OneRepublic goes “Native” making music for the massesBy Ricardo Baca | March 29th, 2013 | No Comments »
At the moment, Denver-based band OneRepublic‚Äôs new record ‚ÄúNative‚ÄĚ is slaying charts all over the world.
‚ÄúNative‚ÄĚ is No. 1 in Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines, according to Interscope, the band‚Äôs label. It‚Äôs also Top 5 in 23 countries including Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It‚Äôs Top 20 in the U.K., Ireland, Poland and Russia.
And what about OneRepublic‚Äôs home turf? How‚Äôs ‚ÄúNative‚ÄĚ doing in America? It just came out on Tuesday, so it‚Äôs too early to say. But first single ‚ÄúFeel Again‚ÄĚ has already topped the 1 million sales mark here, and the current single, ‚ÄúIf I Lose Myself,‚ÄĚ is climbing pop charts ‚ÄĒ currently residing at the No. 35 spot.
It‚Äôs no secret that European markets catch onto OneRepublic‚Äôs crafty pop blend significantly faster than U.S. cities. They‚Äôve long been a band that draws better in Berlin than their hometown of Denver. And so the band brings a curious history to the conceptions behind the title of its third studio album.
‚ÄúEverywhere we go in the world, our fans would tell us that we were their band, that we felt familiar to them, as if we were writing specifically for them,‚ÄĚ OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder said. ‚ÄúAs an American band, we¬†aspire to connect with other people outside of our borders.
‚ÄúAnd native, the word means familiar and local, and that‚Äôs the best answer we can give. We aim to be familiar and local to every country in the world. We want to be local to everybody.‚ÄĚ
And in a way, they do feel local to many diffirent cultures. But OneRepublic‚Äôs greatest success ‚ÄĒ that uncanny popularity at seemingly all corners of the Earth ‚ÄĒ is also its most degrading criticism. Yes, the band has No. 1 hitmaking potential in Thailand and Germany, the U.S. and the U.K., but some will argue that the band‚Äôs bombastic pop songs are so ‚Äúformulaic‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúgeneric‚ÄĚ as to make them widely accepted from culture to culture.
It‚Äôs a criticism Tedder has faced throughout his successful career, which includes independent production and songwriting for Adele (‚ÄúRumour Has It‚ÄĚ), Kelly Clarkson (‚ÄúAlready Gone‚ÄĚ), Beyonc√© (‚ÄúHalo‚ÄĚ), Leona Lewis (‚ÄúBleeding Love‚ÄĚ) and many others ‚ÄĒ work that has nearly eclipsed his day job with his own band. He‚Äôs willing to admit his inspirations, from American hip-hop to the across-the-pond EDM stylings of Swedish House Mafia.
But often Tedder is pushing himself and inspiring his music along the way, such as when he produced a song for Swedish House Mafia and later performed with them at 2012‚Äôs Coachella Music Festival. During the band‚Äôs set, Tedder excitedly texted his OneRepublic bandmate Brent Kutzle, ‚ÄúDude, I‚Äôm at Coachella right now, and I‚Äôm having my mind blown by Swedish House Mafia. We need one song that captures this kind of energy but retains the fact that we‚Äôre a band.‚ÄĚ
That inspiration became the band‚Äôs current single, ‚ÄúIf I Lose Myself,‚ÄĚ a likable pop ballad that morphs into a club anthem.
‚ÄúWe wrote the song on the upright piano in my studio (in Denver), and we finished the version I loved, which the label said, ‚ÄėIt sounds too live.‚Äô But I loved it, and I want to release it some day. We thought it was beautiful. They said it was too beautiful, and it needed to be more knocking. And in comes (producer) Benny Blanco, a good friend of mine, and he put his touch on it.‚ÄĚ
Such is Tedder‚Äôs life. While talking about his recent promotional schedule for ‚ÄúNative,‚ÄĚ he rattles off city and country names like they‚Äôre familiar friends.
Australia for a week, then Stockholm, then five other European cities, then Vienna for ‚Äúa big TV thing,‚ÄĚ then New York on Tuesday for ‚ÄúGood Morning America.‚ÄĚ On Thursday, the band was on ‚ÄúIdol‚ÄĚ performing ‚ÄúIf I Lose Myself‚ÄĚ with guest Katherine McPhee. Today the band is on Rachael Ray‚Äôs syndicated show.
No wonder ‚ÄúNative‚ÄĚ was recorded all over the world.
