Elaine Bradley: The Contradiction of Human Discipleship
When asked if she sees incongruity between her career as the drummer of the rock band Neon Trees and her membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elaine Bradley has replied that she finds total incongruity between being a human and being a disciple of Jesus Christ. On today’s episode, Bradley shares the foundations of her belief, how she has maintained perspective, and how Christ fills in the gap between where we are and where we are meant to be.
We really struggle as humans to find that line where Christ wants us to live between accepting yourself too much and not accepting yourself enough. That, to me, is the essence of navigating faith.
Website: BYU TV Grace Notes
2:30- The Complexities of Faith
4:36- Incongruity and Hope in Christ
12:04- Evolution of Faith
18:02- Grounding Impact of Family
21:45- Relationships of Respect Despite Differences
25:53- Deliberately Maintaining Perspective
37:21- Knowing Who You Are
40:30- What Does It Mean To Be “All In” the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones 0:00
A self-proclaimed rebel, Elaine Bradley remembers sitting in primary and wishing she didn't know the things she knew. She didn't want to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and yet, in 2014 as a young mom, Bradley, the drummer of the popular rock band Neon Trees, proudly proclaimed in a video, "I'm a drummer, I'm a mom, I'm a wife, and I'm a Mormon." But being in an "I'm a Mormon" video that has been viewed by millions was by no means a destination of faith for Bradley, and today we talk about how her beliefs have evolved in the years since and why she is grateful for a prophet who has placed emphasis on our being known first and foremost as Christians.
Elaine Bradley is best known as the drummer for Neon Trees, but she is also in another band called Noble Bodies. Most recently, she is the host of a BYU TV show called Grace Notes. She and her husband, Sebastian, are the parents of four children. They currently reside in Germany.
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so excited to have Elaine Bradley on the line with me today. Elaine, welcome.
Elaine Bradley 1:22
Thank you. Really good to be here, remotely.
Morgan Jones 1:26
Well, I am so excited about this. I've admired you since your "I'm a Mormon" video came out years and years ago and love the music that you've created. I just think you are a light to people within our faith and outside of our faith, and I appreciate that. So I'm looking forward to this conversation.
Elaine Bradley 1:46
All right, I better not let you down.
Morgan Jones 1:49
Elaine Bradley 1:50
Morgan Jones 1:51
So my first question, I watched an interview with you (I watched several things as I prepped for this interview) and I watched one where you said that you wished your "I'm a Mormon" video could have been longer. So, the good news is we've got plenty of time to talk today. And because you usually, on your new show, Grace Notes on BYU TV, interview other people about their faith. We're going to talk all about your faith today. One of the things that has struck me in the episodes of Grace Notes that I've watched is that you often tackle the complexity of faith. And I wondered why you believe, first of all, that it's important to have conversations like the one that we're going to have today about the complexities associated with beliefs and faith.
Elaine Bradley 2:39
I mean, I'm sure there this is a multifaceted answer, but the thing that first comes to mind is when we oversimplify what it means to believe in Christ. Because the thing about believing in Christ is it is so simple, but it's also so hard. And I think anybody who's trying to exercise faith in Jesus Christ can understand that statement. So I think, growing up for me, praise music never really did it for me, because it always seemed like rose-colored glasses, and I just never felt that way. And I'm jealous of people who do, and it's not wrong if you just feel to sing the song of redeeming love all the time, it's great. But just, on a personal level, I have always been conflicted about my spirituality and my humanity. I've always felt like two different people shoved into a sausage casing together, which is my body, and I'm just constantly fighting.
Elaine Bradley 3:39
So to me, those kinds of conversations where you talk about the complexity of faith, and really, not even the complexity of faith, but the complexity of exercising faith as a fallible human, I think, to me is just so beautiful, because everybody's got that problem. We're all humans, we all desire to do things we don't want to do, which is a crazy thing to say. It's like, "I don't want to do that. But I want to do it so much." And vice versa, like, "I don't want to do that. But wait a minute, I do want to." It's just it's such as such a struggle to be a human and to come to an understanding of how to accept yourself, but also to keep pushing yourself. And I think we really struggle as humans to find that line where Christ wants us to live, between accepting yourself too much and not accepting yourself enough. So that to me is the essence of navigating faith.
