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OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder talks Adele, Elton and 1D
Ryan Tedder is the charismatic face, and voice of Colorado’s OneRepublic, and he enjoyed a massive 2013, including a UK number one hit, Counting Stars. We had a chance to catch up with the singer to chat about the band's current UK tour as well as the numerous projects that he has planned with other artists.
Hey Ryan, how has the tour been going so far?
Good, really good, this is the best tour worldwide that we've ever had. From America to Australia to Asia to the Middle East. It's just been nuts. With us it's always been a very slow and steady rise. In the UK, our last album - it was one of two territories where it's practically non-existent. But everywhere else in the world it was still just kind of going like this. So for us, we have to swallow our pride a little bit. We have to ditch half our production, half the tracks we're using, half of everything from our last show in Luxemburg to come over here, but we also understand why. It's what happens when you're making up for lost time, essentially on this album.
You've also been busy writing plenty of songs for others, including a collaboration with Swedish House Mafia on a song for Elton John. How did that come about?
That's a damn good question, Sebastian Ingrosso approached me about nine months ago, I've been collaborating with Sebastian for a while now, a number of years. We did Coachella together and now obviously I'm doing stuff with Alesso. I don't work with a lot of dance guys, you know, I'm not all of a sudden becoming the 'hey, put me on your track guy', but with the Swedes, I found a particularly intimate connection musically. I quietly worship the whole Swedish music scene, both the unknown artists that are around right now and the underground Swedish hip-hop - going back to Abba and dudes like Max Martin. Swedes get music in a different way to any other culture does and so I jump at the chance to work with those guys. And I love Swedish House Mafia – if I'm being totally honest, I think they're amazing.
'After the show Elton John summoned me and I sat next to him for the next hour talking music'
So they approached me. I'd met Elton, he came to a private gig we did in New York some two to three years ago. We did an eight-song set, and half way through the second song he walks through the back door with David Furnish and right towards me, and I'm just like [shocked face]. Right after the show he summoned me and I sat next to him for the next hour talking music and he knew every song that was on the charts that week, and the week before. He reads Billboard cover to cover every single week, he buys 20 albums a week, on Sundays he goes to record stores and buys 20 albums, listens to all of them, reads the lyrics. He is like, a music fan to the bone. So I jumped at the chance of working with him.
So, I was just presented with the idea, and of course my second question was "well, where's Bernie Taupin, why isn't he writing the thing?" and they were like, "he's not writing right now, he's taking a hiatus or whatever, we want you to write it and as he always does, Elton will do the melody." So finally, I came up with the verses nine months ago and he recorded them immediately, and I’ve had a version of him singing the verses for the last nine months in my pocket and I couldn't figure out the chorus, that happens sometimes, like with the new song, Love Runs Out, I had the verses for a year but couldn't figure out the chorus until three months ago, sometimes that happens, And then, like two weeks ago, I figured out the chorus, sent it to the Swedes, and it was like, [clicks finger] right, let's do it.
Elton John is just one of so many amazing people that you've worked with....
I've been very lucky. If anything it's been a process. You do one thing and hope that it's good enough that you do another thing. I'm just like anyone else, you know. I feel like in a way it's like an architect, you know – just because you built one great house it doesn't mean you get to build another one. Maybe it sounds ridiculous but I'm still surprised when I get phone calls from certain people. To this day I'm still caught off guard by certain people calling me, to work. I'm amazed they even know who I am. I've spent so many years behind the scenes, even though I'm in this band and this is my day job, there has always been a pretty distinct separation between OneRepublic and all the other stuff.
How do you decide what is a One Republic song, and what is a song for someone else?
Well, if you really go through the stuff that we've done, there are very few songs that we've put out, very few, that if you're using your kind of pop culture ears, and thinking about other artists, there are very few songs, if any – maybe Apologise, it's the only song that I can think of – that could have made sense on a number of artists. All the other stuff that we've done was very singular to us. The lyrics are very internal, they're all about my perspective, I'm not writing them for someone else. So, Counting Stars – think hard, who else would sing that? There's not a whole lot of artists. I couldn't have taken that song and shopped it around the music industry, like: "hey Beyoncé, or hey Justin, or hey, fill in the blank artists, would you record this?" It's not that kind of song, and I write from an artist’s perspective, I also produce from an artist’s prospective so I always have the artist in mind, and I don't want to do generic s**t that could be covered by anybody. So for us, I try to make it very personal and singular. All the while – for sure in the UK, as we practically disappeared on our second album – we're still establishing our identity, so Counting Stars is very much representative of where we're at, and Love Runs Out, the next single, is even more so and then we'll probably put out one or two songs from the album. All the songs combined equal what we are right now and of course two years from now that will evolve into something else.
