Ryan Tedder Talks Making the Band’s Poppiest Song Yet After Near-Breakdown

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Just one day before OneRepublic dropped their new song, “No Vacancy,” on Friday (April 28), frontman Ryan Tedder took to Facebook to give fans a little explanation as to why they’ve basically been MIA in the six months since releasing Oh My My. Instead of revealing that the (partial) hiatus was related to their upcoming material or pending summer tour, though, Tedder admitted something much more personal: The band came close to breaking up because he nearly suffered a mental breakdown.

In a lengthy open letter, Tedder explained the exhaustion that caused him to press pause on everything that was happening surrounding the album and OneRepublic as a band. But once he got the chance to go home, focus on his health, and really figure out what it was he wanted in terms of his own career and the future of his band, Tedder decided to do the opposite of quit. Rather, he got in the studio with other artists and created. One of those artists was Norwegian producer duo Stargate, with whom he wrote “No Vacancy” — a poppy, electronic track that’s an indication of the experimenting Tedder has been doing in the studio over the last four months.

Ahead of the single release, Billboard caught up with Tedder, a conversation during which the singer opened up about exactly what was addressed in his Facebook post. As expressed in the letter, in addition to the mental health matters, Tedder mentioned that his band will begin to release more new music than they’ve ever released before. This is because he’s found a new mindset since giving himself a break — one that he’s thrilled to start utilizing, beginning with “No Vacancy.” Below, hear Tedder’s take on how his near-breakdown actually resulted in the most flourishing point in his career, and take a listen to the new single.

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I’m friends with the Stargate guys, and I told them, “I don’t even know what to do anymore. I feel like I’m out of my mind.” And Tor [Erik Hermansen] was like, “Stop. Go in the studio, write songs for other people. Remind yourself why you like doing pop music, work with other artists and don’t think about OneRepublic. And then if you write a song that feels like something you want to say, keep it and call it OneRepublic.”

The last three or four months, I’ve done more songs and have more singles coming from more artists than I have in my entire career, which has been amazing and invigorating. And I’ve had more fun being home, writing with artists from Selena to Camila to Pink to X Ambassadors. I have a couple of Kygo records and records with Seeb, I have a couple of rappers that I’ve been talking with. You name it, it’s been all over the map. I’ve had more fun doing that than I have had in years — and in that, it gave me the time what I wanted to do with OneRepublic.

I’ve always been scared to do actual “pop” music with OneRepublic. It scares the shit out of me, I don’t know why. With OneRepublic, songs that we’ve had that have been the most successful – songs like “Secrets,” “Counting Stars,” “Good Life” – they’re about something a little bit deeper. I’ve always tried to push myself to write about things that have a little more emotional currency — they’re not just chasing a trend. But with that, I’ve imposed a million different rules on what defines a OneRepublic record or what I allow to come out as a OneRepublic record. And I think that is part of what led to me having a nervous breakdown.

I’ve thrown all the rules out — if a song feels good and if my two-year-old kid requests it every single day for a month, it’s probably a good song. “No Vacancy” is pretty much coming out because my kids have requested it pretty much every day for the last three months.

It’s the poppiest thing we’ve ever done — I struggled with it at first. I was like, “Man, this is so pop, maybe I should give it to somebody else.” And then the Stargate guys were like, “You’re insane. You’re singing it, you sound great on it, it’s a OneRepublic record. Stop overthinking it.” I wrote it thinking about my kids — you have all the space in your life and then you have kids, and that last little hole that you have in your life is completely full. The concept, to me, came from such an internal place that I was like, “You know what? I don’t care if this is the poppiest thing we’ve ever done. It feels good, and I want to roll with it.” For the first time ever, I’m embracing the idea of pop and going all the way with it.

By the time the tour starts, we’ll probably have eight or nine new records. I’m excited, because I’m sitting around here watching the rappers have all of the fun and I’m like, “Wait a minute, why are these guys crushing it? Meanwhile all of us dudes in bands and other non-rappers are sitting around going, ‘Well I’m putting my album together, I need four more months and I’m waiting on mixes.’” Nah man, bump all that s–t, I don’t want to deal with that stuff again. I want to make records, and I just want to get stuff out. That helps me not stress and not overthink s–t.

Having your health come into question makes you reevaluate things. I would say that I’m more confident than ever because I don’t care. I love “No Vacancy.” Some people are going to absolutely love it, some people are going to be like, “Oh this doesn’t sound like OneRepublic.” I don’t care, because there’s going to be another song that comes with it, and then a few weeks later there’s going to be three or four more songs. And I’m willing to bet money that one of them is going to connect with you.

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