Morgan Jones 4:34
Yeah, you bring up an interesting point because in that same interview, the interviewer asked you, they said, "Do you find any incongruity and what you do for a living and being a Latter-day Saint?" And your immediate response was fascinating to me because you said, "I find total incongruity with being a human and being a Latter-day Saint." And I think I have an idea of what you meant by that, but could you kind of elaborate on that?
Elaine Bradley 5:05
Oh, sure. Yeah. I mean, that's exactly what I was just talking about. There is such incongruity with just being a human and following the gospel of Jesus Christ, because the gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect. And we are not. Therefore, we will always fall short, which, I thank heaven, literally, for Jesus. Because that's the whole point, His grace comes in where we fall short. And so yeah, I mean, incongruity—I constantly feel like there's something wrong, because there is, I am here. And I'm meant for more than this, I am more than this, I'm capable of being more than this—and yet I am not at this moment more than this. And so it's terribly incongruous.
Morgan Jones 5:55
Yeah, no, I agree. I think that that is such a powerful point. And it's true—if our purpose here is to become like God and to become disciples of Jesus Christ, then we're always going to feel that dissonance between who we are and who we are trying to become. But that's where Christ fills in that gap. Elaine, in your "I'm a Mormon" video, which I know was years ago—I am interested also, as we talk about this, what your journey of faith since then has looked like, because you've experienced a lot, I can imagine, as all of us do over several years, but talk to me a little bit about your journey of faith—you mentioned that you felt like two different people. So tell us a little bit about that and where your belief right now stands.
Elaine Bradley 6:59
Well, that's a very broad question. So yeah, let me unpack it. So yes, there has been a lot of growth. Just to give you context that that was filmed when my oldest son, Bryce, was just a couple of months old, and he is now turning eight in July. So that was a long time ago. So in that time, I think it's interesting—I feel like I'm more of a Christian now. And let me explain that. So this is kind of through the lens of growing up with the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I kind of grew up feeling more Mormon than Christian, and I think in the past seven or eight years, I've actually learned to identify more with the Christian community, so I actually feel like a Christian first and then "Mormon" is the denomination of Christian, which I think is a really good and healthy thing.
Elaine Bradley 8:01
I think the president of the Church, Russell M. Nelson, is doing a good job of really honing in on the fact that, "Hey guys, Christ is the thing, and we are Christians. And that is what we are. That is the essence of what we are. It's no nickname. It's nothing else. It's Christ. He's the reason." And I think it took me a long time. I always believed, when I received a testimony of the Book of Mormon, I was actually surprised that it talked about Christ so much, which is a sad thing to admit, but as a kid, I always remembered Nephi and Lehi and Mormon and Laman and Lemuel and Alma, you know, just all the names. But reading it again, for the first time as an adult, really trying to find out if it was true, I noticed that all of the people's names that I remembered were all talking about Christ. So it's like, "Wow, wait a minute. This book is truly—I get it. It's another testament of Jesus Christ." And so I think gaining my own testimony of the Savior through the Book of Mormon and through the Bible has helped me to understand what my testimony is of, which is of Jesus Christ.
Elaine Bradley 9:15
The Book of Mormon is one of the tools that I use to learn more about Him and to get closer to Him. But it's not "the thing" in my faith. So I've enjoyed that, that development, that kind of path that I've taken with my faith has been refreshing and I never used to enjoy Christian music, like at all. And probably about five or six years ago is when I first started dabbling in listening to Christian artists and I found a lot of music that I really enjoy and it's fun to hear other Christians sing about Christ, and sometimes it's praise, and other times it's about the realities of trying to navigate life as a human, knowing how much better you could be if you were perfect, but you're not, and just being confronted with that sad reality day in and day out.