"I'm in far too many moods to make one style of music"
A lot of bands have a very distinct sound that's very defined but in my mind the average music listener right now doesn't listen to music that way. Music has changed so much over the last 10 years, where you used to buy a handful of albums, because they were so expensive you would get married to those albums, you would attach or define yourself by your taste in music, by those albums. Now everybody is a walking playlist, pretty much every human being on Earth right now is a playlist of infinite songs, and one minute it's Vampire Weekend, the next minute it's Beyoncé, the next minute it's James Blake and that's me. So in a weird way our band is a reflection of that, of the state of music, which is eclectic. What mood are you in right now? I'm in far too many moods to make one style of music.
Is there a song that you've written, either for OneRepublic or another artist, of which you are most proud?
I'm so proud of our new single, I know it's so cheesy to say that but I don't ever really say that. The next song that we're about to put out, Love Runs Out, I'm incredibly proud of that song, because it's like a jolt of adrenaline. It's rough round the edges, it's raw, it's aggressive, but it's got a spirituality about it, it feels like church but in a modern way.
You've been working with Adele on her new album, what can we expect from that?
It's going to be like Portishead meets Weird Al Yankovic... Just kidding. I haven't heard everything she's done, but I've heard everything we've done and I'm as proud of it, or prouder of anything we did on the first album, and she is sounding even better than ever. She will deliver the album on her own timetable, at her own pace, and the only person that will ever declare it finished will be her, when she decides it's finished.
So, you don't know when we can be expecting the album then?
Oh my god, you know, I could probably guess when Christ is going to return more accurately than when that album will come out. And that doesn't mean it's going to be a while, it just means I have no idea.
How about whether or not Adele will perform the album, considering her much publicised fear of performing live?
I can't get into the minutia of her touring or not. I personally wouldn't use the word fear, from conversations I've had with her, I don't think she has a fear of it. She's a mother, she has a young kid. And when I'm on tour, I've been gone for a year, I have another maybe 10 or 11 months left before I'm home home, like for more than a few weeks. So that takes a certain frame of mind to be in and the fact remains that most artists have to tour, that's the bread and butter, that's how they make a living.
When you sell 30 million albums, on one album, she can do whatever the hell she wants to do until forever. So, if she decided to tour, I'm sure it will be the most incredible tour ever and if she decides not to, it will have no bearing on how amazing the album itself is because she's one in a million, one in a hundred million, one in a billion, that's a better example. She can do what she wants to do and my whole role, as pertains to her, is to facilitate in whatever way possible. Any talent or ability I have is at her disposal for as much or as little as she wants it, for as long or as little as she needs it. I'm happy to be a part of the ride.
What are your thoughts on One Direction's global success? Would you ever have any interest on working with them? Do you plan to?
I got to know those guys fairly well, and I was saying the other day that it's amazing how many artists have had a fraction of the success that they've had who all of a sudden get a big head and get this air about them of importance, or this entourage of people. I missed the whole boyband era altogether and clearly that's not what I do, or what I'm in, but I've got to say, those guys are the most down-to-earth dudes that you can possibly be at their level of fame. I like them so much and I think they're crazy talented.
"They're changing the definition of what it means to be in a boyband"
That song, Story of my Life - my friend Jamie Scott co-wrote it with them. I think he is one of the best songwriters there is, and best singers there is. I think he's going to do a lot of [their] next album and if logistically we ever end up back in a room together, yeah I wouldn't hesitate. They're changing the definition of what it means to be in a boyband, and it's transcending the teen-pop sensation thing. That song, Story of my Life, and that album is interesting because it is a huge departure from predictable teen boyband pop, it’s venturing into the territory of what anybody would want to be, which is a band which puts out great songs that connect with millions of people. I'm almost proud to say that it couldn't happen to a group of more down-to-earth, nicer guys. The music snob in me would of course want to shoot holes in anything that's too poptastic, but I can't shoot holes in any of that. They're cool, man.
You mention music snobbery, have you experienced much of that as a result of your work on The Voice US, it being a popular reality show?
I personally haven't because my role there is as a coach. I almost feel like I was brought in as an expert witness, like in a trial, and that's what the mentors feel like. They brought in me, Ed Sheeran and Miguel, so if there's music snobbery, you've got three Grammy winners. Four – Cher, who's won every award known to man. So in my mind, the team that I was part of that season, functioning in the capacity that we did – I didn't experience any music snobbery. It didn't have any negative impact on us.
The Voice in the US is a different animal to The Voice in the UK, so I will say that. In every country the perception of The Voice is different. I'm not up to speed with the perception in the UK, but in the US it's the most popular show on television, all you ever hear is how much people loved it. Doing The Voice US would be like being on The Today Show. No one looks down on it because it was done so well from the beginning. I know in the UK it struggled for the first season.
It was up against The X Factor.
Ok, well any time you go toe to toe with Simon Cowell, you better put your gloves on.
OneRepublic's album, Native is available now on Mosley Music/Interscope Records.
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