“Finding a house, much less a studio, in L.A. is like a full-time job,” says Ryan Tedder, known not only for being the face of hit-making pop band OneRepublic but also for writing songs (think Beyoncé’s “Halo” and Adele’s “Rumor Has It”) and producing for countless music icons. “It takes forever and it’s damn near impossible.” Tedder had three simple yet apparently difficult requirements when he started the hunt to move his work from Denver to West Hollywood.
One: space. Lots of it. “In a recording studio, air is your friend” for sound absorption, he explains. “If someone’s doing a crazy hip-hop record in one room and in the next is some Beyoncé ballad, you can’t have bleed-over.”
Two: sunshine. “I wanted it to feel like the opposite of every recording studio anybody’s ever been to,” says Tedder. “The irony is I actually hate recording studios. They’re impersonal and clinical, with zero natural sunlight. You don’t know what time of day it is; they’re depressing, and I think that leads to all kinds of other nastiness.”
Three: proximity. As in a five-minute drive to his family’s 1959 midcentury home in Beverly Hills, and within a mile of “ground zero for pop culture,” a.k.a. Melrose Avenue. Tedder’s previous studio in Denver had begun to feel like an island. “I wanted to be where the new upcoming artists stay in hotels and where my favorite restaurants are.”
The search stretched on. Ultimately, when the star of NBC’s Songland found “the most geographically perfect place” with a rooftop for taking breaks, tons of glass, a large backyard, and four spacious bedrooms, it took a handwritten letter of appeal to win the bid. “It was weird, like, ‘Hey, I work with Paul McCartney.’ I was pretty honest with the notable guys who would be coming through here. And session one was Sir Paul, before we even had soundproofing up. I used pillowcases for sound protection.”
After an “ex–Chicago fireman the size of a house” expertly soundproofed the studio, Tedder and his longtime interior design collaborator Carolyn Morris, of Alvarez Morris Architectural Studio—along with her husband, architect Carlos Alvarez, and Tedder’s wife, Genevieve—went to town re-creating the vibe of late ’60s/early ’70s L.A. They drew inspiration from the recent Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. “I’ve been obsessed with that era of Hollywood since I was a kid,” says Tedder, who sought an authentic boho Laurel Canyon feel that felt comfortable for his collaborators. Eighty to 90 percent of the furniture they sourced—the majority at L.A.’s Lucca Antiques and Lawson-Fenning—is original vintage.
“Ryan was extremely involved,” says Morris, who went on numerous West Hollywood shopping trips with the musical talent over the course of weeks—Tedder does most things at lightning speed. “He tried out every chair and sofa to ensure each seat would have the right relaxed feel,” she adds. “Our goal was to create a vibe that did not look ‘decorated.’”
While a cool ’70s-toned, distressed leather–clad sensibility flows throughout, each of the four recording studios is a bit different, especially when it comes to art. Studio B, where he recorded McCartney, is Tedder’s favorite, in part because it gets the most natural sunlight—Tedder calls himself a “sun-worshipping crazy person.” With a Takashi Murakami painting and functional wooden Nintendo controller for a coffee table, “there’s a bunch of good juju in that room,” he says. The largest and most private, Studio A, features a bird mural by Brazilian street artist and friend Speto.
Since his childhood in suburban tract homes, Tedder says he’s been quite affected by aesthetics: “I always knew that’s what I craved. I like creating worlds.” Being surrounded by cool furniture made by an artisan with care and thought inspires his process. “I don’t want to make rubbish music when I’m surrounded by artifacts from all these master craftsmen. It all informs each other, and writers pick up on that,” he says.
Along the same vein, the history buff collected a wall full of hyper-rare and intriguing paraphernalia—a letter handwritten by George Washington at Mount Vernon, a photo of the first airplane taking off from Kitty Hawk signed by Orville Wright, a speech handwritten by Gandhi. These artifacts intentionally take the place of platinum records and self-congratulatory awards, which make him cringe. One of Tedder’s three Grammys, for example, sits on the back of a toilet in Studio B—a cheeky move inspired by Sam Smith and Adele. (“Sam’s like, ‘That’s what British people do.’”) “My objective is, ‘Look how great these people are, let’s not celebrate ourselves, let’s be inspired by them.’ These are people who changed the world, who impacted cultural shifts,” says Tedder of his collection. “And what is a studio if not a place designed to shift culture?”
Plus, the producer admits he gets a kick out of seeing artists take notice after walking by several times. “When they realize what’s on that wall, their heads explode. It really rattles people in a good way.” And that, it seems, is part of his secret.