Elaine Bradley 10:15
I've found a lot of solace in other Christian's views about Jesus Christ and their faith. And where I stand now is firmly planted in the gospel of Jesus Christ, I guess, just hoping for better things. And I try every day to just not rest on my laurels, basically just saying, "Well, I've done enough." I think when you get to that point, you can rest assured that you are not in a good place. Where you think you've done enough. So I think I've gotten better at balancing my own self-hatred and loathing with hope and Christ, to where the point where my hope in Christ is actually bigger than my self-loathing and self-hatred. So that's a good direction, I think.
Morgan Jones 11:03
Absolutely. No, I would agree with you. And I love your answer to that just because I think I feel the same way. I think it wasn't until recently that I started to realize how much of what I know about Christ comes from the Book of Mormon, and also just coming to appreciate the many good things that there are, even outside of the Church, about Christ. So kind of trying to dig into those things—music, literature, etc.—and that has strengthened my testimony. I think sometimes we have this tendency to think, "Oh, well, I'm a Latter-day Saint so I don't want to delve into other people's faith." But for me, at least, that has only strengthened my belief in this Church, and it has blessed my life to associate with people of other religions and to embrace and respect their faith.
Morgan Jones 12:04
I loved the thought that you shared about how your faith has evolved over time and that you used to think of yourself as a Mormon, as we formerly were known, but now you think of yourself as a Christian. And I've been thinking a lot about that lately, about the evolution of faith and about how I feel like my testimony is ultimately. Like right now, the result of things that I've experienced in the past five years. And that's not to say that my mission didn't matter, or that the things my parents tried to teach me didn't matter. But the things that I've experienced recently have changed me so much that I feel like that's what my testimony consists of. You have experienced a lot, like we said already.
Morgan Jones 12:55
And in a recent interview, you talked about some new music that you've been working on, and you said it's all the same questions, like, "Is this real? Is there a god? Do I have a purpose here? Is there a purpose? What is going on? What is this existence?" I think the crisis where you leave, you decide, "No, I don't believe in that." And when you stay, you decide, "I have no reason not to believe that, and it brings me the most hope and gives me the most peace in my life. So I'm going to stay." One of the reasons that we started this podcast, Elaine, is because we wanted to show that the decision to stay, many times, is just as deliberate and thoughtful as the decision to leave. So for you, why have you decided to stay and how has that been a thoughtful, deliberate decision on your part?
Elaine Bradley 13:46
Well, I mean, once again, multifaceted, but I think I've decided to stay because I have left, and realized that there's really nothing out there for me that's better. And I've never left in an angry way, and I've actually never not believed in God. But when I didn't care what that meant for me, it was more like, "I'll just you take it or leave it, I'll leave it. I'll just leave it alone for now." I don't think I've ever really left but I've left it alone for seasons. And in doing so, it just something always just gnaws me back into action, if that makes sense. Obviously, I can't say what's in other people's hearts, or other people's minds, or what happens to people and why they make the decisions that they do, but I can speak to why I make the decisions I do. And there is nothing that I would like more than for the Church and the gospel to be not true, so that it would let me off the hook so I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I think that's the basic human desires, like, "I want to do what I want."
Growing up, I never felt like a fealty to God more than I felt like a resentment that He was there. I never questioned that He was there. It was just, "Oh, what am I gonna do about it? How am I gonna feel about it?" So, as a kid, I always kind of resented it. And it was kind of an inconvenient truth, it was very annoying to me that there was a God, because that had to mean something. And I didn't want to know what that meant, because I wanted to do what I wanted to do. So, that kind of dumb stuff. As I got older and realized that my own choices and the things that I want to do in my selfish way, they don't really bring me joy or lasting happiness or any kind of meaning and fulfillment, just by sad experience. And then trying to understand, "Okay, well then what does?"
