This Saturday, June 29, 2019 will mark the third LOVELOUD festival, the annual event put together by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds to benefit and support LGTBQ youth. The concert, which takes place in Utah, will be live streamed again by AT&T, beginning at 8 PM EST.
Reynolds, who will perform solo at the festival, will be joined by headliner Kesha, as well as Tegan And Sara, Daya, K. Flay, PVRIS, AJR and Laura Jane Grace. In addition there will be a second stage of speakers and advocates including Emma González, Lena Waithe (Lead Mentor, AT&T 2019 Mentorship Program), Tyler Glenn, VINCINT, Parson James, Gnash, Andy Allo, Aja Volkman, Ty Herndon, Brandon Stansell, Paul Cardall, Miya Folick, Shannon Beveridge, Vivek Shraya, Shamir and Foreign Figures.
LOVELOUD, which raised over a million dollars last year in its second year, will be hosted this year by Kalen Allen, who was a speaker last year. Going from speaker last year to host this year is similar to Tegan Quin, of Tegan And Sara, who attended last year and will be making her LOVELOUD debut as a performer this year after being, in her words, “Shook” when she attended last year.
I spoke with Reynolds and Quin jointly about the event, the importance of a show not just benefiting LGTBQ youth, but celebrating them, what would be the theme song of the LOVELOUD movement and how Reynolds wants the show to continue to grow to eventually be everywhere.
Tegan Quin: I am up in Vancouver. I was just telling Dan, Sara and I are mixing our new record. So I’m hanging out in beautiful Canada.
Baltin: Dan, you and I talked about LOVELOUD before it ever took place. Now that it has become a reality what does it mean to you see the idea come to fruition and that it is helping people?
Reynolds: It’s amazing. And we feel even more responsibility as it grows each year to evolve and put on the best event we can to really help our LGTBQ youth feel celebrated and loved and safe. And I feel super grateful to have just powerhouse people on the team and part of this every day. Tegan was a huge part of last year and is a huge part of this year and has been doing this for a long time with the Tegan And Sara Foundation.
Baltin: And Tegan for you, talk about why you got involved with LOVELOUD and why you felt it was important to support the event.
Quin: We started our foundation and I love the work we do and it ties in with the work that we do as a band really well and it’s been super satisfying and awesome and we’ve been doing it for three years and it feels great. We just crossed the million dollar mark, but that took three years. And when Dan called me to get involved with LOVELOUD I recognized the power that Dan has. He is in a huge band. He has got this open, kind, thoughtful, outspoken way about him and he’s got access. His heart was in the right place and when he explained to me what LOVELOUD was, what he was trying to do, I was like, “Alright, I’ll get involved.” And I was shook. It was so incredible going to LOVELOUD, the experience in the stadium that day was unlike any other experience. I’m not just saying that. It was so positive, I could not believe what they were doing, what they had managed to pull off. The climate today feels incredibly tough and my news feed and Twitter and social media feels so negative and on the precipice of disaster and collapse and I just feel like LOVELOUD feels like a light in the dark. This is gonna sound Canadian and maybe a bit trite, but I just feel we have to be positive some times. LOVELOUD celebrates LGTBQ youth.
Baltin: Talk about the responses you have seen and how that fuels you to keep going.
Reynolds: It’s hard to measure the success of LOVELOUD because what we’re looking for is conversation at the dinner table between mom, dad and their kids or a mom and her kids. We’re looking for that conversation and we want to ignite that. So to measure how many conversations we’re igniting is hard to say. But I can tell you the event every year has been a huge success and one thing we can measure is we raised over a million dollars last year and that goes toward all these incredible foundations, whether it’s Trevor Project, that’s doing life-saving work with their crisis lines, or Tegan And Sara Foundation and their focus on LGTBQ women and women of color, those who are most marginalized, or it’s GLAAD or Encircle that’s on the ground in Utah providing a safe house for these kids, the LGTBQ summer camps. We continue to hope to grow and hope to make over a million dollars again this year with the help of a lot of people who are involved and get into more homes with the help of AT&T, who is live streaming the event. So it’s not just the people who are there that get to experience it. But it’s the kid at home on his computer watching it. It’s an incredible opportunity that’s just grown each year.
Baltin: As musicians what does it mean to both of you to get to play with all of these artists?
Reynolds: This year is our most diverse lineup and on top of just the musical acts there are a bunch of guest speakers and people who are going to be doing kind of their own moments that are powerful members of the community. So I think as artists as far as the lineup this is certainly our strongest year and will provide a lot of just powerful moments throughout the day. I feel lucky to be on the stage with these artists. Everyone from Tegan And Sara, who also as a fan I geek out on, but also because they’re powerful activists. Or Laura Jane Grace, who I grew up listening to Against Me! and that also is incredible to have her as part of LOVELOUD. That is just amazing. There are so many incredible acts and I just feel lucky to be able to share the stage with them.
