OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder on ‘Pushing the Envelope’ With New Album, Today’s ‘Homogenized’ Music & His Grammy Night Plans

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OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder performs onstage at Hilton launches integrated music program “Music Happens Here,” celebrating travel through music in partnership with Live Nation and Spotify at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Feb. 8, 2017 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
In addition to addressing an intimate crowd about the hopeful end to California’s drought and humble beginnings of being a “broke-ass” in L.A., Ryan Tedder had other things on his mind Wednesday night at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills.

Shortly before taking the hotel’s outdoor rooftop stage for an 11-song performance to kick off the Spotify-exclusive Music Happens Here series for members of the Hilton Honors program, Tedder and his four OneRepublic bandmates sat down with Billboard.

Below, Tedder gets candid about the band’s new album, Oh My My, the unoriginality of today’s music and how the singer and producer — who has an album of the year nomination for his work on Adele’s 25 — plans to spend his Grammy night.

Do you guys prefer performing in front of an intimate audience like tonight, or huge audiences?

They’re different. They break up the monotony. Diversity is what makes the world go ’round. It’s the same with us. You want to do a tour, and then if you do that for months and months on end and you randomly play a club or someone’s house, that’s like the most fun gig you’ve had in months because it’s completely the opposite. I think the key is just mixing it up.

Now let’s talk about the new album. You guys have gone in a slightly different musical direction this time around. Tell me about that decision.

We chased a lot of rabbits that didn’t go anywhere. We tried to push the envelope. A big part of it was coming off our third album doing as well as it did, we kind of felt like we should — it’s our responsibility — to push the envelope. That was the conversation we had. It would have been easy, I think, if we had just sat down and just dialed up a bunch of pop records and been like, “Here,” but nothing in our soul wanted to do that. And so we really had the most fun — stressful and fun — exploring every kind of music that we really liked, and seeing what versions of them worked for us and which ones didn’t. That’s really what the album turned into — us trying to push the envelope and seeing what we could get away with.

I like that you still went with your own thing. It doesn’t sound like everything else on the radio.

It’s interesting. It is a weird time. It’s the most homogenized period of music I’ve seen in my life on earth. It’s definitely the most homogenized time I’ve seen as a record-maker. It’s the first time I’ve seen since I’ve professionally been making music since 2004 or 2005 where music is so in a similar vein that outlying records don’t really connect in the same way they used to.

This is a whole other conversation, but the last couple of weeks, I’ve had this conversation with different artists I’ve been working with who are making records and are finishing their albums. Every one of them is a little scared because as they’re making great records the best they know how, they’re going, “Oh, my god, music has changed so much in the last 12 months that I feel like I don’t sound like what’s happening, then it won’t work.” There’s a big fear with a lot of artists putting material out: “If I don’t have something that fits the mold of 2017 — if it doesn’t sound like an island [Laughs] — nobody’s going to want to buy this.”

The analogy that I’ve come up with is — and I wasn’t alive for this era, but I’ve been told what it’s like — it’s the most similar to the disco era. During the disco era, new radio formats came out that were disco only, and there were rock bands that made disco records, because if you didn’t make disco music from 1978-80, you couldn’t get on the radio. So all these bands and artists were making disco records because they felt like if they weren’t making disco records, no one was going to play it. This is the closest to that time that I’ve ever seen. So, you’ve just got to do what you do. I don’t know if it’s as narrow-minded as the disco era was, but it feels like that.

It’s a very homogenous era. There are still some great songs and records that come through, but I had somebody say to me two days ago: “I’m excited to make this album. I believe in the music I’m doing and I’m making the best records I can, but if I’m being honest, I don’t think that anything I’m doing or anything I’m hearing right now is going to be around five years from now.” It’s just the nature of where it’s at. It’s weird. It’ll change though, everything does. A year from now, we’ll be talking about, “Remember when everything was the same and it’s different now?”

Congratulations on your Grammy nomination this year. How are you preparing for the big night?

My god, how much is too much? [Laughs] The most important decision is where I’m going to eat afterwards, which has already been squared away and reserved. It’s one of two or three restaurants downtown. Italian restaurant, seafood restaurant, Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles is bomb. I would do that. All I’m ever thinking by the mid-point of the Grammys is — and this sounds terrible, forgive me — I underestimate how much I should eat before the Grammys because I’m thinking about the dinner after and I don’t eat. I was dying [in the past]. I was so hungry that I was like hearing white noise. My wife was like, “I think your category is coming up.” I was like, “I don’t give a shit what category is coming up. I just want to go eat.”

This year, I’m going to try to sleep a lot the night before. I never stay awake late enough for the parties. Every single Grammys, I run into all the other artists who are my friends and they’re like, “Are you going to the Chainsmokers party? Are you going to the Ed Sheeran party?” or whatever the party is, and I’m like, “Yeah, I’m going, I’m going.” We finish dinner and every year, my wife and I are like, “Should we just go home? Netflix?” Like, what’s better: the new season of Homeland or the afterparty?

Have you and Adele touched base at all? Talked about your excitement or anything? Or is she just doing her own thing?

She’s just doing her own thing. I’m lucky enough to work with a lot of artists, and there are only a handful that I, like, really get on a friend level where I’m talking to them on more of a weekly basis. With her, well, she does change her number a fair amount, so I might communicate with her occasionally by email. She’s always very sweet, but there are maybe two or three artists where it crosses over from from we’re friendly and we work together, to, oh, I think we’re actually friends. There are only a couple artists where I’d consider myself, I’d actually go and hang out with you regardless of music or anything like that.

With her, I’ll see her on the night and her manager Jonathan Dickins. Now that you said it, I’ll probably send her an email. Is there a fingers-crossed emoji? I’m going to text her a bunch of finger-crossed emojis and a bunch of unicorns and rainbows.

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