To me, it's not even fulfillment or joy in the overt sense, but to me, the reason I stay, if I could sum it up into one thing, would be peace of conscience. It wins every time. So when I have done things that I knew I probably shouldn't do, I'm not even talking about drastic things, just things that I'm like, "Ahhh, this there's a cognitive dissonance happening, and I'm gonna ignore it, and I'm gonna do the thing." There's just no peace. There's no peace that I can find, there's no counterfeit I can find for peace, there's just nothing I can do, except for repent and try and do what I have experienced, through the Spirit, is true and real and important for this life and for the next, so the lasting stuff. And it's not always the most convenient or enjoyable stuff now. I mean, having kids is the greatest and the worst at the same time. You can't have the one without the other, like the same thing for when I served a mission. It was the worst thing in the world, but at the same time, it brought me so much joy, but I hated it, but I also really enjoyed it. Everything that's worth anything comes in a complete package of good and bad, and discomfort and comfort. I just don't think you can separate the two.
So if you're looking for a life of ease, you're going to miss out on the peace. That's a longwinded answer, I'm sorry about that. I remember I taught Sunday school, to the teenagers at the Church I was in in Orem, before we moved to Germany, and I really enjoyed that calling so much. But once I was like, "You guys, why do you want to go to heaven?" "Oh, so we can go to heaven." But why? Do you really? But really, do you want to go to heaven? And if you do, why? And my answer is not because—like, I don't care about kingdoms of glory, I really don't look forward to that, I don't care about mansions. It's really not that important to me—but I don't want to go anywhere where I'm going to feel uncomfortable for an eternity. I want to go where my God says I'm supposed to go because I think that's the only place where I'm actually going to feel peace. So that's really my utmost desire for wanting to go to heaven, is just because I don't want to feel tortured.
Morgan Jones 18:02
In one of the things that I watched, you talked about the grounding force that your husband and your kids have been for you, and I wondered about that. How does that impact the decisions you make and and the way in which you live your faith?
Elaine Bradley 18:21
Oh, man, it has every impact. I don't want to sell myself short or be too negative about what I would be doing if I didn't have my husband and children, but I would say with like, 78% confidence, that I would be not as good of a person. I don't know, I don't want to assume, but I would do a lot more weird things and iffy things and damaging things to myself but it's been, I think for me, I'm such a candid person, and I'm so honest that, to me, it's not an option to lie to my husband. If I do something, I have to tell him. So it's not an option for me to sneak around and be somebody behind his back that I'm not in front of his face. Because I can't, I just don't like lying, I just hate it. I don't like when people lie to me and I don't like to lie to people.
Elaine Bradley 19:30
So that in and of itself is just the mechanism I have to not be able to be dishonest to my husband is great, because I live in a kind of life in my career where I'm away from him a lot and I don't have the in-my-face reminder of what he is expecting of me and I could have three husbands and he wouldn't know. I could do whatever I wanted to do, basically, if I felt like I could lie about it and get away with it and I wanted to. I could do it. But It's wonderful because I don't want to lie. And so therefore if I'm away from him and I have a thought of like, "Oh, I could do this or that." And I think, "Well, but would I want to tell Sebastian about?" And if the answer is no, then I don't do it.
It's a very clear set of morals that really helps to guide me, way more, unfortunately—this sounds bad to say—but it's way more of a direct effect for me than it is to be accountable to God. Because God's always there, and God knows me, and He's always watching and always listening, so he kind of knows when I've made the mistake, so I don't have to come clean to Him really ever, because He kind of already knows—I just have to be repentant. Whereas my husband, I would have to break news to him. I'd have to be like, "Wait a minute, I'm gonna have to say these words to you. I just did this." And he would be like, "Why?" And I'd be like, "I don't know." So he keeps me honest, just because I have that mechanism where I'm not gonna lie, and I just know it. So it's been a real strength and relief to be accountable to somebody in front of my face, and to somebody that, even when they're not in front of my face, I know I'm accountable to. So yeah, it's been night and day difference for me.
Morgan Jones 21:07
Well, and I think that that speaks to your husband, right? And the value of surrounding yourself with good people.
