Ryan Tedder on Writing at Home With Beyonce, Chasing Ghosts With Adele & Crafting Other Smash Hits
What’s the thinking behind “Kids,” the first single off the new album?
It doesn’t sound like anything we’ve ever done before. We love M83, and so the idea was, “Let’s do something that captures the spirit of what we love about M83 and make it a OneRepublic song with the lyric and the melody.”
You’ve worked with so many megastars. How was it with Beyoncé?
“XO” was one my favorites. For a week I was at their home in the Hamptons, with Jay Z and Beyoncé and their kid around. It was me, Greg Kurstin, Sia, one of the girls from Florence & The Machine. I had no idea “XO” was going to be the first single, but unless you are in the room with Beyoncé, no one is going to tell you what’s going on.
What are some of the challenges of working with a big name?
It can be a godsend because, if lightning strikes, you can end up defining the sound of an album. The downside is, if the sound has not been clearly identified yet -- the direction -- you can end up chasing a lot of ghosts.
Have you ever chased ghosts?
I chased a lot with Adele [on 25]. 21 was so catastrophically big that nobody, including herself, quite knew what to do to follow that. I walked into the session with “Remedy” already started. I don’t like to walk in with a finished song — it’s kind of offensive if you do that when somebody is as talented a writer as Adele. I played it for her, and she was like, “I want to write this now and I want to record this now, and this is going to be about my son.” It immediately resonated with her.
This has been a big year for you, but what was the highlight?
The thing that I’m probably the most proud of, other than finishing our album, happened about five weeks ago with Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande. I did a song, “Faith,” for them to sing for an upcoming [animated] movie called Sing. Stevie came in around 6 p.m., Ariana arrived at 10, and we stayed up until 3 in the morning and talked music for hours.
That must have been pretty amazing.
The first song I ever learned on piano was “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” I told him that and he started playing it! He and Ariana hit it off; he was impressed by her vocals. Getting to know Stevie better has been a highlight. I’ll wake up to him FaceTiming me, which is like the most bizarre experience.