Hitmaker for Adele Talks Songwriting, Potential Solo Career + More
According to Ryan Tedder, there are two approaches to songwriting and producing: seasonal and evergreen. Seasonal means mastering the hot sound of the moment. "In a couple years you have a slew of songs and are the biggest things in the world," Tedder says. "Then you burn out. Three years later, you're hustling trying to sell one track."
Harder to master is the evergreen style of the producers Tedder sees as models: Max Martin, Rick Rubin and T Bone Burnett. "It's super rare to stand a decade and have successful singles as a writer/producer," says Tedder, who in addition to fronting the pop-minded rock band OneRepublic has written and produced hits for Leona Lewis ("Bleeding Love"), Beyoncé ("Halo") and Adele ("Rumor Has It"). "I didn't want to end up on 'E! True Hollywood Story,' where I went from all this success to 15 years from now skipping out on rent on a single-bedroom condo in Atlanta."
Small chance of that. Tedder, who won an album of the year Grammy Award in February for co-writing two tracks on Adele's 21, has worked to broaden his reach across the musical spectrum. In the five years since his career took flight with the release of OneRepublic's debut album, "Dreaming Out Loud," Tedder has worked with Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Lopez, Carrie Underwood, Maroon 5, Lady Antebellum, Tiësto, Cobra Starship, B.o.B, Chris Cornell, Paul Oakenfold and many more.
In an interview with Billboard, Tedder discusses OneRepublic's upcoming third album, balancing his role as a frontman and go-to songwriter/producer for other artists and whether he'd ever consider going solo.
A longer version of this interview can be found in the latest issue of Billboard. Pick up a copy here
What's the status of the new OneRepublic album?
We have what I call "starts." To me, a start is a melody and a verse/chorus. Sometimes it's only 30 or 60 seconds long. We have 30 some-odd starts. We'll probably do 10 more and narrow it down to about 10 or 12 songs for the album. The real focus has been shifting the sound and trying to identify something that feels natural and a progression. I feel OneRepublic really has a shot with this next album to cross into a much bigger world. We want to put our first single out by this summer. We're trying not to rush it.
Is it difficult deciding which songs to use for OneRepublic and which to pitch to other artists?
That was never an issue with the first two albums. I never would've sung "Halo" or "Bleeding Love." Only recently has there been a couple of songs I wrote and pitched to labels and had people jump on them. My manager said, "What the hell are you doing? You have to keep this song for you." Sometimes it takes my band members, management or [Interscope Geffen A&M chairman] Jimmy Iovine to threaten to throw me out of the building if I give away a song. So lately I've been hoarding as many things as possible for OneRepublic. There's a very good chance I would pitch things that don't make this album to other artists.
You've written and produced for a wide variety of acts. How do you decide which artists to work with?
It's a combination of people approaching me and me approaching them. Once I start touring with OneRepublic, my options get more limited with time. So at that point I'm picking people who I love. With Adele, I was in the middle of touring on [second album] "Waking Up." I blocked off a week and said, "I have to work with Adele." Our management was like, "She's good, but what's the big deal?" I thought she was the best singer in the world, so I wanted to halt everything to make sure there was time to work with her.
Can you shed some light on how you set your writing/production fees?
After my first handful of successful songs, I was called to work with somebody. They asked what my fee was. I asked them what they meant. They said, "Your writing fee." I answered, "Do you mean my producing fee? If you take the song, then I'll produce it, and of course I have a production fee." They said, "No, no, no-your writing fee." I just started laughing and told them I wasn't going to charge them for writing a song. I guess there's a network of writers that charges for being in a room and writing a song, whether or not a label takes the song. I've never done that, to my knowledge.
Are you eyeing a solo career at some point?
I don't think so. I am not opposed to doing a side project, like Death Cab for Cutie, where it's completely different from my own band. [Death Cab spinoff] the Postal Service is the guidebook of how to do a side project properly. I'd love doing that at some point-write a handful of songs that have nothing to do with my band, then bring in some other artists who are friends to sing on each one, maybe a four- or five-song EP. I have a couple names-I already bought Web domains and trademarks just in case I decide to do it. But I'm not a solo artist. The handful of features I do-like the new Gym Class Heroes song ["The Fighter"] and Sebastian Ingrosso & Alesso ["Calling (Lose My Mind)"]-are as close as I'll get to doing a solo project.
How about film scoring?
I would love to do that. God willing, OneRepublic can keep doing what it's doing until we decide to stop. But when I picture the next 20 years, I see myself with some gray hairs sitting there watching the dailies of a film and trying to figure out what kind of music to write to it.
A longer version of this interview can be found in the latest issue of Billboard. Pick up a copy here.