Elaine Bradley 21:15
Morgan Jones 21:16
Because if you were not married to somebody like him, it probably wouldn't matter as much. But because of who he is, obviously, he's somebody that that would matter to, and I think that that speaks volumes. Elaine, you have been in the limelight more than many people will be in their lives, and one big part of that has been because of Neon Trees. I found it really interesting in this interview that I watched—on a television network that will remain nameless, because I don't want to be critical—but the guy was kind of grilling you on your relationship with Tyler Glenn. Obviously, this is not based on Tyler's sexuality, but his kind of being openly critical at times of the Church, and of our beliefs. And you kind of put the interviewer in his place because you said, "Just because I'm in a band with someone doesn't necessarily mean that we talk about everything, or we've made all of these decisions together, especially in his personal life." And I just wondered—I don't want to harp on that—but I wondered what being in Neon Trees and navigating differences over the last few years in terms of belief has taught you about cultivating relationships of respect with those who may believe differently than us?
Elaine Bradley 22:47
Yeah, I think one thing that I can say comfortably about that whole scenario, because there was inherent drama with the way that it was done, and just the way that whole thing developed. I think it's helped me to be more Christian to truly say, "Okay, well, yeah, my feelings were hurt by certain aspects of that," or "Maybe I don't like it," or whatever. But Tyler is still somebody that I love and respect and the reason he can hurt my feelings is because I care. So rather than taking the opposite tack of like, "Well, whatever, I don't care." It's more like, "Wow, let's navigate this." And to his credit, he wasn't like, "I'm gonna write you off, whatever, you're an idiot for believing it." There was none of that interpersonal disrespect.
We just had to navigate his very public denouncing of the faith that I hold dear, basically. And we did, and I think, to both of our credits, we sat down and we talked about it, and apologized to each other for the things that had bothered each other about each other, and we're just humans navigating a business together in our own beliefs, in our own lives. And there's obviously more of a microscope on it, especially because he began as a member of our faith and then so publicly left it so I get why there's interest there or whatever, but as far as our interpersonal relationships go, we're very normal now. We navigate it, it's fine. He does his thing, and I do my thing, and there's no love lost there. I don't think about it very often.
And like when I'm with him, I don't think like, "Oh, if he would just come back to the Church." I feel like it's not really an issue in our relationship, which I think is a good thing. I think that's how you navigate faith differences. I'm not expecting him to pretend in front of me, and he's not expecting me to pretend for him like, if we're staying in the same Airbnb because we're out in LA recording, I'll get up and I'll go to church and it's fine. It's not like he's not mad at me, and I'm not mad at him for not coming with me. So, I kind of see us as a really good example of how I wish people in general would treat each other with different views. It's like, "Okay, well, that's cool. You can believe that, I don't need to try to constantly convince you that what you think is wrong, and you don't need to constantly try and convince me that what I think is wrong, and we can enjoy each other and laugh and love and just ignore that part of our lives if it doesn't jive." And I think it's worked for us.
Morgan Jones 25:43
Yeah, if it doesn't serve that relationship, why harp on that one aspect and lose the rest of it?
Elaine Bradley 25:50
Exactly. Yeah, that's a good way to put it.
Morgan Jones 25:53
Elaine, another thing that I really loved was, as I researched for this interview is I loved listening to you talk about your career and your experience in the music industry, because it's clear to me that you view it as a job like any other job. And I think we think of somebody in the music business as a star and that their lives are so much different than ours are. And listening to you talk about it, I felt like—and you can correct me if I'm wrong—I felt like that something that you have consciously tried and been deliberate about maintaining perspective of. How have you done that, if you have done it? And is that something that you you have any advice on maintaining perspective about?
Elaine Bradley 26:39
Well, I mean, I think it'll be obviously my job's a job just because it's something that I do for money. But I will admit, I don't want to seem like I'm callous and cold and unappreciative because, I will admit that the worst day on my job is the best day and a lot of other people's jobs. So I do feel privileged to get to do what I do for a living, very much. I've loved doing grace notes and I've loved being in Neon Trees and I'm really enjoying what I get to do. I do keep hold of that appreciation and gratitude, so it's not like it's become a job like any other job where I just desire to get out of it, just in case we were thinking it was that. But I think it's easier to get carried away with all the nonsense that comes with being in a public position, and I'm not a star, I'm whatever. But I think you can you can believe you can choose to believe people who don't know you and what they say about you, or you can choose to surround yourself with people who do know you and use that as your mirror. And I think when things go awry is when people use their social media followings as mirrors, or their fans as mirrors rather than using their closest confidants who don't care.
