Not many people know the name Aja Volkman, but when I heard about this project I couldn’t think of any more deserving living person of being shared. Aja is a strong and badass female role model. She was the front woman of Nico Vega from 2005 to 2018 when the band released their final EP, Wars. She’s also known as the wife of Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons with whom she performed music under the name Egyptian from 2010-2011. She also started her own solo career in 2015.All the music Aja produces whether individual or with a group all has one thing in common: her energy, her caring soul, and her individuality.
Born in Eugene, Oregon on March 4 in a year that differs depending on the source looked up, Aja first tried out acting. At the California Institute for Art, her professor had her sing Janis Joplin on stage. Aja loved the way it made her feel saying “`By the end of the year I was like, ‘What am I doing in theater school when I can feel like that?’ This is who I am. It’s me at my most honest. It’s vulnerable, but I feel like it’s the most honest I can be.”
She went on to form Nico Vega with Rich Koehler and Dan Epand in Los Angeles. They soon put out EPs and were signed by Myspace Records (yes, that was a thing). The band was known for positive messages and the fact that Aja was all over the stage in her bare feet, small body, and a huge voice. Two of their best songs were “Easier” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snucYGt9gKw) and “I Believe, Get Over Yourself” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=399zTE6FwtY)
At a show in Las Vegas, their opening band had car problems. Their manager’s baby brother had a band that was called in at the last moment to play. The lead singer of that opening band watched Aja on stage and later said it was “love at first sight”. The singer was Dan Reynolds and the band was Imagine Dragons. Their dating life wasn’t the normal movies and love letters. They wrote music together which became the group Egyptian. Many of these videos can still be found on YouTube like “The Truth” (https://youtu.be/zR6afyrXSDI)
It wasn’t long before they got married. Aja’s roommates refused to attend their wedding as they were lesbians and Dan was a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints which had just been working against same sex marriage. As seen in the documentary, Believer, Aja has been a large part of helping Dan see the need to become allies for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Arrow was the first child to appear. While pregnant with her, Aja told the LA Weekly Blog “We both have incredibly positive messages in our music, and I hope that she can see that we have both used our ability to write as an aid in self-empowerment.” They now have two twin girls as well, Coco and Gia, as well as a boy on the way.
I have had the blessing of getting to know Aja personally. The first time I met her in person was at Imagine Dragons Into The Night tour when Nico Vega was doing a meet and greet. I was towards the end of the line and they ran out of posters to sign. Instead of turning away the rest of the line, they made sure everyone had copies of an EP for them to sign. They were more generous than anyone needed to be.
Later in 2014, I won a video chat with Aja, there were originally supposed to be 15 people involved in the group chat, but most of them couldn’t make it at the last moment so it ended up being Aja, the lady who runs the foundation that organized the chat, me, and one other person who had to leave halfway through. Aja made the whole thing feel like I was just talking to an old friend about life and was very encouraging about things I was nervous over.
In 2015 I met her at Imagine Dragons’ event Dragons Take Vegas, which I went to shortly after being released from the hospital for suicidal thoughts. She gave me a big hug and made sure I was okay during the whole event, when one of the songs hit close to home and I had to sit on the ground, and then when I got separated from my friends at dinner she came and sat with me. And when I told her when she came over she made it feel like I was at the cool kids table she told me, “It was already that with you sitting here.”
In 2016 we saw each other at an art gallery opening for one of our mutual friends, Tim Cantor, and while a friend of mine and myself were talking to her about siblings and large families and I mentioned I was from a small family she told me that family sometimes isn’t always by blood, referring to herself, Dan, and some of their other family I got to know over the years.
I also ran into her at First Friday’s in Las Vegas and when she realized I was by myself, she came over and invited me to come by Dan and their daughter Arrow for a bit. We ran into each other again during the concert at First Fridays that night and we stood together and talked for a bit afterwards, and she made sure I got to the rideshare pickup and back to my dorm safely.
These are just some of the ways Aja has been a strong role model for me in ways beyond her music. While that is a big part of it, she also extends her caring and loving soul to people all around the world through her actions and trying to make this world a better place. And to me she is a prime example of an incredible woman of living history.
Written by Faith Coco Moore (they/them) from Olathe, Kansas. Follow them on Twitter or Facebook! This project, Tales from Wo-Fan’s Land, is a series of stories written by Frank Turner fans, inspired by his new album No Man’s Land.
- Register-Guard Newspaper
- LA Weekly Blog