There are in-demand songwriters all over the world. And then there’s Ryan Tedder. The OneRepublic frontman has penned some stunning standards with his own Denver-based outfit, to be sure, like their breakthrough ballad “Apologize,” plus “Stop And Stare” and the recent classical-inspired minuet “All The Right Moves.” But those are just the first few tentative entries in his now-overflowing composition book. In a few brief years, the Grammy-nominated Tedder has become the go-to writer/producer of modern-rock recordings, with such hits to his credit as Beyonce’s “Halo,” Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love” and “Battlefield” by Jordin Sparks. To date, he’s worked with: Adele, Daughtry, Chris Cornell, Kelly Clarkson, Whitney Houston, Natasha Bedingfield, Jennifer Hudson and dozens of others. We caught up with him yesterday, while he caught his breath before heading to San Francisco this Sunday for Alice Radio’s free Summerthing concert in Golden Gate Park (noon to 5 p.m., Speedway Meadow; visit www.radioalice.com for details). And he had much to say.
Click the picture at right for more shots of Ryan Tedder.
Adele just said that she loved your work ethic. What is your work ethic and process? I think what it is, is this — long after I’m dead, all these songs will still be there. The cool thing about writing music, writing anything, is that once you publish it, it’s there forever. And I’ve always kept that in the back of my mind — that my name is attached to all these entities floating around for basically all of eternity. And the thing about songs is, you never know how many lives they’ll lead or how many times they’ll get covered. So I have this where it has to be ... not perfect, because I don’t think songs can be perfect. But you’re chasing perfection. With each song, I’m trying to make it the absolute best version of itself that it can be. And with each artist, I’m trying to do the same thing, too — to fit my mold to them, find what I think is great about them and what my favorite aspect of them is, and then put a huge magnifying glass on that so that everybody else can see.
With “All The Right Moves” and its parent album “Waking Up,” you’re actually plundering classical music, unheard of outside of ELO. Yeah. That’s really the jumping-off point for our band. Both me and Brent (Kutzle, cellist/bassist) had a classical upbringing. And we actually snatched him out of college — he was finishing his last year, majoring in classical cello when he joined the band. He’s a huge Dvorak fan, and we’re both massive Beethoven fans — Beethoven’s Sixth is an absolute pop masterpiece. And it is classical — it’s never going anywhere. One Republic will come and go, but Mozart’s always gonna be there. It’s built into the fabric of every human being on Earth, and if you can tap into it? It just resonates. So that’s where that album’s primary inspiration came from.
Where are you going with the next one? It consumes me, the direction of the next album. We blew up with this remixed pop hit that was never supposed to come out, “Apologize,” and it just launched us into the stratosphere. Even though that was never the sound or direction that we wanted. So for our next one, just to put out more songs that are just catchy enough, or out-there enough, I just don’t wanna do that. I wanna put out a life-changing album. And what’s been really hitting me lately is a lot of 1940s music — a lot of Gospel-influenced music and old blues stuff. Muddy Waters has been on constant repeat. So Gospel and Southern spirituals — I’m trying to figure out a way to make that connect.
How do your songwriting offers arrive? Funnily enough, they come either through running into somebody or through my management. But sometimes I’ll randomly get an email from an artist, and I’ll think “Whoa! I didn’t even know they had my email address!” But Florence (Welch) of Florence + The Machine started reaching out to me about a year ago through a mixing engineer, who said “She’s a massive fan of yours, and you’re one of the only collaborators she wants to work with.” We’re still trying to book a session. And then there’s the Canadian artist LIGHTS — I actually tracked her down, because she had this song called “Face Up” and I just became obsessed with it. And I ended up with Common in the studio, working with Colbie Caillat, But then Common and I really connected, and now I’m working on his new record. And in the last two months, I did a song on Beyonce’s new album, a handful of Carrie Underwood songs, a Rascal Flatts song, and then went into the studio with B.o.B. for a week. And I just did the music for Gucci — a super-electro/ambient track for their new campaign that you wouldn’t think I had anything to do with. I’m hopscotching genres, and that’s my favorite way to do it. And now I’m definitely trying to get in with Paul McCartney. That’s my ultimate goal in collaboration — McCartney.
And it’s kind of scary when you think about it — how do you write an original song that no one’s heard before? It is so difficult. Because the world is literally filling up with them. It’s like a marina that’s filling up with boats. There are only 500 slips, and right now there are about 400 boats. And the boats just keep on pulling into the marina — that’s how it feels.