Elaine Bradley: RM, Rock Star

Neylan McBaine is a recurring guest at By Common Consent.

By now, it’s old news that rock star Brandon Flowers of The Killers is Mormon. And perhaps you’ve heard of our other coolest Mormon performer, internationally renown DJ Kaskade. But what if I told you we could also claim a female rock star? A drummer, at that? A drummer whose band’s single reached #1 on the Alternative Rock Chart? Meet Elaine Bradley of the Neon Trees at the Mormon Women Project.

When Krisanne Hastings, a volunteer interview producer with the Mormon Women Project, approached me several months ago about creating a section for interviews with “Artistic Women,” I encouraged her to take the idea and run with it. As the daughter of a Mormon singer myself, I’ve long been attuned to the presence of artists among our people and especially the presence of female artists, and I was delighted she wanted to shed more light on them. Within our culture, artists are both revered as well as held at arm’s length: revered because their professions take such courage, skill and soulfulness, and yet we still approach them warily because of the stereotypes of promiscuity, substance abuse and inner torture of the artistic culture. The essential conundrum has always been how can a Mormon, whose religious culture eschews conflict as assiduously as it avoids the after-party binges, really reflect the depressive and redemptive vacillations required in emotionally honest artistry?

Elaine Bradley represents a young generation of Mormons that is answering this conundrum by using their own soul searching as the fuel for their artistic honesty. In our “Artistic Women” category we are featuring mothers who paint and design while their babies nap and others and also actresses and musicians who are responding to their most innate drives by pursuing their art on the world’s stage. Krisanne Hastings describes the connections and insights she’s gaining from our “Artistic Women” series here:

I believe all of us are, at our very core, artists. It is weaved through our DNA as sons and daughters of God. I think what separates most of us from those we consider “real” artists is a fierce belief in personal creative power. Artistic people believe in their inherent creativity with such abandon that they willingly (and often painfully) paint their wet and beating heart onto the canvas for public consumption. You need only view a Frida Kahlo painting to realize that creation is serious business. To be unabashedly honest, brave and faithful in humankind’s inherent power is the real stuff of creativity. It is those very attributes that make interviewing Mormon women artists so inspiring to me.

Artist is a poignant title among Mormon women who believe that creation is an integral part of our physical and spiritual bodies. Giving birth is the ultimate metaphor for the creative process: laborious and bloody with a joyful exhale. Sometimes the birth of an idea, a crescendo, or a brushstroke will push women through similar stretches of pain and transcendence. Elaine Bradley walked me through her own experience with this process. She expressed everything from the ache she felt in believing that God disapproved of her desire to perform rock music to the passion and drive that catapulted her to international fame to the ultimate realization that God was not her detractor but instead the director and steward of her gifts. Elaine and the other artistic women I have interviewed for the Mormon Women Project use new language to tell our ancient and known stories. Most importantly they possess the candor, the faith and the courage to share this expanded vision to the benefit of us all.


  1. Outstanding.

  2. Agreed. Very cool.

  3. Wow. Me likes. Good music and a good role model.

  4. Loved it. This is an amazing series.

  5. After reading the interview at MWP, I did some searching and found there’s some excellent footage of Elaine Bradley and the lead singer of Neon Trees performing on the “Live at Daryl’s Place” site.

    Look for episode 36.


    Being a longtime fan of Hall & Oates, it was cool to see them performing their song Animal with Daryl Hall providing some backup. Fun stuff.

  6. Steve Evans says:

    “being a longtime fan of Hall & Oates”

    Dan, you make it so easy sometimes.

  7. Hall & Oates? Of the Quorum of the 80s? Yeah, I dig that.

  8. A brilliant idea for a series!

  9. They had awful PR and awful videos, but Hall & Oates made fantastic music.

  10. I knew Elaine back in the day (same ward, different highschool) and she used to say she wanted to be a rockstar. No joke. I love when people live out their childhood dreams.

    I am happy for you, Elaine!

  11. I know a couple of Elaine’s older siblings from growing up in Chicago. Her parents are great people as well. I did not know that Oudenos was from Chrystal Lake Illinois.

    I think we are starting to see the rise of Mormons in music a bit here.

  12. As a high schooler growing up in Elaine’s stake who also loved to play rock music, I always appreciated her struggle to be true to both her musician and Mormon self, and that, unlike me, she didn’t back down from that challenge of being a Mormon and playing music professionally so easily.

    Elaine’s band from her days in McHenry County, IL, was called “Nymb”. If you were into other Chicago indie/pre-emo stuff from the late 90’s, like Sunny Day Real Estate, Hum, and American Football, you would like Nymb. Some of their music is available on iTunes.

  13. Great writeup. You should join us at Linescratchers.

  14. When I heard Neon Trees was from Provo, I had wondered what background in Mormonism they might have. Question answered.

  15. McHenry County and the the greater Fox River Valley, represent!

  16. cool

  17. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    Thanks for the link. I’ve been a fan of Elaine and NT for awhile; I googled Elaine in the past to get some bio on her, and only found a few bits and pieces, so this was a treat. I hope she continues being who she is, because she is incredible.

  18. Loved the interview at MWP this week. Not really my genre as far as music goes, but love her honesty and courage!

  19. Neon Trees was on a national morning TV show in Australia this week.

    Often we get BYU sponsored groups, mostly mormon mush music, but do firesides for youth.

    Would be good to see a group like Neon Trees used as an example for our youth- they have actually achieved something with their abilities. Not holdng my breath.

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