One of the greatest—and worst things—about my husband is that he really frankly could not care less that I do what I do, much to my chagrin and also my gratitude, because on the one hand, it's really refreshing to know that he likes me. I could lose my job or my talents tomorrow, and he would like me just as much and we would just navigate what that means, and we would move on. So, at least there's none of that like, "Oh, no. What if he doesn't like me? What if this next album doesn't do as well and he loses his appreciation for me," but at the same time, sometimes I wish he would care more. Just like a little more interested in what's going on.
Morgan Jones 28:42
Sebastian, if you're listening. This is—no, I'm just kidding.
Elaine Bradley 28:45
Oh, that's the beauty of it. He won't listen to this. He doesn't care. But no, I think that's the difference. I think early on, we had a lot of buzz about us, Neon Trees, and it was kind of a weird ride. I think we could have very easily gotten lost in the accolades, or in the brief star rising or whatever. That wasn't really an option for me, and it wasn't even really something I wanted to do. Luckily for me, I was already married, I married Sebastian in January of 2010 and that's when Animal came out, and our album followed in March. And so like I was already tied down to responsibility that I had chosen. It's like my own commitment that I made. So I'm actually really grateful for that. I don't know how I would navigate it as well being single, honestly. I owe basically all of my faithfulness to my husband. It's his responsibility, if he ever screws me over, I'm in real trouble.
Morgan Jones 29:44
No, really, if Sebastian ever does listen to this, I hope he just knows that everybody thinks he's the greatest guy in the world now. But I want to touch on two things. I have two follow up questions, and one is a little bit lighter than the other. The first question is, I'm now curious how you and Sebastian met.
Elaine Bradley 30:25
Oh, well, that's actually a pretty involved, good story. But I can try and pare it down a little bit. So I served a church mission in Germany—that's how I learned how to speak German—and became acquainted with the culture. Then I came back home, I'm from Chicago. And I went out from Chicago to BYU, because I had met this guy on my mission named Bryce Taylor, and Bryce was an elder. We never served in the same district or anything, we rubbed shoulders a couple of times, but our mission president let the officeholders listen to my old band's music. So he was in the office elders' van once and was like, "What is this?" And they're like, "Oh, this is Sister Doty's band" (that's my maiden name). And he's like, "What?" And so he got permission to call me on our mission from our mission president and asked me to play music with him when we got back. And I was like, "Yeah, right. Whatever." And he's like, "No, really. I'm getting home six weeks after you, I want to call you." And I was like, "Okay, like, whatever." I didn't think it was gonna happen.
And sure enough, six weeks after I got home, Sunday rolls around, I get a call from Bryce Taylor. He's like, "Hey, when you coming out?" And I was like, "What do you mean?" He's like, "Come to Utah, you gotta play music with me." And I was like, "No, whatever." We chatted and had a good time and became really good friends, then he would just call me every Sunday, "When you coming out? When you coming out?" to start every conversation. So he's like, I would say, 75% of the reason I applied to BYU, just because I was like, "Oh, why not apply and just see if I get in? And I don't know, what do I got holding me down here? Not a lot. I broke up my bands to go on my mission, so I don't have a lot of things going here." So I got into BYU, got a scholarship, and so I was like, "Okay, I can't not go."
So I went out, and I played guitar before my mission, and he played guitar. And we got together and it wasn't that cool. And so we kind of just were friends and then I felt bad and then he felt bad. So I started playing the drums because of Bryce, because I was like, "I feel bad. I have a drum set from when I was little. Why don't I play the drums you play the guitar, let's see if that's cool." And it was cool. So my whole point is Bryce Taylor got a roommate whose name was Sebastian. And at some point in time, I think it was 2005—I don't remember meeting him, he doesn't remember meeting me for the first time—he just appeared in our friend group, because I was over there all the time. We'd always hang out, we'd go ice camping, and we went on vacation together every summer to Havasupai, which is this beautiful waterfall place in the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. So, the point is, Sebastian just appeared.
