In Does Rock 'N' Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder, who’s also the purveyor of top-drawer pop tunes for the likes of Beyoncé, Adele, Taylor Swift, and the Jonas Brothers.
1: What did Paul McCartney want the original lyric in ‘Fuh You’ to be?
“(Laughs) So he originally sang ‘I just want to for you’ and I said: ‘Man, to my American brain, it sounds like you’re saying I just want to fuck you – I don’t think you can say that’. He was like (He does a pitch-perfect Macca imitation): ‘But what if it’s true?’ So then he started singing ‘I just want to shag you’, and I was like that doesn’t work either! We had a back and forth debate and settled on ‘Fuh’. I’m pretty sure that’s how the conversation went.”
CORRECT. He claimed he wanted the chorus to be ‘I just want to shag you’. The naughty imp.
“He was unbelievably incredible. He’s my favourite session of all time. He has the non-stop energy of a 25 year old. Whatever pills or juice he’s on, I need to get because he was just a ball of energy and super talented and kind. Any Beatles song I mentioned, he told me the full story behind it. It was like hanging out with archival footage.”
2: What total do you get if you add up the numbers in the titles of your Grammy winning albums?
“That’s really clever! Hold on, I’m trying to do the math in my head. ‘21’ plus ‘25’ plus ‘1989’ equals 2035.”
CORRECT. It’s Adele’s ‘21’ and ‘25’ plus Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’.
“Winning the first Grammy for Adele’s ‘21’ was like getting a weight off my chest, ‘cos my goal was just to win one. Nobody’s going to beat Alison Krauss [who’s won 27 Grammys] or Quincy Jones  so at a certain point, whether you have one or 15, who cares? I’d be more interested in winning an Emmy or Tony Award now than stacking up Grammys. So the first one meant the world to me. Then I thought Taylor Swift was going to win for ‘1989’ so I was going to be disappointed if she didn’t. Neither Adele or I thought we’d win for ‘25’. We were sitting next to each other and both thought Beyoncé was going to win. I was ready to go, saying to my wife: ‘Can we get the hell out of here and go eat dinner?’ – because you can leave during any commercial break. She’s like ‘Wait – they’re about to announce album of the year’. So when Adele won, we all looked at each other like ‘What?!’”
3: Which animals feature in the Jonas Brothers’ ‘Sucker’ video?
“What the hell?! Um, peacock?”
WRONG. It’s rabbits, dogs and Kevin rides a toy sheep.
“Oh shit! You got me!”
You’ve produced/written their upcoming new album ‘Happiness Begins’…
“If every artist was like the Jonas Brothers, I would probably write and produce music until I’m 70. Unfortunately that’s not the case! They show up on time, you’re done by dinner – ‘cos they have wives and want to have a life, so it’s not like a lot of sessions where you work all night into the early morning. They’re funny, easy, and super-fast at writing and recording. They’ve been doing this since they were 11. Every time I work with a Disney artist and I’ve worked with most of them – from Demi Lovato to Ariana Grande – it’s the same. Whenever you work with Ariana, your session lasts 45 minutes because she walks in, sings it in three takes and then she gives you a hug and walks out the door. So I have a thing for the Nickelodeon and Disney kids ‘cos they’re so professional and quick.”
4: Who covered Beyoncé’s ‘Halo’ in Radio 1’s Live Lounge in 2012?
“You’re going to drive me nuts! I absolutely remember this! (Long pause) Florence + the Machine!”
What’s been your most surreal moment with Beyoncé?
“When we were in the Hamptons at this 100,000 square foot house she rented when I was writing for the ‘Beyoncé’ album. It was a big camp at a gorgeous mansion. She’s walking around with Blue Ivy on her hip and Jay-Z’s hanging out. It’s me, Sia, James Fauntleroy, Hit-Boy, Greg Kurstin – and The Machine from ‘Florence +’ ironically! – writing for Beyoncé in different rooms, and she’s floating between them. That was the same week I wrote the OneRepublic song ‘Counting Stars’ -one of the mornings I got up early and wrote the chorus, and I tucked that away for myself. And I ended up writing ‘XO’ for her. But just seeing her in her normal life with her kids and everybody having dinner together and Sia telling dirty jokes at the table – she tells the world’s most unrepeatable disgusting jokes! – and watching Jay-Z laugh at her gross gags was a surreal experience.”
5: What was the name of the Pink tour that OneRepublic were the support act on?
“Holy hell, did we open up for Pink? (Realising) Oh my God, we did! And Paolo Nutini was on before us. I remember the theme was a circus act.”
WRONG. Close – it was the Funhouse tour.
“Man, I forgot we did those shows!”
You worked with her on her new album ‘Hurts 2B Human’…
“I did the new single for the UK ‘Can We Pretend’. Our session was a year ago and about five hours long. We joked and laughed for four hours straight then she was like: ‘Shit, I’ve got to go home in an hour!’. So we wrote it in about an hour and recorded it that night. Then it was off the album, then on the album – it was one of those songs I never knew what was going to happen with it, like Ellie Goulding’s ‘Burn’ where it went through so many life cycles, and I wasn’t sure who was going to put it out. But she’s super-talented lyricist and incredibly funny.”
