You can always trust OneRepublic to make an entrance.
The American pop-rock landed in Dubai last November, on a cold wet morning that saw schools across the UAE shut its doors, even as thunder and lightning lashed across gloomy skies. The boys from Colorado were in town to perform at the Dubai Air Show Gala, months ahead of their headline performance at the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival on February 28, which will also feature gigs by R & B star Lauryn Hill and 80s balladeer, Lionel Richie.
Yet, even as the storm raged on, the wet weather refused to dampen their Dubai adventures, which took the six boys, including lead vocalist Ryan Tedder, guitarist Zach Filkins, guitarist Drew Brown, bassist-cellist Brent Kutzle, drummer Eddie Fisher and keyboardist Brian Willett, down to the emirate’s alleyways, admire some Dubai Police supercars and try a hand at go-karting.
Tedder, who told Gulf News tabloid that he always finds time to play tourist in the city, also confirmed that the band would head down for the jazz fest a few days early just to head back into the desert for their next adventure.
Ahead of their performance at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, we grabbed the boys for a quick chat about their new album, surviving 12 years in the industry and using social media to launch their career.
Dining at Ravi
Tedder, who’s no novice to Dubai, spoke about his love for spicy food in the city.
“We always do little touristy stuff when we come here. There are a couple of restaurants that we like here but we are big fans of Ravi,” revealed Tedder, adding: “The owner has done a good job. He’s done a Pun-jab … get it? I’m pretty sure puns work in every culture right? That was a Pun-job. Oh my god! I did it again. Someone call the pun police.”
True to his word, hours later Tedder posted a photo of himself on Instagram, pointing up at the sign of the popular Pakistani restaurant in Satwa, writing: “Anyone ever travelling to Dubai, worth the drive to old town, we always hit Ravi. It’s a 10. Get it. Food is good when you eat it.”
Tedder further shared that when they pop back down for the Dubai jazz festival, they plan on doing a couple of tourist things, like “trying to track down a gold bar vending machine. They have one at the Burj Khalifa. Unless they’ve removed it. I’m going to try and get my arm stuck in there.”
The Grammy winner continued: “I want to go dune buggying and maybe do some other crazy Dubai desert stuff. Last time we had breakfast with some Bedouins. One of the royals let us go on to their land and have a little tour, see some falconry and crazy desert animals.”
New music anyone?
The band, which is putting its final touches to its new album, also spoke about the jazz fest performance where Dubai just may witness some fresh music.
“By that show, absolutely. Given the date, we will be putting the finishing touches to our album in Dubai. If I’m doing the math right, which would be within three to four weeks to deadline in March,” said Tedder.
The band also plans on coming in early to catch the other headliners, including Lauryn Hill and Lionel Richie, perform.
A new sound
After 12 years in the industry and countless hit tracks, the band is finally gearing up to release its fifth album ‘Human’, which is dropping in March, after a four-year hiatus. Talking about their new album, the band described it as “OneRepublic in the modern world.”
“Going by the people who’ve been around us a long time and who’ve heard a handful of these songs and based on their reactions, I think people are going to be happy. It very much sounds very much like OneRepublic,” stated Tedder. “It’s not us mining the same territory we’ve done a million times. But it is very much us finding our way in 2020.
Brown added that any band would need to evolve after spending 12 years in the industry. “It’s so hard to sound like yourselves 12 years later. To still sound like yourself and sound like you could be a new band in 2020. That’s really hard. I think we are finding our footing in that,” he added.
The Beyonce-Adele-Chris Martin jam
Last year, fans of Beyonce and Adele took a collective gasp when news went viral that the band’s fifth album would feature a collaboration with the two divas of music, with Coldplay’s Chris Martin playing a piano solo. Frontman Tedder himself was quoted dropping this nugget, where he told Z100 New York at the Global Citizen Festival: “We have one song featuring Beyonce and Adele, with a Chris Martin piano solo in the bridge.”
Naturally, it was news that broke the internet before Tedder took to his Instagram stories to set the record straight that it was all a joke. “I did not think it would go viral,” said Tedder in a childlike voice, when quizzed about the incident.
The OneRepublic frontman has worked with both the female artists in the past, having co-written Beyonce’s smash-hit ‘Halo’, while penning ‘Rumour Has It’ for Adele, who Tedder calls the “best singer in the world.”