He was actually younger than me, so he went on his mission after I met him. And I thought he was a walking punch line, basically, because he would always do these weird, elaborate, very committed jokes for days at a time, and I never knew who he actually was until he decided to go on a mission. He had his farewell, so all of our friend group went to his farewell to support him, and he gave his talk and I was like, "Oh, wait a minute. He's a person who has like, a testimony of Jesus, and he's kind of cool and neat." So my good girlfriend was going on a mission, and I was like, "Hey, I'm gonna write her every week anyway, so I'll just write you." And he was like, "Cool. That's great, because I know our other friends aren't going to be great about writing and it would be nice." So I was like, "Great." So I wrote him his whole mission, and then he got back basically the month after I moved to California with [Neon] Trees. We were ships in the night, and then we never wrote each other, because it's like, that's awkward. What are you gonna do, keep emailing every week when you're not on your mission? So we didn't write.
Then I ended up moving back after a year to Utah with Neon Trees because we did what we could do in California. And we're like, "Okay, let's move back to Utah." And so we did, and he was around. Interestingly enough, in 2009, our studio schedule recording our first album Habits had changed last minute so I could go on that friend vacation to Havasupai that I was just talking about, and he was going. I got back into town two days before we were going to leave, and we had Havasupai planning meeting with all of our friends. We got together and decided who's going in which car and who's gonna bring what and whatever. And he was there and I was there. I remember getting out of the car and seeing him there and thinking, "Oh, Sebastian, question mark," and he had the same kind of experience.
Then I rode down in the same car that he rode down in, and we were talking on the way down, just kind of catching up because it had been two years. And he was like, "Oh, so what are you doing?" I was like, "Actually, I'm in the middle of recording my first album, we got signed by a major label," and he's like, "Whoa, you could be my sugar mama!" And that ended up happening. We went down to the Grand Canyon, all of our friends had already gotten married, so we started making fun of them as a couple. So we would just basically harp on all of their stupid couple-isms. We would make fun of them and pretend to be a couple to show it. Then one time we wer holding hands and he was like, "This doesn't feel that weird," and I was like, "No, it doesn't." So basically, our whole relationship has been a "relationship chicken," and nobody has pulled off the road yet. So here we are, four kids, married. It's great.
Morgan Jones 35:03
That is incredible. I hope that all the teenage boys listening, hoping to score a really cool wife are like, "Wow, I really need to step up my mission farewell game."
Elaine Bradley 35:14
I know, that's so true.
Morgan Jones 35:16
Because you never know who you're gonna get.
Elaine Bradley 35:18
You don't know who you're gonna impress.
Morgan Jones 35:21
Another question that I had—thank you for sharing, that's an amazing story. We had a game on my mission where we would ask people at dinner how they met, and we would tell them when they were the winner of our game, and it was one of my favorite things. So I appreciate you sharing that story. The other thing I was going to ask is, you mentioned that fame and your experience with Neon Trees has been a bit of a roller coaster. And I know on one of the interviews that I watched, you talked about how people think of it as like that thing you do, where somebody shows up and a guy in a really nice camper wants to put your song on the radio, and then it's like this crazy rise to fame. But you talked about the grind and the work that it takes, and I think that's so important to emphasize because it isn't magic and it does take work. But I also wondered, what memories do you cherish and are you grateful to have experienced?
Elaine Bradley 36:23
I mean, there are so many. We feel very fortunate, I can speak for my whole band here. We reminisce often about how grateful we are for things and just how lucky we've been getting to do the things we've gotten to do. It was wild—I think it was the second year touring on our first album, or maybe... no, I don't remember what it was. Must have been in the Everybody Talks tour, so second album—when we did, in the same year, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and New Year's Rockin' Eve in Times Square, which is just insane.
Morgan Jones 36:55
Elaine Bradley 36:56
Those are things where it's just like, it's just foolish. You know?