‚ÄúIt had as much to do with necessity with actual intent,‚ÄĚ Tedder said. ‚ÄúMost of the album was recorded in Denver, and the rest of it was all over the world, not because we were trying to globetrot, but because we‚Äôd have a gig in Paris, and so we‚Äôd record in Paris. We did the iTunes Festival in London, and so we recorded there. We played in Vancouver and recorded there, and then we played the Super Bowl in New Orleans, and we finished the album there.‚ÄĚ
Counting on ‚ÄúCounting Stars‚ÄĚ
Tedder said he‚Äôs most excited for fans to hear the first track on the new record, ‚ÄúCounting Stars,‚ÄĚ a song that sounds like OneRepublic‚Äôs attempt at indie folk ‚ÄĒ acoustic guitars, shouted harmonies, Lumineers-inspired ‚Äúheys‚ÄĚ and Mumford-like builds, sure, but the soaring pop melodies, too.
‚ÄúWe put ‚ÄėCounting Stars‚Äô first because that was the song that consolidated and explained the eclectic nature of the album,‚ÄĚ said Tedder. ‚ÄúObviously I love big pop melodies, but it‚Äôs not that simple. If you don‚Äôt like ‚ÄėCounting Stars,‚Äô you won‚Äôt likely be into the rest of the album. That song is my personal favorite, if not one of my two favorites.‚ÄĚ
Sure enough, it‚Äôs an extremely effective (and infectious) song ‚ÄĒ with Tedder‚Äôs polished pop hijacking a folk song, and a little R&B attitude in there as well. It‚Äôs the new album‚Äôs most instantly likable song, besting ‚ÄúIf I Lose Myself‚ÄĚ and its near-ambient mainstream pop and ‚ÄúAu Revoir‚ÄĚ and its Coldplay-familiar piano pop.
‚ÄúCounting Stars‚ÄĚ is also the album‚Äôs biggest departure from OneRepublic‚Äôs previous work, and when you‚Äôre Tedder ‚ÄĒ writing/producing for your own band and many others in Top 10s all over the world ‚ÄĒ keeping things somewhat-fresh is essential.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt want to beat my sound into the ground,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúIf you don‚Äôt evolve, you‚Äôre a couple moments away from dying musically. I‚Äôd rather take a big swing and have a big miss rather than somebody saying that it sounds like ‚ÄėSecrets‚Äô or ‚ÄėGood Life Part 3‚Äô or ‚ÄėApologize Part 2.‚Äô ‚ÄĚ
As for Tedder‚Äôs independent production, he‚Äôs excited about upcoming work for English songstress Birdy and Denver-based indie folkers Churchill. And concerning Adele‚Äôs follow-up to her monumental, multi-platinum ‚Äú21‚ÄĚ (which featured Tedder co-writes ‚ÄúRumour Has It‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúTurning Tables‚ÄĚ), he said mum‚Äôs the current word.
‚ÄúThe only Adele thing I‚Äôve heard is ‚Ä¶ nothing, actually,‚ÄĚ Tedder said. ‚ÄúFrom the label, they said, ‚ÄėYeah, we‚Äôre not really talking about it right now.‚Äô But when it happens, I can only presume they‚Äôll rally the troops.‚ÄĚ
Until then, it looks as if Tedder will be plenty busy with OneRepublic tours. And with all those No. 1s and Top 5s heralding the debut of ‚ÄúNative,‚ÄĚ there are plenty of places to still visit ‚ÄĒ and inspiration to be gained from such travels. Tedder remembers the day ‚ÄúIf I Lose Myself‚ÄĚ was born. It was 2010 and he (and his fear of flying) was en route from Moscow to Saint Petersburg on a OneRepublic tour. He fell asleep mid-flight but was awoken when the plane malfunctioned and turned into a violent dive.
‚ÄúIt was way more serious than turbulence, and it was right after the Polish prime minister died at same airport,‚ÄĚ Tedder said. ‚ÄúWe came in at a 70-degree angle. We would have clipped end over end, but at the last minute, the pilot straightened it out. People were screaming in the plane. We slammed on the tarmac, bounced, slammed again, bounced again, and then we took off again before he came around for another landing.
‚ÄúPeople were throwing up and getting sick everywhere. I was praying, saying, ‚ÄėPlease take care of my family, take care of my wife, forgive me for all my sins.‚Äô It was terrifying. I thought those prayers might be the last things I said.‚ÄĚ
After that incident, OneRepublic‚Äôs Russian tours have been via the Trans-Siberian Railway. And oddly Tedder‚Äôs fear of flying has nearly disappeared since writing and releasing ‚ÄúIf I Lose Myself.‚ÄĚ