A collaboration between the two is not totally off the charts and Tedder himself concurs.
“I don’t know if they would have anything to do with a OneRepublic release. But I think that both of them on the same record would be the biggest thing ever. Absolutely. And it would probably melt the internet,” he replied.
Not succumbing to outside pressures
Artists often complain that outside pressures, especially from labels, forces many to conform to a certain sound and hinders them from evolving. The OneRepublic boys agree that is often the case with major acts, but they have managed to stand their ground.
“I think our situation is probably unique,” explained Drew Brown. “We have less involvement from the record label. We have less of chiming in than other acts. In general, I don’t think anybody would put as much pressure on us than ourselves.”
Paying the price of fame
In April 2017, a year after the band had released its fourth album, Tedder took the band’s Facebook page to post an emotional message about handling the pressures of being on the road.
“About 3-4 weeks into the promo for the 2nd single ‘Kids’, I (Ryan) hit a physical, emotional, psychological wall. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, not sleeping, on meds, not happy, anxiety on a crippling level and it was triggered from sheer exhaustion …. At that moment I wanted to quit, and almost did. I called my manager and said “pull the plug” ... cancel TV’s cancel promo, cancel the single, cancel the album,” he posted.
Nearly three years later, OneRepublic finds itself in a happier place today. “I don’t feel any extreme ancillary pressure that I wouldn’t apply to myself. Like the drivers that we have is our own brain, the band as a collective unit will not put out sub-standard music and that exceeds any external pressure,” said Tedder.
The 40-year-old continued: “We are always thinking about our fans who have waited a long time for new music and a new tour. That’s what we are most focused on.”
Surviving 12 years in the industry
It was in 2005 when the band made its first album with producer Greg Wells, which was set to release in the summer of 2006. But the group was dropped by Columbia Records two months before the album came out.
With no avenue left to release their music, the lead single of that album ‘Apologize’ was finally released in 2006 through the online streaming platform Myspace, soon climbing to the number one spot on the charts. A year later, the band dropped its debut album, ‘Dreaming Out Loud’, with the lead track remixed by Timbaland and went on to earn the band its first Grammy nomination. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I’m very keen and focused on sounding modern even though we’ve been around for 12 years, which, in the music industry is like dog years, it’s ridiculous. It’s like 86 years,” revealed Tedder. “We have to sound modern, but authentic. And those two things are very difficult to do. It’s easy when you are first coming out because it’s the first time people have heard you. But when you’ve been around long enough, people want to hear what they love about you but they want it in a new package. And they also don’t want you to appear like you are trying too hard.”
Frontman Tedder calls the band immune to critics and criticism.
“My head is spinning with that stuff all the time. So I don’t need anyone telling me, nor do I care,” said Tedder. “That is the reason why I go so sick of reading everyone’s thoughts on every topic in the world, to us, our music, to politics. That stuff is so dangerous.”
Tedder added that one of the things that he has noticed in the music industry in the past few years is that nobody seems to now care about critics or their opinions. “It has never meant less than it does right now in terms of music.
New artists using social media to launch careers
OneRepublic’s MySpace success story serves as a textbook example of how bands can gain recognition through social media.
“Look at Lil Nas X, Lewis Capaldi or even Billie Eilish. They have also built their careers using the tools that were made available to them through social media,” said Tedder. “If your music is of the highest quality, it will go viral.”
Tedder explained that all new artists are competing for the same thing. “In 2007 when we signed, I was not worried about new up and coming artists who were releasing songs independently. We were competing with the same oxygen that every other song uses. And if you’re not Instagram or TikTok, using the tools available to you, then it’s your loss. If MySpace hadn’t existed when it did there’s a 100 per cent chance we would not be sitting here today.”
Other acts at the Dubai Jazz Festival
The Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival kicks off on February 26 with R & B and soul star Lauryn Hill takes to the stage. She’ll be joined by British musician Bruno Major, the hit maker behind ‘Easily’ and ‘Just The Same’.
The following night, American balladeer Lionel Richie will perform live. With more than 100 million albums sold internationally, the ‘Hello’ singer will be supported by the jazz fusion band Spyro Gyra.
American pop rock band OneRepublic will take over the final evening of February 28, supported by Sammy Miller and The Congregation.
Don’t miss it!
The Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival runs from February 26 to 29 at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre. Tickets are priced at Dh350 and are available at dubai.platinumlist.net