Tyler Glenn Talks Confronting Isolation with New Neon Trees Release

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Tyler Glenn has done a lot of soul searching throughout the past six years. The Neon Trees front man publicly came out as gay in 2014, left the Mormon Church, and wrote a solo album about that experience. Then, he found himself being asked to join Broadway as Charlie Price in Kinky Boots. The experience, he says, was just the therapy he needed. After parting ways with his religion, Glenn admits to feeling lost. “I was hanging out with people I shouldn’t be, getting into relationships I shouldn’t be diving into, self-medicating,” he explains. But Broadway was his reprieve.

“I got to do that show for six months and it just pulled me out of where I was. I did not at any cost want to go back to that depressing whatever that was,” he recalls. Having been dabbling with music in his spare time, Glenn realized it was time to reunite with his bandmates and make another Neon Trees album. “I told myself, ‘I want to put everything I’m feeling into it,’” he says. Thus, the band’s upcoming studio album, I Can Feel You Forgetting Me, out July 24, was born.

Neon Trees recently released the first single from the project, “New Best Friend,” a tune that tackles Glenn’s life-long struggles with isolation and loneliness. “I really was trying to write a song that felt like it’s okay to be alone and to acknowledge that no one else can complete you,” he explains, noting that it’s his hope that the track can be an anthem for someone in his shoes. And as he knows that people often look to songs to identify with what they’re feeling, Glenn says the decision to release in the middle of a pandemic felt appropriate, as the theme is especially timely.

The record starts with “Nights,” a song about how you can fill your days with distractions but when you get home at night, everything comes floating back. Glenn wrote the track in 2016. “I remember writing the lyrics down in a hotel. It was very poetic in that sense of where I had to get these words out” he says. The track, he explains, sets the tone for the album’s arc.

Another song Glenn holds close is “Mess me Up.” “I call it the gut punch of the album because it almost sounds like a slow dance at prom but it’s also this really heartbreaking gut punch where it’s pleading ‘if we’re gonna drag this out for too long, I need to know now,’” he says. The hook is: “If you’re gonna mess me up, don’t do it slowly.”

At this point in his career, Glenn strives to write records that have a cohesive “thought and idea and theme.” And even though his colleagues are starting to drop the notion of a full-length, he’s still a fan of releasing a collection of songs. “I still find value in an album. I think it pushes me as an artist to want to make an album that has no skips or an album that you want to listen to because it is telling a specific narrative,” he reveals.

Glenn took a few chances this time around and instead of just calling on mainstay collaborators, like Tim Pagnotta, with whom he wrote “Animal” and “Everybody Talks,” he extended his reach. “I wanted to get out of my comfort zone,” he says, revealing that on this latest project, he worked with people like Andrew Dawson (Kanye West) and “Mike Green, who’s done a lot of emo and pop punk records that I actually really cherish but kind of pushed away because for a while, it became uncool to like that stuff,” he says, with a laugh.

According to Glenn, the band took its time and kicked off the album creation process in 2018. “We wrote about 40 songs for this record and whittled it down to 10. It was really important that we had that space to really know what we want to do and say,” he explains. “I also realize there are so many labels that I put on myself and taking them off and being with other writers and collaborators that didn’t know about all those things really pushed me forward,”

And while he says there are songs that fans will label “an obvious Neon Tree song,” Glenn realized this time in the studio that he didn’t have to necessarily make these tracks a continuation of past eras of the band. “I think what this record does is it cuts some of the fat in that style of writing where we wanted to try everything and pile things on,” he says. He also learned to play around with having moments without instrumentation and experimented with some modern production elements.

Since the start of the pandemic, Glenn has been hit with familiar feelings of isolation. “It’s that weird thing of, ‘okay, I’ve been here’ but it’s testing me, like I’m sure it’s testing everybody. Luckily, I have tools that I can apply, whether it be psychotherapy, but it’s still hard to put on clothes some days,” he admits. And in a time when people are having their basic freedoms taken away due to mandated stay-at-home orders, Glenn is hoping to connect musically with his fans. “I just want people to feel like, ‘yeah, that’s my song,’ or ‘that line totally is me,’” he explains. But he’s also down for however you want to consume his band’s latest body of work. “If it’s a soundtrack to a night out, great; but if it’s also a soundtrack to a night of introspection, then that’s great too. It’s an energetic record but I think there’s a lot lyrically there that people can really chew on,” he adds.

Photo by Dana John

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