Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds leads what most people consider a dream life: He's a rock star with a happy family and a Grammy under his belt. But what most fans might not know is that Reynolds has ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory disease that once caused the singer crippling amounts of pain. Reynolds is partnering with the Spondylitis Association of America and pharmaceutical company Novartis to speak about life with A.S.
Q: What was your inspiration for "Next to Me"?
A: It's a very personal song and the music video was definitely one of the most intense shoots I've ever done. It really pushed me to a different place, but I'm grateful for that. I love the song; it has a lot of meaning and I hope people like it.
There's a lot of emotional weight to the video and I had to go to a really raw place to shoot it and the director really pushed us and put me in an uncomfortable place for a lot of it, which I'm grateful for.
Q: You live with A.S. and you're a working musician -- touring requires a lot of energy. How does that affect your daily routine?
A: Exercising daily is a must for me. I really don't have a choice because it really increases my pain level and inflammation if I don't, so just some small ways on a daily basis I'm always impacted. But early on when I was misdiagnosed, it really impacted me and my pain level was through the roof. It was a high level of pain because I wasn't working with a treatment; I wasn't working with a rheumatologist and the reason I was misdiagnosed is because it's a hidden disease. That's why my goal is to really raise awareness about A.S. That's why I'm passionate about working with Novartis and the Spondylitis Association of America, to let it be a not-so-hidden disease.
Q: You're a dad. Does having A.S. affect life as a parent?
A: It definitely did in the beginning. I was diagnosed right when I had my first daughter, Arrow, and I was in so much pain when I was lying in bed and wouldn't sleep in the night. I couldn't get up in the night to pick up the baby. It was at a point where the pain was so extreme it felt like someone was drilling into my joints, but now I'm at a place -- because I've worked with a rheumatologist and found what works for me -- I do everything I want. I'm a super active father. I snowboard, surf and do whatever I want, so that's why I really don't want anyone to go through those years of misdiagnoses I did.
Q: What resources do you suggest to people who might have A.S.?
A: I think the best resources are StopAS.org. That's a great place to find a rheumatologist and ThisASLife.com.
Q: You've been open about your struggle with depression -- was that related to your A.S.?
A: No. Someone else asked me that, too. I think you'd have to ask my therapist for that. It can be such a complex thing. I'm sure it didn't help to have chronic pain, but I think there's a lot that went into that.
Q: Can you tell me more about working with your friend, Avicii? I know you paid tribute to him in recent shows.
A: He was a beautiful human being. Super humble and didn't care for the spotlight very much. He just loved music and making people happy. One of my favorite writing sessions I ever had was with him. It's been devastating. I send my love to his family.
Q: What other projects are you working on?
A: Really my focus right now is just A.S. Obviously the band is always a priority. TRF, a foundation for pediatric cancer and the LoveLoud foundation for LGBT people of orthodox faith.
Q: You grew up Mormon and had success approaching the Mormon community to talk about LGBT issues with LoveLoud. Can you talk a little more about that initiative and the progress you're hoping for?
A: Working with LoveLoud was an incredible process and it's been tough because you have to find the right line that actually makes change, so that's all I'm looking for is real change to be made so there's a safe place for LGBT youth. Right now, the walls of orthodox religions tend to not be the most safe place for them, so that's the goal and hopefully my documentary will help raise awareness.