Ryan Tedder is a very busy man these days. Having worked alongside the biggest talents in the industry, he’s now taken time to focus on OneRepublic’s 4th album due to be released in early October. Some have accused Tedder of handing out his greatest hits to other musicians, but the band’s upcoming album is bound to prove everyone wrong. Appropriately entitled Oh My My, the album unmasks Tedder’s incredible versatility and vocal range, as you’ve never heard it before. In short, it’s safe to say that Oh My My is a revelation and the beginning of a new era for OneRepublic. An era where Tedder fully showcases a modern day genius whose talent falls beyond comprehension. After writing for the likes of Beyonce, Adele, Ed Sheeran and many more, he’s comprised all of it in the form of Oh My My. From first listen onwards, you shortly realize that you can find Ryan Tedder in Ellie Goulding’s Burn, Beyoncé’s Halo and Adele’s Turning Tables – as opposed to the other way around. Tedder is undoubtedly the music industry’s secret weapon and the mind that makes it all go round. We spoke to Ryan ahead of the album release and here’s his take on it all.
You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in the industry– Beyoncé, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding, Taylor Swift – just to name a few. Aside from that, you’ve also got OneRepublic. That’s a lot to put on anyone’s plate. Do you have a particular routine that you stick to in order to be more efficient?
You just get really good at multitasking. There are a lot of hours in the day, there’s a lot of time that people waste and you basically figure out how not to waste that much time. So there’s no routine basically – every day is different. I’ve got a different routine when I’m on tour as opposed to when I’m not. But it all comes down to not wasting time and being as efficient as you can.
Oh My My – your next album – is coming out in October. After Native, how far did you go with this one?
With this album, I pushed the envelope as far as it could go and on some songs we probably pushed it too far. But then again, that’s how you figure out how far you can go within your own world.
What qualifies as ‘too far’ for OneRepublic?
There will be some songs that people hear and go ‘Oh, they shouldn’t be doing that’. Because people have their own perception of whom you are. Like ‘Oh, you look amazing! You shouldn’t be wearing that jacket though.” Or if you dye your hair black – there’s always going to be that one person who’s going to say that you look better blonde. I’m sure that there are going to be some people that feel that some songs are too far, but it’s a very honest record. The songs are crazy; they’re all over the place. It’s like a playlist. And that’s how people listen to music nowadays anyway. You listen to five artists; you don’t listen to just one artist. I work with 100 artists, so our music is reflective of that. You’ll hear little moments of Adele, little moments of EDM. You won’t hear a song that sounds like it, you’ll hear like a second. You can hear the influences, but the album feels very honest. Our last album did better than we thought, so we have a lot of pressure of doing something that’s better than that.
Do you ever get overwhelmed?
Yes, but that’s normal.
What’s your process of differentiating the material that you’re going to use for yourself as opposed to what you’re going to give away?
It’s pretty easy. If you’re a chef and you own a Japanese restaurant, you can go cook with your friends at different restaurants anytime you want. But one friend of yours might have an Italian restaurant or a hamburger shop and your other friend might have a dessert pastry shop. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to go back to your Japanese restaurant and make pizza.
In short – it’s a question of being aware of your own identity.
Yeah and I know myself very well. Even the hit records that I give away to other people – I give them away because they’re inauthentic. If I put out a record that’s a hit and it’s inauthentic to me – guess what happens – it’s not a hit. It doesn’t connect because people won’t believe it.
So the core of OneRepublic’s sound lies very much in the humanity that you put in it. Is that what you feel that draws people to your music?
That’s exactly what I feel. If I did Katy Perry’s record, people would be like “What the hell is he doing?” Or if I released Taylor Swift’s 1989. Can you imagine that? It would’ve been pretty inauthentic, to say the least. Even Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud. People go like ‘Oh, I can see you doing that’ – but no. If we actually did it, people wouldn’t believe it coming from me. It wouldn’t be real coming from me.
Speaking of Taylor and Ed, how do you usually go about picking the artists that you’re going to work with?
You’ve got limited time in a day and you have to choose the ones that move you the most. You can’t just chase the ones that you think you’re going to have a hit with. You go for the ones that you know you’ll bring out the best in and that they’ll bring out the best in you. There are a handful of really big pop stars that I haven’t worked with and that’s not an accident. It’s no offence to them – it’s just that what they do isn’t a brand of clothing that I wear. I can look at Fendi all day long and admire the hell out of it, but I’m not going to wear it. There are some brands that you just don’t wear.
