It’s hard to break into the music industry and become a success; remaining a success can be even harder. But Ryan Tedder has found a productive formula.
The frontman for the pop chart powerhouse OneRepublic has also written some of the biggest hits in music for other artists, like Beyoncé and Adele. But he hasn’t let success get to his head.
Tedder says music is a way to make a living by doing what he loves.
“Ryan, you’ve said it’s hard to know when you have a hit. That doesn’t seem to be a problem for you,” said co-anchor Gayle King.
“For OneRepublic, it’s difficult,” he replied. “Writing them for other artists is a lot easier for me than it is writing for OneRepublic.”
Those other artists include some of music’s biggest stars and most popular songs, including Beyoncé’s “Halo,” Adele’s “Rumor Has It,” and Ellie Goulding’s “Burn.”
It’s safe to say Tedder is a hitmaker.
He invited King to watch him film One Republic’s newest video, “Let’s Hurt Tonight,” a song featured in the new movie, “Collateral Beauty”:
And though the first take sounded great, there was one detail that bothered him: “Sorry, guys; that’s what happens when you don’t cut your hair for nine months,” he said, going under the scissors.
It’s important to look good when you’re one of the hottest commodities in music. That’s not where Tedder expected to be a decade ago.
Before the song “Apologize” (from OneRepublic’s album, “Dreaming Out Loud”) was released, the band was cut by their record label. “There was a period around 2006, the label that we were on, where they were kind of cleaning house,” Tedder said. “So we got dropped the same week that Katy Perry got dropped.
“Man, I remember driving back from my manager’s house in Laurel Canyon. I was sunk, ‘cause I had put three years of my life into it at that point. We had, like, ten shows left as One Republic. So I was like, ‘Well, let’s keep our commitments and finish these shows and then by June we’re done’ – like, we were gonna break up as a band.”
But then, he said, “We start playing the shows and they start selling out. It was the weirdest time period, because it went, like, 40 people, 150, 400, 500, 1,100. And we were selling out. And that’s when Interscope showed up. They said, ‘We want to do a deal. We want to do it right now.’ And then ‘Apologize’ just exploded.”
“Apologize” would spend 25 consecutive weeks on Billboard’s Top 10 chart.
And then, “Stop and Stare” became a second, big hit for OneRepublic, “which kind of cemented the band.”
“I told the band if we can’t get another hit record off this album, we’re done,” Tedder said. “I’m not gonna be the one-hit wonder, like VH-1, Where Are They Now?” he laughed. “The ‘Apologize’ band of 2007! Because that’s what we were, the ‘Apologize band,’ until ‘Stop and Stare.’ And that kind of rescued us from the one-hit wonderdom. This cannot be our fate!”
“You did not want to be a one-hit wonder?”
“No. I was desperate to not be. I’d rather be known as a writer and a producer than this band that just, like, goes BOOM! and then just kind of flitters out like a firework.”
Around the same time OneRepublic was catching on, Tedder’s career as an independent songwriter was also heating up.
That big break came after writing “Do It Well” for Jennifer Lopez.
Then, Tedder recalled, “a publishing company came to me and was like, ‘We want to sign you. We’ll give you a $75,000 advance, based off just that one song.’ I mean, my brain melted. I was like, ‘That’s it, T.G.I. Friday’s on me! Let’s go! I’m gonna buy out the house!’” he laughed. “Or Olive Garden, you know, yeah, seriously. Or take your pick. There’s Cheesecake Factory!”
You’d think as the Grammy-nominated owners of a platinum and two gold albums, OneRepublic would be unmistakable. Not so.
Tedder explained their name change, and the resulting confusion: “We were called Republic. I still love that name. [But] every time you Google Republic, China pops up. Republic of China. So I was sitting around with my band, I went, ‘God, you know, how many records do we have to sell before we out-Google China?’ And the answer is a billion! It’s impossible.”
“So you added the One?” King asked.
“We added the One, that’s really where it came from. And I actually still wish we were called Republic. I mean on the record, because there’s been enough Freudian slips with DJs and presenters ever since the boy band from the U.K. [One Direction] came out with the name that they had.
“It happened three days ago, where a guy’s like, ‘Hey, is everybody excited to have One Direction in the house?’ And I was just like, God! And the whole crowd just starts booing. And he’s like, ‘What happened?’ And we’re like, ‘Dude, I’m too old for this.’
But Tedder puts his songwriting ahead of his fame. He hopes to stay relevant by not sticking to one style — calling himself a Swiss army knife of music.
“And as music evolves, I’ll just evolve with it. And if it means I never get a name for myself as, ‘Oh, man, I just love his sound!’ that’s fine, because I will be able to pay my mortgage. And I’ll be able to fix my car and have a life. I’ll be able to eat. I’ll be able to go to Cheesecake Factory, you know? So anything beyond living is just, like, extra.”