Ryan Tedder is the songwriter behind hits like OneRepublic’s “Apologize,” Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love,” and Beyoncé’s “Halo.”
He’s also the host of NBC’s “Songland,” which takes viewers behind the scenes of music production and pairs Tedder with artists like Adam Levine, John Legend and will.i.am to search for the world’s next songwriting superstar.
On a Tuesday afternoon in March at NBC Universal Studios, an episode of “Songland” is being filmed, with judges Ryan Tedder, Shane McAnally and Ester Dean evaluating and reworking aspiring songwriters’ original material. The nitty-gritty of debating what can be done with the tunes to make them work is fairly intense. But there are more relaxed moments, too, like when one of the contestants reveals that he was the lead singer for a Christian rock band, leading Tedder to wax nostalgic about the time he spent as a student at Oral Roberts University.
“My world ended up being all CCM for two years,” says the hit producer and OneRepublic singer. “I had my Beastie Boys records hidden.” “Like porn,” clarifies McAnally, who’s oft cited as Nashville’s most successful contemporary writer.
“My parents have no idea what I do,” says Shane McAnally, calling from the airport in Los Angeles as he shuffles between his many duties: as a Grammy-winning songwriter, producer and now co-host of NBC’s Songland, a new musical competition show from the producers of The Voice that judges songs, not those who sing them. McAnally’s mom and dad aren’t alone in being a bit confused. The job of a songwriter is likely one of the most important and the least understood in the entire craft of music – and, these days, one of the most proportionately underpaid. All that said, probably not an immediate homerun for compelling TV.
But that’s exactly why McAnally, who has written with the likes of Kacey Musgraves and Sam Hunt, signed on to Songland four years ago, without seeing much more than a preliminary concept. Though he’s based in Nashville, a town that recognizes the songwriter more than perhaps anywhere on earth, McAnally still was mystified by how low on the totem pole of appreciation they actually are. And in today’s climate, where songwriters are now positioned as anonymous faces in the fight for fair compensation against some of the world’s most powerful media corporations – Spotify, Google and Amazon, to name a few – McAnally thought that could simply no longer stand.
Cred: Trae Patton/NBC