps on our phones.”

While song titles such as “Love in the 21st Century” and “Text Me in the Morning” serve as thesis statements, Glenn presents his most existential analysis of hook-up culture on lead single “Sleeping with a Friend”: “We are both young, hot-blooded people / We don't wanna die alone / Two become one / It could be lethal, sleeping with a friend.”

Glenn's focus on sexuality in his songwriting dates back to “Animal,” and on “Pop Psychology,” he tackles the subject with more candidness than ever before. Therapy and coming out proved to be major positive changes in his life, but underneath the headlines and hooks he's just another 30-year-old searching for something beyond a one-night stand.

“I've been open now for a bit,” he said, “and I'm still sort of navigating how to find a connection.”

Nonetheless, the last few months have put Glenn in a better place. Neon Trees has grown into a more confident band, he said, and he's felt a lighter mood during this summer tour.

Glenn said he's recently developed a more tangible connection with Neon Trees fans and enjoys hearing stories of support from people who attend shows. Even when he's just trying to be himself, Glenn realizes that his words and decisions can have a larger impact.

“I'm comfortable with being an example as far as choosing my own way and taking my time,” he said. “If I can be an example in that way then naturally that's really cool.”

If you go

Neon Trees performs Friday at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place in Power Plant Live, downtown. Smallpools will also perform. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call 410-244-1131 or go to ramsheadlive.com.

dsinger@baltsun.com
twitter.com/dan__singer

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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