Ryan Tedder Reveals the Stories Behind His Songs for Beyoncé, Adele, Ellie Goulding & More

Jair Sfez

Ryan Tedder photographed in Paris, France

Ryan Tedder is not only the frontman for OneRepublic -- he's a prolific songwriter and producer who has made more than $2.5 million penning hits for and with the likes of Beyonce and Adele as well as for his own band. When he sat down to chat with Billboard for his recent cover story, Tedder also revealed the stories of what went into creating some of the biggest songs he's written and co-written. Here, Tedder shares the songwriting stories of "Halo" (Beyoncé), "Rumour Has It" (Adele,) OneRepublic ("Apologize," "Counting Stars"), "Burn" (Ellie Goulding), and "Bleeding Love"  (Leona Lewis).

Ryan Tedder: The Billboard Cover Story

"Halo," Beyoncé
TEDDER: "I was playing a pickup game right before a show in Michigan and I tore my Achilles heel. It was the most intense pain I ever experienced in my life. I passed out. So I ended up going home for two weeks. My wife forbade me from writing or doing any work whatsoever. Evan Bogart and I were superclose friends. He was having his explosion as a songwriter, and I texted him and said, 'My wife's gone for three hours, will you come over? Let's write one song.' Beyoncé had contacted me because of a song on our first album called 'Come Home.' So he came over and I said, 'Dude, Beyoncé wants me to do a song. Let's do a song in three hours.' I had this idea for a patch of this weird choir of angels thing, started playing it and within three hours we had 'Halo.'"

Ryan Tedder Covers the March 22 Issue of Billboard -- Click Here to Get a Copy

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"Apologize," OneRepublic
TEDDER: "I was a solo artist in the early 2000s, and I had started referring to myself as 'Republic.' I didn't have a live drummer, so I programmed a beat and then played piano over it. They say necessity is the mother of invention, so it was necessary that I keep tempo. And the necessary became the finality of that song, and it became the invention of this weird mix of Britpop-influenced melodies and song with hip-hop underpinnings. The first verse I thought was so good, but it took me six months to finish the second."

"Burn," Ellie Goulding
TEDDER: "I wrote it on a tour bus in Chicago, me and Brent [Kutzle, of OneRepublic]. I was so ecstatic about the song that our show was probably delayed five minutes because I couldn't stop listening to it. Ellie cut the vocal, killed it, she didn't mess around. And then it sat for a year. [Interscope] came back to me and I told my manager, 'I can't even look at it and I will give up publishing to do it.' We had a list of two or three producers -- the name [Greg] Kurstin came up. I don't think I let them finish the sentence because I had just spent time with him on the Beyonce camp. And I said, 'Absolutely Greg Kurstin! I know that he is the guy.' I sent him a list of comments, he gave it a second pass, and it was done."

"Rumour Has It," Adele
TEDDER: This was written on the first day, sang on the second and she knocked it out in one pass. And much like everything else on '21,' she walked in with a very clear idea of what she wanted to say and write about, so the writing was superfast. The music I came up with was initially inspired by a Radiohead song I loved that had a dirty blues feel to it."

"Counting Stars," OneRepublic
TEDDER: "I finished it in Greece in Santorini, but I started it in New York. If I think I have something that I love that feels huge, that feels like it's inevitable -- which isn't all the time -- I will intentionally get it to where I know, 'This is nuclear, I know this is gonna connect, but I want to finish this in a place that's special, that inspires me.' We've been trying to go to Santorini for three years and I thought, 'This is the perfect place to finish this song.'"


"[I] said, 'What would Prince do?'" -Ryan Tedder on co-writing Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love"

"Bleeding Love," Leona Lewis
TEDDER: "I co-wrote it with Jesse McCartney; he was on some Prince tip. Jesse had just had a huge hit -- 'Beautiful Soul' -- and I was going in with him and I felt like I didn't have it. I went back in my room, said, 'I'm gonna be an hour late to the session, what if we just did something simple?' I sat in my apartment in West L.A. and said, 'What would Prince do?' So I sang over an organ patch and had the entire verse and chorus of the song. We finished the song, verse and choruses that day. His label heard it, and from the top down said, 'It's not a hit.' So we went through three different keys to get it right for Leona Lewis. She killed it, and the rest is history."


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