Having worked with Taylor and winning a Grammy for her 1989 album– is there something that you’d like to put out there – especially now in times of turmoil – about her that you feel the public needs to know?
She is pound for pound the most talented writer of any artist I’ve ever worked with. Taylor is the only artist that I’ve worked with that has the complete skillset. If she weren’t an artist, she’d be the number one songwriter in the world. If she weren’t a songwriter, she’d be the number one artist in the world. She can write songs with the technical understanding of a master of songwriting, but she still taps into the emotional and personal side of the artist that she is and writes from that place. To do both at the same time is incredibly rare and I haven’t met many other people that do it. And Taylor has known what she wanted to do ever since she was 12, so there’s that. She’s a bit of a prodigy. And as long as I’ve known her, she’s been nothing but kind to me and thoughtful and generous. I’ve read a lot of stuff and heard a lot of stuff and obviously, she’s caught up in some drama right now and it’s a sticky situation – but personally I’ve had nothing but awesome experiences with her from day one.
Having shared the studio with so many talents, is there a specific moment in your songwriting career that has stuck with you to this day?
Stevie Wonder. I did a song for a movie with him a couple of weeks ago. He and I were sitting in a room, going back and forth over lyrics and I had a moment where I was sat there and I wished there was a camera filming – because I was writing a song with Stevie Wonder. And it was just like – this is the coolest day I’ve ever had. I’ve been to a lot of places, I’ve seen a lot of things – but the evening with Stevie – I remember literally every hour of it. Up until 3am. I remember everything that happened. Which you can’t really control, your brain just prioritizes memories without you thinking about it. That was probably my favourite moment. I have so many though, it’s hard to choose.
For the sake of amusement, you must have quite an interesting bundle of stories under your belt. Care to share one of them?
I accidentally stood up Peter Gabriel. Twice. I’ve obviously got random tour stories and stuff like that, but I think my most embarrassing story is my Peter Gabriel story. He’s one of my favourite recording artists and this happened last summer. It was during Ed Sheeran’s Wembley Stadium shows and I connected with Peter through a mutual friend. One day, I got an email from my manager who had talked to his manager and said that Peter wanted to have coffee and get to know me. I went to Peter Gabriel’s place in Notting Hill and I worship him so I was like ‘This is incredible’. I hung out with him all night, we had dinner, listened to music and then it ended. And at the end of the night, I was like ‘Okay, that was amazing, let’s get together again soon.’ What I didn’t know was that there was a miscommunication between his manager and my manager – so his people thought that I had booked to write with him Saturday and Sunday. The way it was explained to me was that we were only meeting up for coffee. So I hung out with him on Friday, had a great night, and Saturday – without knowing – I stood him up. He came into the studio at 10am and waited for me until 2pm and I never showed up. I didn’t know that I was supposed to be there. And the next day – I was also booked. The message that I stood him up on Saturday never got to me, so I didn’t know. And then Sunday – AGAIN. As I was driving to the airport to leave, I get a phone call from Peter. He had been in the studio again for the second day for 2 hours. And he was less than happy with me. So I was on the phone with him for 20 minutes just apologizing while emailing my manager telling him that I stood up Peter 2 days in a row. I was completely mortified and upset. That was my favourite recording artist and I just completely blew him off 2 days in a row. And we made up – after I continuously sent him emails and phone calls cause I was horrified that he was going to hate me – and well, it took two months to make up, but he eventually agreed to work together and now he’s featured on our album. And it’s one of the best songs on the album. It all worked well, but that’s my worst story. My idol is Peter Gabriel and I blew him off two days in a row. It’s the single worst thing that’s happened to my career so far.
Do you currently have your eyes set on any newcomers that you’d like to work with?
James Bay would be great to work with. Someone connected us and we plan on writing together at the beginning of 2017, around January. But yeah, James is my favourite newcomer. I’m sure there are more, but I’ve been so busy with the album that I literally didn’t have time to pay attention. I normally know everything that’s coming out.
What’s your FAULT?
Over commitment. I’m overly ambitious and I over commit, which inevitably leads to letting someone down.
OneRepublic’s new album Oh My My is available for pre-order now via iTunes and is due to be released on October 7th on Interscope Records.
Words Adina Ilie
Photography Joseph Sinclair
Styling Krishan Parmar
Grooming Shamirah Sairally