“Charts, ratings, sales… these mattered a lot more in the earlier years,” shares frontman Ryan Tedder via an email interview. “Our third album, Native (2013), sold over five million copies, and that was my goal as a musician at one point. But since then, I honestly don’t care or keep score any more. It’s about the live shows now, and how many people come out to see us still matters,” shares the 38-year-old singer-songwriter, who has also written songs for artistes such as Adele, Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran. Excerpts from the interview:
How did the collaboration with Timbaland for Apologize come about?
I knew Timbaland for a while, from working with him as a solo artist. The deal didn’t work, but I learned a lot from him during the time spent in the studio, and I kept a good relationship with him. When our band got signed and then dropped by Columbia Records, we blew up on MySpace out of nowhere. All these record labels started approaching us, and Timbaland was one of them. We had about five labels to choose from and at the end of the day we realised that Timbaland was on fire, so we went where we thought we had the best shot. Timbaland then re-mixed our song Apologize, and told us that he thought it was a hit with or without him. But then he said, ‘If you let me put this song on my album, it will speed the process up. You guys have been through a lot. You’ve spent years and years going up and down’. We were very reluctant at first about the idea of a remix, to have our song be made so much more pop. We’re not hard rock, but we are a rock band. But then we were like, ‘If this opens the door and allows more people to hear our album, it gives us the opportunity to let them hear our other songs. I think we can win them over’. Sometimes in life when good things happen, you have got to just shut up and go with it. So that’s what we did.
How has the process of songwriting changed from Dreaming Out Loud (2007) to Oh My My (2016)?
We started as a 100 per cent live band, with zero programming. But as times have changed, so have we. We love electronic music and new technology, so we use it where it makes sense in our music. I have also collaborated a lot with electronic artistes such as Swedish House Mafia, Kygo and Alesso. DJ culture over the last five years has really impacted bands and touring artistes who aren’t DJs. Everyone has gotten so addicted to the production. I think a lot of music — not just pop music, but across many genres — has started to sound very programmed, and that works for some artistes. For us, we are still a band which tours live a lot. Having live instrumentation in our songs is important so that fans can experience what they anticipate from a live show. We focus less specifically on the sound, and more on the sentiment of the lyrics and the feeling of the music. We try to connect human to human in each song… as if we were sitting at dinner together talking about real life issues.
Since OneRepublic first found fame on MySpace, what are your views on the internet as a medium for music?
I think that songwriting is getting more scientific, more mathematical. Is it getting better? I wouldn’t say that. The advantage of the digital era is productivity. I could not do what I do, operate on the velocity I operate, without these tools. There are artistes nabbed off YouTube who probably should not have record deals. They did not have time to develop, so anything they put out, you don’t believe it, because they haven’t lived it. They’ve just racked up 15 million views on YouTube and been signed on. With streaming services, it’s easy to hear loads of music, but it’s even more competitive now to cut through all the songs and rise above that to be heard by the masses.
What are you most excited about regarding your performance in Mumbai?
We are psyched! We’ve actually been pushing our booking agents to find us a show in India for years. I’ve personally wanted to visit India since I was a kid; I’m fascinated by the country. As for the show, I honestly have no idea what to expect from fans in India. Very few American artistes have played there, so I haven’t been able to ask too many people what the concert crowd is like. I’ve gotten to be friends with Diplo recently, so I’ve been asking him about places to visit in Mumbai. I’ve been researching for a couple of weeks on places to eat and neighbourhoods to visit. I have a pretty detailed list of places, which also includes some of the more obvious tourist destinations. Apart from that, I also plan on checking out the art and music scene in the city. We’ve actually hired a tour guide for the second day, and we will be documenting the whole experience as well.
What’s next for OneRepublic?
We are in the process of working on our fifth album. No dates yet on when we will release it, but we’re planning on doing it later this year. A lot of the new stuff will sound more organic — like a ‘five people in a room’ sound. I think we’re ready to push that kind of sound, and to try to get people to care about organic-sounding, honest music again. The sound of the new album is different from anything we’ve done yet, and it is still the most OneRepublicsounding thing we’ve done. There will be some exciting collaborations for sure, starting with Logic.