6: At 21, you won an MTV singer-songwriter competition for the chance of a record deal involving ‘N Sync’s Lance Bass. Can you name two of the other judges?
“I can – Brian McKnight and Pink.”
Now things have come full-circle and you’re producing and judging your own songwriting talent show Songland..
“I’ve turned down all TV things before, but this is the first one I wanted to do because it’s time the songwriter gets their due. We’re the ones who get shuffled under the rug and are anonymous. But without songs, these artists don’t have arena tours, merchandise or Radio 1 playlisting. You’ve dozens of shows focused on food – like MasterChef and Iron Chef – and the only thing people consume more than food is music so it stands to reason they’d be interested in how hit records are made. This is The Great British Bake Off of songwriting (Laughs).”
What TV offers have you turned down?
“I’ve turned down a chair on The X Factor in the UK. I turned down The Four – which Diddy and DJ Khaled did – because it was weird as hell. In the same year, I got an offer from The Voice UK and The Voice Australia and the thought of flying of flying between London and Sydney for six months – which is what will.i.am does – didn’t appeal.”
7: What number did OneRepublic with Seeb’s ‘Rich Love’ reach in the Swedish charts?
“Oh God – that’s hilarious! I’m going to totally make this number up. Six?”
WRONG. It was ten.
“Alright, top ten! I wrote that very quickly and sent it to the Seeb guys because I liked the remix of Coldplay’s ‘Adventures of a Lifetime’, and it took six months to get it done. I remember being at Paul McCartney’s studio when I got the final version back and walking up and down the streets of Rye until 2am listening to it because I really loved it.”
You’ve just released new single ‘Rescue Me’. What can we expect from future OneRepublic music?
“We haven’t actively promoted anything since 2016, so for me to get off my ass and re-engage with fans, I’ve had to have a collection of songs I genuinely love – these are the best we’ve done in ages. We’ve taken our time and hope to get an album out by September.”
8: Complete the following lyrics: ‘Tell me how them girls don’t mean a thing/And how you only have them eyes for me’…
“(Sings to himself). Oh God, this is driving me crazy! What lyric is that?! Oh hold on…I think it’s a song I did with Stargate for a band with Sugar in their name. Sugagirls?”
WRONG. It’s the Sugababes’ ‘Thank You For The Heartbreak’, and the rest of the lyrics are: ‘Then buy me some more flowers when you get caught/Another empty promise fresh out the box.’
“That’s the only Sugababes song I ever did – I wrote it with Stargate and the guy [Claude Kelly] who did Britney Spears’ ‘Circus’ and Kelly Clarkson’s ‘My Life Would Suck Without You’.”
9: Which three artists did you once tell Timbaland you wanted to be?
“Man, you’re digging deep! I’m gonna get this wrong, but Peter Gabriel, U2 and Jeff Buckley.”
WRONG. It’s Oasis, U2 and Pixies.
“I was going to say Oasis instead of Peter Gabriel! Them and U2 for sure. I don’t know why I said the Pixies – I was more into the Doves.”
You supported U2 on tour, but have you met Oasis yet?
“We were promoting OneRepublic’s second album ‘Waking Up’ in the UK and our label rep is married to Andy Bell – the bassist in Oasis and Beady Eye. And we worshipped Oasis. We get invited to Liam’s birthday. I forget if Oasis had broken up at this point but they were close enough that Noel was there. It’s us, Noel, Beady Eye, some High Flying Birds and OneRepublic – spot the odd one out! (Laughs). It made no sense that we were there. Liam steps outside to have a cigarette and the next thing, the door bursts open and somebody yells: ‘Oi guys! Get out of here! Liam’s just busted some guy in the head!’ We walk outside and Liam’s being handcuffed – he’s got a cop wrestling his arms – and he’s yelling: ‘You fucking cunts!’”
“Here’s what happened. Some drunk guy had stumbled down the road and goes: ‘Aren’t you that guy in Oasis? I think you’re band sucks’. Liam replies: ‘Say that to my face, mate!’ So the guy walks up to him and is like: ‘I think your band…’ – and then POW! Liam fucking knocks him to the ground, gets into a fight and has to be dragged off him – then he’s being arrested by a police officer with blood pouring down his nose. And we were just dying, like ‘Of course! The first time we’re with Oasis, Liam gets in a fistfight because some drunk guy tells him his band sucks!’.
10: What’s the B-side to ‘Bleeding Love’ by Leona Lewis?
“I was just with Leona the other day. I seem to remember having a conversation with Simon Cowell about what the B-side would be. I know the album was ‘Spirit’. Was it something like ‘Happiness’?
WRONG. It was ‘Forgiveness’.
“Yeah! I got the ‘ness’ part right. (Laughs)”
The verdict: 4/10
“A solid 4! (Laughs) This quiz was so random, it’s a headfuck.”
OneRepublic’s new single ‘Rescue Me’ is out now.