Quin: Yeah, we agree. For me, just as a performer it’s just a thrilling prospect to go and play with so many amazing artists. There’s a whole second stage of performers, speakers, special surprise performances. That’s where I get really involved with LOVELOUD, on that end of things. It is really cool that this is set in Utah and happens there. But it is a huge thing for AT&T to stream it because this isn’t just a Utah thing. And I feel really excited about this really cool, really interesting, really diverse lineup all coming together and performing and getting out to so many people all over the place. I love the visual that Dan described of this young kid somewhere, whether it’s in Mississippi or Vancouver or wherever and getting to see all these amazing artists come together.
Baltin: Talk about the meaning and importance of doing this in a place like Utah. It does send a message that no matter where you are you have support.
Reynolds: Yeah, I think it’s just that. We want to be able to provide that for all LGTBQ youth, especially in areas like Utah, where the number one reason for death among teenagers is suicide. And our LGTBQ youth are seven times more at risk for suicide when not accepted in a home or community. So that’s a pretty devastating statistic and Utah’s not the only place that has statistics like that. So for the kid in the south who needs this message it’ll be available. There are a lot of places that need this that we haven’t been able to get to yet, yet being the key word.
Baltin: So do you see this expanding to other places?
Reynolds: Yes, yes. It should be in every city in the world. The more places that we do this the more money we can raise and the more money goes towards the communities, the organizations with their boots on the ground and also the global communities that are doing huge work to de-stigmatize what it means to be LGTBQ. So we have lofty goals, but I think lofty goals can use lofty results and we’re gonna continue just trekking forward.
Baltin: Last year you had Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park. Having a band like that adds so much to getting the message out to people everywhere. I was just with Metallica the other day for a different philanthropic story. They would be great. Who are the bands you would love to have play LOVELOUD to reach different audiences?
Reynolds: It’s an all hands on deck issue, it affects everyone and it’s gonna require everyone to get involved to create change. Any civil movement requires all hands on deck. But, at the end of the day, this is for our LGTBQ youth and community and that’s why it’s primarily driven by LGTBQ artists. But it is important also for those who have been privileged like myself and had an easy path to raise my voice alongside them because these are my friends, my family. I just was able to spend time with my uncle Chet, who’s gay and I haven’t been able to have a relationship with him since I was a young kid because he left the U.S. feeling ostracized by his own family. This affects all of us, so you’re exactly right, we need more artists who have been privileged, more allies to stand up and use their platform to raise awareness and be a part of this because unfortunately our LGTBQ artists are not afforded the same voice and haven’t been for a long time. And they have to fight twice as hard for half the voice. We would love Metallica to come perform, next year. The offer is out on the table.
Baltin: Talk about the timing of this event because it does feel we have regressed as a country on certain issues, like this one, just in the last six years.
Quin: It’s interesting you use even six years ago when the reality is the suicide rate in Utah has climbed for the last seven years. So I don’t think some of the things that are happening right now for young people are all due to the election, but the reality is more than ever there’s just a constant barrage of negative headlines about LGTBQ people, whether it’s about the trans military ban or the constant barrage of negative headlines about rolling back rights on LGTBQ people, the constant focus and fixation in the media about pitting the religious community against trans and LGTBQ people. And I just think we have to fight that and how we fight that is with things like LOVELOUD. I went to a rally the other night in support of trans youth here in Vancouver and it handed out these pamphlets beforehand where they basically told us don’t be negative, don’t fight. If people come over and start arguing with you remember that you’re here representing and standing in solidarity with youth and you need to show love and understanding. And I thought it was fascinating because I was very political in my youth and you go to rallies and you’re like, “Keep your rosaries off of my ovaries!” And you yell and you’re like, “F**k the patriarchy!” To me, social justice is yelling and screaming in the face of the other people because they’re taking away your right and they hate you. That is not this. This is where I think LOVELOUD is so fascinating. It’s about listening, understanding, conversation, getting to know each other. If everyone who’s gay came out everyone would know someone who is gay. And it is about understanding that someone you love is this and you love them no matter what and I just think now is the time to say that. I couldn’t believe it the other day when I was at this rally because we were at a rally for youth they were encouraging us to be calm. I think right now that’s what we need. We’re living in a time where everybody wants to tell you what they think and argue about it online. And I think now more than ever what we really need to do is listen to each other. There is much more that we have in common than not. And also f**k the patriarchy (they both crack up).
Baltin: Every great movement has a theme song. What is the theme song to LOVELOUD for each of you?
Quin: I’m gonna say Cyndi Lauper “Time After Time.”
Reynolds: That’s a really hard question.
Quin: Dan, you can say “Time After Time” too. We can sing it together.
Reynolds: I like “Time After Time.” I’ll sing it with Tegan.