One of the things that makes rock’n’roll so magical is that success can’t be planned. For the world’s most legendary artists, failure was always a song away. It’s what separates it from K-Pop; you can’t — and perhaps shouldn’t — engineer it.
OneRepublic don’t quite agree. While I’d hesitate to compare them with a nine-member, surgically-enhanced gang of Korean pop singers, there is a level of thought — dare I say strategy — that’s put into the band, courtesy its Type-A frontman, Ryan Tedder.
“This band is an interesting animal,” he told tabloid! on Thursday night, before hitting the stage at the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival. “We always try to look at other bands and see if we doing things right. Are we moving in the right direction and at the right pace? We don’t really have any other bands to compare to because nobody broke the way we did as a band, it was a very backwards way of doing things.”
OneRepublic have had their taste of failure, which occured, rather spectacularly, just before their biggest hit. They’d already recorded “Apologise” when Columbia Records dropped them. They released the song on MySpace (remember that?) instead, and the public — and producer Timbaland — decided they liked what they heard. They were the hottest band with the hottest single and no record label, but not for long. Perhaps it’s that brush with reality that made them even more focused on making sure it all goes right this time, even if it does occasionally smack of a corporate marketing presentation.
“The way I see it there’s a lot of bands that have these huge spikes — a big hit, then they go away, and no-one cares, then they come back, have a big hit... We’re like this [mimes a line steadily going up]. We’re the tortoise. It keeps going like this, marching up the hill, we’re happy. It means more and more people globally are discovering us song by song.”
Tedder has reason to be proud, however. On its official release, Apologise broke radio airplay records, and was only knocked off the chart by Leona Lewis’ Bleeding Love — which he had co-written. With their new album, Native, out March 26, Tedder confidently says the best is yet to come; just over a month before their first release in over three years, Tedder and the band — Drew Brown, Brent Kutzle, Zach Filikins and Eddie Fisher — “feel really good”.
“In theory, the more you put into something the more you get out of it. And we’ve never put more into an album — I’ve never personally invested this much time or focused effort or energy in something in my life,” says Tedder. “And this album has the best material we’ve ever done. I can’t predict the future, but I feel more confident going into this album than I did going into the last two albums.”
Dubai had a taste of the new material that night, as the Denver, Colorado-based band wove three new tracks into their hour-long session at the festival’s opening night. It was their first performance in Dubai, if not their first visit, which was a stopover to Doha. Tedder comes across as a guy who does his research; he doesn’t land here and head straight to a photo op at a dolphin park or the mall before having a night at a crystal-heavy nightclub (also known as the Kardashian-Flo Rida itinerary). He and the band spent their morning in the desert having a Bedouin breakfast, and the rest of the day bemoaning the fact they wouldn’t make it to Ravi’s for dinner.
“It’s my favourite restaurant in Dubai. I’ll have to get it to go for the airplane,” Tedder joked. How’s this for a schedule: having flown in from LA to perform in Dubai on Thursday, they hopped a plane to Texas for a Friday night gig in San Antonio. Punishing, but not surprising for a band that’s racked up some hefty airmiles recording “Native”.
“It wasn’t intentionally recorded all over the world but we ended up being recording in Greece, Paris, Vancouver, Denver, New York, New Orleans... if you read the credits it’s like Google maps or something. We’re very lucky, we got to record with Phoenix’s producer and with Jeff Bhaskar. The last song to get wrapped up for the album we’re very excited about, it was co-produced and co-written with Jeff — he’s Kanye’s producer and did “We Are Young”. We’re thrilled. We just gotta put it out now. We’re done. Just put it out and let people decide for themselves. Let the internet take it and run with it.”
Quickfire with OneRepublic
Q: You’re opening the Dubai Jazz Festival. Do you listen to jazz?
Ryan Tedder: I love jazz! I am really sad that Dave Brubeck just died, I wish he could have not done that and lived a lot longer. Forever would have been great. I’ve gone to jazz concerts and jazz shows almost my whole life, and for a very short period of time studied jazz — for one semester at college.
Drew Brown: I think anyone who is in music spends some time in jazz land, whether they end up staying or just for a minute.
Tedder: Playing jazz for a living would be a dream job if I wasn’t already doing what I do.
Q: Why did you record your new single Lose Myself in Santorini?
Tedder: We’re trying to help out the Greek economy, do our part as Americans. That’s what we do, someone gets in trouble we come and throw money at them. But in reality, we were in Istanbul two years ago looking for places in the area, and we came across a studio in Greece called Black Rock Studios.
We’d heard about it and seen photos and it almost seemed like a fantasy, too good to be true, a place that didn’t exist. We wanted to get away as a band and record in Europe, and nowhere looked as nice as Santorini. It was the most beautiful place, and the Greek food... I would recommend anyone to go there. And very affordable!
Q: Will you be playing the glockenspeil tonight, and how did that come about?
Brown: You will see it onstage. I think Brent bought me my first glockenspiel. We had some songs on our fist record that had a couple of missing elements that we didn’t have the right instruments for, and Brent had a toy glockenspeil. I played it for a couple shows, it’s the same layout as a keyboard. I feel so bad, there are so many countries [on tour] where they have to cough up a glockenspeil. But it’s that extra bit of effort that really shines.
Q: Is Myspace still relevant?
Tedder: I still end up occasionally hearing music. I think Soundcloud has taken over, it takes away all those distractions and just says, here is my music, listen to all of it. Having said that, I know they are relaunching MySpace and Justin Timberlake is involved, and you can’t count him out of anything. If anyone can figure it out how to make it relevant it’s him.
Q: Who would you have dinner with, dead or alive?
Brown: He’s probably an a**hole.
Tedder: He is probably an a**hole but I’d still wanna talk to him. Lennon. Hendrix I wouldn’t want to because I feel like he’d be so stoned out of him mind it would be like trying to talk to a plate of spaghetti. You’re not gonna get an answer. We have talked to Bono, he’s a fascinating human being, I’d like to talk to him again. And Ke$ha. Just kidding. Probably Scott Joplin.
Q: What’s the most overplayed song on the radio at the moment?
We were just in LA so I can only speak for Los Angeles, but they were playing Bruno Mars in general way too much. I think even Bruno himself, cos he’s a cool guy, would be like, ‘this is too much, stop playing me for a minute, let me breathe’.