For Ryan Tedder, the Hits Keep Coming
Ryan Tedder learned his first lesson about the music business early: If you’re versatile, you will never go out of style.
“There are people who are amazing at one thing, and that’s great,” said Tedder, the 32-year-old singer-songwriter and front man of the band OneRepublic. “Like you’re the best singer, you’re the best guitar player…but if you’re a jack of all trades like a Swiss Army knife, you’re always going to land on your feet. There’s always going to be a use for you.”
While OneRepublic has recorded hit songs like “Apologize,” which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009, “All the Right Moves” and “Secrets,” it’s not Tedder’s work with the band that has earned him the most attention or Grammy nominations.
Tedder is a five-time Grammy nominee outside of his OneRepublic work: in 2009, Record of the Year for Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love”; in 2010, Record of the Year for “Halo” and Album of the Year for “I Am…Sasha Fierce,” both by Beyonce; and this year, Album of the Year for Adele’s “21″ and Producer of the Year, which surprised him when he got the news after performing at the White House tree lighting ceremony.
“I knew Adele would get nominated,” he said. “I was turning into the Susan Lucci of the Grammys. I’ve been nominated like eight times, but I don’t win anything…I was just completely taken aback. I didn’t know I was in the running.” The 54th annual Grammy Awards will be held on Feb. 12.
He started writing music when he was in high school and college, skipping courses at Oral Roberts University to sneak into the piano rooms to practice, because he knew that a music career would be based on the best material.
“It’s kind of like the best song wins — for any album, for radio, whether it’s a live concert. The best material gets you the career, so I spent tons of my energy on constantly writing, day in and day out,” he said.
A self-described pop-head, Tedder grew up listening to top 40 and artists like the Beach Boys and the Beatles. He found a challenge in writing and producing pop music.
“Write a song that 75 million people a week want to hear in the U.S., and then another 120 million people worldwide,” he said. “I mean, that’s hard to do. It really is, to not be cheesy, to not be contrived or the lowest common denominator. I like the challenge of it, I really do.”
There was a point when Tedder wasn’t sure music was going to work out. OneRepublic was signed three times and dropped twice. But Tedder said he made a decision when he was 22 that he wouldn’t take another job that wasn’t music related.
“I was just never meant to clock in,” he said, “I am not giving myself a plan B. There’s just one plan. And if you don’t have a plan B then plan A has to work.”
Tedder is spending 2012 working on OneRepublic’s next album, but the goal to be versatile keeps him interested in other endeavors. He plans to continue working with other artists, but he’s got other aspirations as well, namely to work on films and film scores someday.
Tedder wants to be sure his sound keeps changing with the times, moving away from big mid-tempo ballads and back to dance music and tempo records.
“If I have a sound, I want it to be the song that people say, ‘That’s a great song.’ Not so much a ‘Man, that sounds like a Ryan Tedder,’” he said. “Because the reality is when that sound dies out, then you die out.