Michael Deeds: Imagine Dragons tour is family affair

Opening band Nico Vega is fronted by the wife of Dragons singer Dan Reynolds - and their baby girl is rocking, too.

mdeeds@idahostatesman.comMay 19, 2013 


Married singers Aja Volkman-Reynolds of Nico Vega and Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons.

When Aja Volkman-Reynolds wakes up some days, it might take her a moment to remember who she is.

Is she the cathartic, stage-prowling vocalist for Nico Vega, a hard-working Los Angeles band finally enjoying a jolt of success and touring with Imagine Dragons?

Is she the wife of Dan Reynolds, the tall, 25-year-old frontman for Imagine Dragons, a group that has exploded worldwide and will headline a sold-out show May 21 at the Idaho Botanical Garden's Outlaw Field?

Or is she a mom trying to raise her 9-month-old baby on a tour bus?

All of the above. And somehow, she sounds like the most grounded person on the planet.

"It's a balancing act for me," Volkman-Reynolds admits, phoning from St. Louis, where she's on the way to a children's museum with daughter Arrow Eve.

"Because I'm trying so hard with my band to meet all the expectations and needs, but I'm also trying to be a really good and supportive wife at the same time. And then I have this child that's, like, my first and foremost worry, responsibility. So it's a lot.

"But it's amazing," she adds. "It's an adventure. It will only be this way right now, ever. So I have to try to appreciate it."

Raised in Eugene, Ore., Volkman-Reynolds graduated from high school in 1998 and moved to L.A. to pursue rock singing. She struggled for years before hooking up in 2005 with the musicians who would form Nico Vega. The band has made inroads - appearing on "Carson Daly" in 2009 - but got its first major break when the song "Beast" was used in a video-game commercial for "Bioshock Infinite" last year. Without significant radio play, the primal, infectious track has now sold 60,000 copies.

"That's completely changed our fan base," she says. "We've grown so much because of that in just a matter of months. So that's kind of crazy, because there's a new added pressure to kind of strike while the iron's hot, you know?

"But, yeah, it's difficult when you have a child and you have a husband in a band that's doing SO well. It's like I have so many blessings right now, and I feel like we're so incredibly blessed, because it's like Dan has won the lottery in a way. But he's clearly the most talented person I've ever met. And I'm not just biased. Like, he really is. So everything is so deserving. But it is difficult."

Imagine Dragons' music is near-ubiquitous at the moment. The band's album, "Night Visions," has gone gold, and hit singles "It's Time" and "Radioactive" tore up the charts last year.

It's all part of changes that Nico Vega's members have had to accept since their singer met her future husband in 2010.

Dan and Aja fell for each other fast, she says, but the relationship didn't blossom fully until they wrote an album together using the band name Egyptian.

"That's how we fell in love," Volkman-Reynolds says, her voice radiating over the phone. "We were already like in love, but then when we were writing together, it was just so like -"

She pauses.

(This is a good time to warn curmudgeonly readers that this is going to get sappy. But this love story also is so romantic that it sounds like it's from a movie.)

"I feel like we're really similar, and that really came across in our writing," she continues. "He would send me something, and it would be kind of like a challenge. And then I would have to send him something back. It was like postal service. Sometimes he would send me something with, like, a crazy rap on it, and I would just send one back, kind of like, 'Ha! You think I can't do this!' "

She giggles.

"Or he would write a verse, and I'd be like, 'OK, let me write a better verse.' Or he would write a better verse. And they were all kind of directed towards each other. It was all written like, 'Oh yeah? You're not saying this to me. Well, this is what you're saying in the song. And I'm going to tell you what I really think in THIS song.' It just became this whole game, and it was so fun and funny. And then we were really in love. When you can create with somebody, it's just AMAZING."

So if you're one of the 4,000 fans cheering for Imagine Dragons on Tuesday, just remember: There's at least one woman cheering louder.

Oh, and when you're watching this wild, female vocalist for Nico Vega dominate the stage during the opening set, remember: She's got a tour-bus baby nearby that she's probably secretly worried about.

"It's pretty crazy," Volkman-Reynolds admits. "I wouldn't wish it on anybody, but at the same time, she's like the best baby. I feel like I've been really blessed with a baby that's pretty adaptable."

So much so, in fact, that Volkman-Reynolds is already planning for another child.

"I'm in my 30s, and I really wanted to have a baby," she says. "I've really always wanted to start a family. ... I felt really alone for many years, because you're kind of this vagabond riding around playing music for everybody, and I had to do it to support myself. I mean, that was how I made my money, so if I wanted to stop, the money was going to stop. So I just really never stopped. But then Dan really started doing well, so things have really changed."

Nico Vega will end its tour with Imagine Dragons in early June. Then the band will head out on its own tour - Arrow Eve goes with Mom - before releasing a full-length album later this summer.

After that? Volkman-Reynolds doesn't sound concerned. She's about to hang up the phone and take Arrow Eve to that museum. Her husband is off writing music. They're all headed to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game later in the afternoon.

It's the first time they've had a couple of days off in months.

"I've come to realize that family is everything," she says.


If you missed my column two days ago in Scene, you haven't heard that Liquid Laughs, 405 S. 8th St., is focusing on bringing bigger names to town. On the horizon:

- Jamie Kennedy ("Scream," "Malibu's Most Wanted") on June 21 and 22.

- Bobcat Goldthwait - who had a recent special, "You Don't Look the Same Either," on Showtime - Aug. 16 and 17.

- Dave Coulier (Uncle Joey from "Full House") on Nov. 22 and 23.

- Loni Love, a regular on E! network's "Chelsea Lately," on Dec. 13 and 14.

Check out the newly redesigned website at liquidboise.com for more information.


Tim Johnstone and I will preview next week's Imagine Dragons show, play music by Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys and Atlas Genius, plus talk about the upcoming Sasquatch Festival at The Gorge Amphitheater.

"The Other Studio" airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.


- Critically acclaimed singer Kacey Musgraves, who opens for Kenny Chesney on May 30 at Taco Bell Arena, makes a case as the next big thing in country music.

- A restaurant review of Rice in Eagle.

- Are you ready for a third "Hangover" in movie theaters? OK, how about a sixth "Fast & Furious"? Both open this coming week.

Michael Deeds' column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life. Email: mdeeds@idahostatesman.com. Twitter: @IDS_Deeds

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