It’s no secret that we love a deep dive into the minds of songwriters here at FAULT Magazine so with One Republic working on a new album, it seemed only fitting to once again interview Ryan Tedder!
A much sought after songwriter, penning Ellie Goulding’s Burn, Beyonce’s Halo, Leona Lewis’ Bleeding Love and so many other defining number ones, it’s Ryan Tedder’s One Republic songwriting we wanted to learn more about. Often dubbed “the hitmaker”, it’s not until you listen to a ‘One Republic’ album in full that you can understand fully the man behind the music.
We sat down with Ryan to discuss the upcoming album, pressures from the industry and of course, his FAULTs.
‘Didn’t I’ dropped last week and it’s such a powerful anthem, can you tell us a little about your process when writing it?
Ryan Tedder: This all started during a session with Kygo, we were into two days of songwriting for his project and this was the last song we did. It was originally a completely different record.
We couldn’t find a way to make the song work and in songwriter terms when someone says “they need to use the bathroom” nine times out of ten they suddenly come back with some brilliant idea. This happened to me, I went downstairs and immediately the entire chorus, every melody, every lyric shot into my brain at once.
And what is it inspired by?
Ryan Tedder: Everybody in my family, for the most part, has suffered from divorce. My parents, my inlaws, a lot of my aunts and uncles. It’s about being in a relationship that has come to an end but in your core, you still love them.
And you think “Didn’t I love you, didn’t we work, didn’t I want the best for you” and you question why good things have to die.”
What’s been the biggest change for your upcoming album versus your previous work?
Ryan Tedder: Well, I can the songs a lot better now! When we started the band I didn’t like my voice, it was overly pop. I could hit all the notes I needed to but, I couldn’t get it to sound the way I wanted it to. I wanted the rasp and after 15 years of singing and touring it started to come and I’m much happier with my voice on this album.
I mean, for anyone who is a big fan, I think this album encapsulates it all. It is a bit of the old, a bit of a new, everything in between.
Music moves so fast today with artists dropping single after single endlessly. You took your time with this release, what happened in those three years?
Ryan Tedder: The biggest reason we took three and a half years away from putting out an album was that I didn’t have anything to say. The last album nearly killed me with exhaustion; I poured two and a half years of life into “Oh My My” but didn’t have the stamina to support it. The album nearly killed me with exhaustion, I poured two and a half years of life into “Oh My My” then didn’t have the stamina to support it.
Something people need to realise is that unless you have songwriters writing all your hits, you actually have to earn the stories you’re singing about. To do that you have to live enough life to have enough to say and the reality is that by the time I got to ‘Oh My My’ I said everything I needed to say.
How does writing for One Republic differ to the music you write for other artists?
Ryan Tedder: I’ve never once with this band sat down and said let’s write a hit, whenever we’ve had big records it’s come from an authentic place. With other artists, I can sit down all day long and write a hit because I’m in their headspace and can dissociate myself from the narrative and channel that artist. I can’t do that with One Republic its too inauthentic.
You touched on burn out during your last album and I don’t think the stress emerging artists are under is commonly spoken about. In the early days of One Republic, was there ever that fear to write an inauthentic hit just for the recognition?
Ryan Tedder: When you’re a star your currency is your hit records. So I thought we’d be done, we got dropped twice and I was having success writing for other people and so I thought the universe wouldn’t allow us to take off.
Even still I refused to sit down to try and write hit songs for the band. We were going to be different because it’s a reflection of my life. I’m just not going to do it and then ironically just a few months later we had a hit.
If you’re an artist like Dua Lipa, who I love, and you need to have hits because you know who you’re singing to. She’s deathly navigated the water of pop zeitgeist masterfully. And a lot of pop artists need to do that, you do the writing and then you need to follow it up and each one needs to be bigger and still different.
Like opening a wildly successful restaurant and then you’re told to make a new restaurant with completely different food, and that’s how hard it is to be a pop artist today and thank god there are a lot of pop songwriters who can write those songs although it’s intimidating to artists who weren’t trying to write hits in the first place and that’s where we were in one republic.
One Republic music is so personal to you, as your profile has grown does that make it difficult to put so much of your inner feelings onto a track for people to scrutinise?
Ryan Tedder: They have to be, they just do. I was once told, the curse about my band being me is that I’m not a big celebrity. I’ve never dated a celebrity or hung around places to get papped, it’s not my vibe. However because I’m not a huge name, for us to have a hit, it has to be a really good song. We don’t have the benefit of having that cultural viral name. I used to be upset about it when I was younger because it wasn’t fair.
Ryan Tedder: I wrote and produced The Jonas Brothers’ ‘What A Man Gotta Do’ that stormed the charts but that’s not a song One Republic could ever do. A lot of times people in the industry will say ” a hit is a hit is a hit’ and don’t give them away but it doesn’t work that way. Ellie Goulding’s ‘Burn”, if I had put that out as a One Republic it would have tanked, same with Elle Henderson’s ‘Ghost’.
The only pressure I ever feel for the band is picking the right singles. If you have ten songs on an album, not all will be hits. In 2020 you don’t get that many attempts. Your first single has to be your biggest hit but when you’re in a band and working on it, it’s a lot harder to work out what that hit should be. So we just use our best instinct and test the songs first with audiences to figure out which song is the best.
What is your FAULT?
Ryan Tedder: My over-commitment; because it leads to tardiness and letting someone else down, myself down and it leads to overwork. When I was a kid, I used to call my mom, I hope that reincarnation is real – I need to have four lives to get everything that I want to get.