Three years ago, Provo, Utah-based Neon Trees vocalist Tyler Glenn hit the pause button on his fast-paced music career and began seeing a therapist three times a week.
“I’d reached the point where I just wasn’t a happy person, so I just saw it as a cry for help … I started being able to talk to her without guilt, because I always felt guilty, talking to my friends about my problems. And that created a conversation that helped me get really comfortable,” says the singer, who brings Neon Trees to Alice’s Now & Zen Fest this weekend. The once-devout Mormon felt so relaxed, he finally addressed what he jokingly terms “the elephant in the room – the fact that I’m gay.”
Reconciling religion with his long-repressed sexuality, he began writing a confessional album based on therapeutic revelations. Neon Trees’ latest (aptly-dubbed) “Pop Psychology” has New Wave-frothy numbers such as “Unavoidable,” “Teenager in Love” and “Sleeping With a Friend.”
Underscoring this cathartic breakthrough, Glenn also came out in Rolling Stone in April. “And the world was OK!,” he says, laughing.
For two albums – 2010’s “Habits” and “Picture Show” in 2012 – Glenn had sung in vague metaphors. He was tired of it. He wanted to be specific.
He had also developed an attraction to a male member of his crew, and he felt conflicted. “I obviously couldn’t talk about it to anyone, because I was hiding the fact that I was gay, so it was creating this chasm in my mind,” he says. His therapist didn’t confront the issue head on. She approached it in a roundabout, cognitive fashion, by regressing him back to his LDS childhood.
“I learned that I needed to get to the root of the problem, and not just the current things I was struggling with. … so there were things that I didn’t expect to talk about, or want to talk about,” says the artist, who formed Neon Trees with guitarist Chris Allen after undertaking a two-year Mormon mission to Nebraska, post-high school.
But soon, he was openly discussing his ongoing battle with anxiety and control issues. “And that led me to talking about my identity,” he says.
Glenn hasn’t found a significant other yet, but his contentment is catching.
He says he inadvertently has become a spokesman for “folks that still have a religious connection, even though they’re also gay,” and adds, “I’ve met a lot of people that are happy that I’m trying to navigate that. So I don’t claim to be a perfect example. But I’m trying.”
IF YOU GO
Now & Zen Fest<
featuring Neon Trees, Matt Nathanson, American Authors
Where: Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, S.F.
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday