OneRepublic on ‘GMA’ Tribute to Chester Bennington & Chris Cornell: ‘It’s Heavy, But an Honor’

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As OneRepublic continues their Honda Civic Tour across North America, the pop-rock band will be making a pit stop at Good Morning America on Friday morning for a special appearance on the morning show’s Summer Concert Series. And in addition to performing their own hits, Ryan Tedder and Co. will be paying tribute to Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, who both recently died and left the rock world far too soon.

Linkin Park was scheduled to perform in New York City’s Central Park that morning, but with the recent death of Bennington, the band’s singer, OneRepublic will fill in — something Tedder admits won’t be easy. “I think it’s heavy to be doing what we’re doing,” the OneRepublic singer tells Billboard. “For me, I’m trying not to think about it until we do it.”

In a backstage conversation just ahead of OneRepublic’s performance at Jones Beach on Saturday, the band filled Billboard in on what Soundgarden and Linkin Park meant to them. Drummer Eddie Fisher started out by talking about Soundgarden’s influence on him alone — “The first time I heard ‘Rusty Cage,’ that voice blew my mind,” he says — with guitarist Drew Brown adding that Cornell’s band was a huge influence on the band as a whole.

Tedder continued the Soundgarden praise, admitting that the rock band was what got him into early ’90s rock, as opposed to fellow Seattle groups Nirvana and Pearl Jam. “I was a card-carrying Soundgarden fan. His voice blew my mind, his look, everything about him — he was just a rock guy,” Tedder says of Cornell. “He was the first hero that we actually made friends with, got to hang with and have dinners with him and his family at their place in Paris. Eddie played on one of his records, I got to produce them and write with them on a number of occasions. We stayed in touch with them and always had good correspondence — quiet, nice, kind human being.”

Speaking about the day of Cornell’s death (May 18), Tedder adds, “We have the same manager, so I found out the second it happened. We had a friend whose mother killed herself on the same prescription he was on — it says on there it can lead to suicide because it literally changes your whole disposition. I believe he was happy and did not intend to do what he did.”

OneRepublic happened to have a day off on the day of Bennington’s death (July 20), but decided to pay tribute to both Bennington and Cornell at their Bristow, Virginia show on July 21 with a rendition of “Hallelujah” that Tedder says they played “literally on a whim.” Now that he and his band get to honor the iconic rock frontmen on national television, Tedder says he simply hopes he does them justice.

“Just praying that I can get up early enough to sing like that,” he says. “‘Hallelujah’ is a song I don’t like to cover because so many people have covered it, and [Jeff] Buckley nailed it.”

While the band has yet to determine what other songs they’ll sing during the performance, Tedder knows what it will mean to both Soundgarden and Linkin Park fans — especially because he knows personally that Bennington and Cornell were the “nicest guys ever.”

“We met Linkin Park early in our career and always looked up to them,” he says of Bennington’s band. “It’s an honor to fill in for them on GMA.”

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