Reporting Shannon Carlin
Welcome to Radio Feedback, Radio.com’s weekly feature where we ask artists to wax nostalgic on the first time they heard themselves on the radio.
Imagine Dragons can chalk the first time they heard themselves on the radio up to some very fast, and most likely unsafe driving.
The band was filming their music video for “It’s Time,” from their 2012 debut, Night Visions, out in Barstow, a city in California that is located halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
They knew that “It’s Time” was going to play on the radio that day, but they weren’t quite sure when. They weren’t even sure if they’d be able to get the station on their car stereo since they were so far out of range.
Immediately after the shoot wrapped, the four guys got into a car and booked it back to Los Angeles.
“We were driving as quickly as possible and we managed to hear the second chorus through the static,” bassist Ben McKee told Radio.com hours before the band took the stage at Lollapalooza. “It’s a moment I think we’ll never forget.”
Frontman Dan Reynolds agreed: “I don’t think any of us expected last year to blow up exponentially like this, but I think we’re all just delightfully surprised.”
While they’ve only released one record, the Las Vegas-based band has been around since 2008 playing shows along the Vegas strip. The shows, which were half originals, half covers, barely paid them enough money to cover their rent.
“I think it was good that it came four years after struggle. We were a little more prepared for it than if it was after a year or something,” Reynolds said. “It’s kept our head a little more grounded.”
Cars breaking down in the desert, being robbed on the road, having to break each other out of jail, amps blowing up on stage and having their passports stolen before heading to Norway are just a few of the struggles the band has faced since they first started. But in the end, they know it’s just par for the course.
“It’s just the regular stuff that touring bands go through, surviving off little to nothing for a passion you believe in that maybe most people don’t see as a real career,” Reynolds said. “People used to laugh at it and now they’re supporters. But you know, that’s how it is in the art world, you have to just believe in so much of what you’re doing that it gets you through.”
Now their music is helping others overcome their own personal struggles.
The band’s most recent single “Radioactive,” which has spent 49 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, addresses the demons that we all have. “It’s a song about becoming self-empowered and kind of my own struggle with depression and anxieties,” Reynolds explained. “It’s just a song about rising above that and becoming self-empowered as a human.”
Fans often write to the band telling them how much they appreciate the song and its message. And just like hearing their music on the radio, the kind words are something the band hopes they’ll never take for granted.
“We’re not trying to make music for any particular person. We’re just trying to make music that is true to us,” McKee explained. “To see people connecting with that honesty, it kind of reminds you how much we have in common.”