Morgan Jones 36:59
Like, "What is my life?"
Elaine Bradley 37:01
Right? Do you remember Psy, "Oppa Gangnam Style"? He was also at the New Year's Rockin' Eve. Where is he now? Carly Rae Jepsen, I think was the other one. But it's just stuff like that.
Morgan Jones 37:12
I just have one more question before we get to our final question. And that is, in the "I'm a Mormon" video, which has been watched millions of times, which is pretty cool, you talked about the importance of knowing who you are. And I wondered, you're a mom now—you were a mom then, but your kids are getting older—and I think that that is something where you want so badly for your kids to understand the importance of knowing who you are, because everything hinges on that knowledge. And ultimately, I think that that knowledge—who we are and what we're worth—can change everything. So why would you say that that is important to you to teach your kids, and how are you trying to teach them that?
Elaine Bradley 38:01
Well, I mean, it's super important to teach your kids who they are, and by who they are, let's just say who they are: they're children of a Heavenly Father, who is their God. They're heirs to perfection if they so choose, which is kind of amazing. So to know that informs decisions, and I think that that would be why I would say it's so important for me to teach them that, so they can understand. Also, it basically answers every question that you could have about this mortality. Like, "Why am I here?" Because God sent you. "Well, where did I come from?" You came from the presence of God. "But where am I going?" You want to get back to Him. That's the whole goal. It informs you about your purpose, it informs every decision you make, because then you can say, "Okay, well, is this decision going to get me closer to my goal of returning to my Heavenly Father, or is this going to take me away? Is this decision going to help me to have the Spirit to guide me, or is this decision going to pull me away?" Those are the reasons it's important.
And how? That's a great freaking question. I'm fumbling through parenthood trying to figure that out. My kids aren't very old, you know—almost eight, six, almost five and four. So sometimes it feels very... what would be the right word? It feels like banging your head against the wall, because you're trying to share with them these precious truths, and they're just like, "Wahhh, what can we eat? What's for dessert?" So sometimes I feel like a real failure in that respect, but we keep talking to them about it. I remember as a kid being like, "Ugh, whatever, we're going to talk about God again?" My kids just gave that to me. We're doing a little scripture and family prayer every night before we go to bed, and I just share with them the scripture and they're like, "Ugh, we have to talk about this now. How long?" And I'm like, "Guys, you just watch TV for like an hour and 15 minutes, and all I want to do is share a gospel truth with you that's the most important thing in the world for 10 minutes. Like, think about that. This is the most important thing, and we're spending 10 minutes on it. You spend all day doing other things." Anyway, they didn't care. They didn't get it, but I'm gonna keep trying.
Morgan Jones 40:21
Yeah, well, that's all you can do. On this podcast, at the end of every episode—and I would imagine, hopefully, this episode will attract some people that haven't typically tuned in—and so on this podcast, we always ask the same question at the very end, which is, what does it mean to you to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Elaine Bradley 40:44
To me, it means never giving up in the pursuit of perfection, because it's really frustrating to know that you're never going to get it in this life. It can be very disheartening, and it can make you feel like, "What's the point?" But I tell this to my kids all the time, I say, "You guys, God doesn't expect you to be perfect, but He does expect you to not give up. So it's okay that you've made these mistakes. It's okay that that wasn't great. Tomorrow's a new day. Let's just not stop trying." Failure only happens when you stop trying. And I truly believe that. I think that's something that both of my parents really instilled in me by example, and by word, so I hope I can give that to my kids as well. So, to me, all in means never giving up.
Morgan Jones 41:37
Thank you so much. Elaine, you're a delight. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. It's been a treat.
Elaine Bradley 41:44
Morgan Jones 41:47
We are so grateful to Elaine Bradley for coming on today's show. You can watch Elaine on Grace Notes, which airs Sundays at 11 a.m. Mountain Time on BYU TV. You can stream BYU TV live or watch all past episodes on byutv.org. As always, thank you to Derek Campbell of Mix at 6 Studios for his help with this episode, and thank you for spending your valuable time with us. We'll be with you again next week.