As well as fronting OneRepublic, the US band behind huge hits like ‘Counting Stars’ and ‘Apologize’, Ryan Tedder has what he calls a “day job” co-writing and producing smashes for the world’s biggest artists. Beyoncé’s ‘Halo’, Adele’s ‘Rumour Has It’ and Ellie Goulding’s ‘Burn’ are Tedder tunes, and he’s now working with U2 and The Killers too. As OneRepublic return with ‘Wherever I Go’, their slinkiest, funkiest single ever, NME sat down with a genuine contender for the title of ‘Most In Demand Man In Music’.
The new single has a pretty different sound for the band. Where did it come from?
“We were listening to a lot of late ’90s French and Italian disco records – stuff like Daft Punk, Cassius, Justice. We were also listening to a lot of Miike Snow and Mew and I became obsessed with the shape of those Scandinavian melodies, because they’re so different to American gospel and other things that we’ve done. And so it was a combination of chasing those records with songs that are very bass and riff-driven that led us to ‘Wherever I Go’. It felt like the first single because it’s a more digestible version of some of the other stuff we’ve done for the album. We could have put out other songs first that would have scared off a lot of our fans.”
Do you approach writing for OneRepublic differently to writing for other artists?
“In the time period we did this album, I worked with only four other artists: Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, U2 and Adele. Each one of those was compartmentalised. In the days leading up to the session I’d phase OneRepublic out of my brain and start listening to Ed or Sam or whoever so I could get into their headspace and drum up as many ideas as possible. Only in recent years have I started writing and producing for more male artists and bands, and it’s funny because then there could be more of a grey area. If you’re doing something with The Killers that you’re loving, you might think, ‘Shit! I wish OneRepublic had this.’ But it’s so rare that it actually happens because with OneRepublic I’m in such a different frame of mind.”
Is your role working with Adele different from your role working with The Killers?
“100% different. Brandon Flowers is a very pensive, interesting man and we’re very opposite in the way we communicate. We connected through Peter Gabriel. Over text I randomly asked him, ‘Do you like ‘Come Talk To Me?’ and he wrote back: “Peter Gabriel is one of my all-time top three artists, and ‘Come Talk To Me’ is my favourite Peter Gabriel song.’ That was the moment of connection. With U2, they literally brought me in for two days and I don’t know what test I was trying to pass but I got put through a gauntlet: I’d listen to their new records and then have to give my immediate feedback with all of them in the room staring at me. Brandon was more, I would say, trepidatious. With The Killers, we’re still in the process [of making the album] and I can’t speak as to their timing or anything. But I love what we’ve started immensely, obsessively even. It sounds 100% like them and nothing like me. The Killers self-produce, by the way. With bands, they might want someone like me in the room to help with the distilling process. I might come in with a melody or a lyric here and there, but the main part is keeping their identity intact while making it sound right for 2016. I have to have the balls to say to very successful and respected bands: ‘This particular melody or guitar part doesn’t sound modern.'”
What was your bonding moment with Adele?
“We got stuck in an elevator together in the London Hotel in LA the night of the Grammys. She’d just won Best New Artist and she had, like, 20 balloons, so it’s me, Adele and all these balloons and she’s like, ‘I’m so sorry about the balloons’. And then she does that cackle she does, you know? Then she was like, ‘I’ve been trying to get hold of you.’ I was like, ‘What?!’ She was like, ‘Yeah, because I’m such a fan. Would you write with me?’ In the US, no one really knew who she was, the Grammy kind of came out of nowhere, but I already loved ’19’ and had said to my management, ‘If you can ever get hold of Adele’s management, I don’t care that she’s a UK-centric artist, I wanna work with her.’ So it came about organically. The first day in the studio, I’d come up with an idea for ‘Turning Tables’ because the phrase reminded me of ‘Chasing Pavements’. We worked on the song, recorded it, and later that night I messaged her saying, ‘I’m sitting here listening to your song and I’m covered in goosebumps.’ And she wrote back saying, ‘I’m sitting here listening to it and I’m crying. Maybe that’s a good sign? That was when we really hit it off. She’s one of my favourite human beings. I could go on and on and on about her.”
Peter Gabriel features on your new album, but people might be more surprised to hear that Romy from the xx plays guitar on a track. How did that come about?
“We met through an A&R guy who sent me an email saying, ‘Would you ever wanna work with Romy from the xx?’ My immediate answer was ‘Of course’. She was in town for two days doing a very limited amount of co-writes and I was on this shortlist of people she’d want to co-write with. So me, Romy and [songwriter/producer] Benny Blanco, who’s one of my closest friends, went in [to the studio], just the three of us. We did this song super-fast and then it sat on the shelf for nine months before we rediscovered it, like, four months ago. I was like, ‘Oh my God’. So I emailed her and said, ‘Can we do a feature?’ She replied saying, ‘We’re doing our own album now but definitely keep the song because that would be amazing’. She was super-sweet about it. They’re not featuring on the track as such, but clearly I wrote it with her and I’m sure as shit not re-recording her guitar part because no one else sounds like her. We did the melody together and it was a true collaboration, it wasn’t just me taking the reins. It was a song that came about from going back and forth, back and forth.”
‘Wherever I Go’ by One Republic is out now. The band’s new album will follow later this year.