Originally published as cover feature for Colorado Hotel Magazine, Spring Edition – April 2017
Whether you’re one of their many loyal fans, or simply among those who are familiar with their textured musicality, unquestionably OneRepublic has established a fortress in the music and entertainment industry. They have crossed boundaries with songs that have dominated airwaves and media streams. Recently their music has provided the soundtrack to TV commercials for Bose and Chrysler, as well as being featured in big screen blockbusters like “The Giver” and “Collateral Beauty” starring Will Smith. All this stems from the groundwork laid by internationally renowned hits such as “Counting Stars”, “Stop and Stare”, “Good Life”, “Secrets” and “All the Right Moves” to name a few.
In addition, frontman Ryan Tedder boasts a prolific co-writing portfolio which includes work with elite artists and bands such as Adele, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, the list goes on. He has been awarded three Grammys as a result, two of which came from his work with Adele on her albums 21 and 25, both winning Album of the Year. He also scored a Grammy for his work on Taylor Swift’s album, 1989 which won Album of the Year as well.
“I’m very fortunate,” Ryan said while being interviewed on the red carpet at the 2016 Grammys, “I started in 2007 at the back of the room [of the Grammy Awards]. Ever since then I’ve been working with enough incredibly talented people that I always get pushed to the front of the room.” Concluding, “The Grammys is bizarre because, I’m going to say that nine out of ten people I run into, I’ve worked with.”
Early on, the band’s success was cultivated by OneRepublic’s breakthrough single, “Apologize” which hit airwaves in 2007, blazing the charts with a lyrical irony that resonated, ‘it’s too late to apologize’. And it has been unapologetically that Ryan Tedder and band took the industry by storm. Proudly, their artistry is rooted here in Colorado.
Long before “Apologize” was ever penned and put to music, visionary leader Ryan began cultivating his presence in music with a move to Colorado Springs, Colorado from Tulsa, Oklahoma during his senior year in high school. The move proved to be serendipitous, as soon thereafter he met and befriended now co-founding bandmate Zach Filkins. The two formed their first group in 1996 calling it, This Beautiful Mess. While their early run at making music was met with modest local success, the group ultimately dissolved by the end of their senior year when Ryan and Zach parted ways to attend separate colleges.
Ryan continued to work relentlessly through college to establish solo artistry, eventually netting an internship with DreamWorks SKG in Nashville. From there, he went on to win a songwriting contest on MTV hosted by N’Sync member, Lance Bass. The early breakthroughs served as a foreshadowing of things to come for Ryan, but it wasn’t until 2002 that a new band called Republic emerged when he and Zach reunited in L.A. As one of the first to be discovered doing so, they utilized MySpace to share their music. Its reach was effective, catching the discerning ear of artist/producer Timbaland who is credited for remixing “Apologize”, signing and ultimately launching the band, known today as OneRepublic.
Four albums and ten charting hits later, this internationally esteemed group of five is comprised of bassist Brent Kutzle, guitarist Drew Brown, and drummer Eddie Fisher, in addition to founders Ryan who sings lead vocals and guitarist Zach. OneRepublic continues to thrive with the release of their fourth studio album, Oh My My which climbed on the charts to number three in its first week.
To advance Oh My My, the band teased fans with a tweet that described the new recording as, “new, modern, different, unlike anything we’ve done.” In fact, the collection of songs that comprise the album were written in over 20 cities all over the world as they toured in 2013-2014. Demonstrating the creative force that fuels their success, the fusion of sound is distinct and perhaps their most eclectic pairing of music and artistic influence yet.
Meshing the evolution of OneRepublic’s unique brand with experience and influence is not new to the band though. It is a practice that has allowed their songs to live and breathe in action. One hit single they literally put feet to is “Good Life”. They did so by founding the 501c3 Good Life Foundation. Tedder said of its mission, “One day it’s providing clean water, the next it’s medicine or food for kids in need. The goal in the end, is to do what we can, while we can, to ensure as many people in this world have a chance at living a good life.”
For the last nine plus years, the band has been actively involved in charity work globally, yet they remain focused on giving back to the local community as well. Four of the charities they continue to partner with are Colorado based. This generosity directly impacts our city and state, not just with donations, but with a hands-on approach.
In 2010, Ryan teamed up with The Fray’s frontman, Isaac Slade to host a battle of the bands for a local youth non-profit called One Liquid House. I met with Ryan then and he was both willing and eager to spend time with young local musicians, freely offering his esteemed musical expertise. He also served as one of the three judges on the panel to the talented young Denver bands who competed.
The following year, OneRepublic organized and hosted a holiday charity event that benefited three prominent Denver charities. Headlined by OneRepublic, they gathered successful Colorado-based bands such as Devotchka, Flobots and The Fray. All willingly donating the collective proceeds from the ticket and merchandise sales for the benefit of three regional charities: The Santa Claus Shop, Food Bank of the Rockies and Children’s Hospital.
Yet among all the band’s achievements, perhaps the most understated is Ryan’s discerning and dominate songwriting prowess. It continues to push not only OneRepublic to prominence, but also bolsters the other musicians he writes with and for to new heights.
When asked during the airing of the 2016 Grammy Awards how he determines which of the songs he writes are for OneRepublic or for other artists he replied, “It’s really just about if I’m singing it and it sounds good and I wrote the lyric, then maybe it’s a OneRepublic song. I’m kind of turning the corner on that, and the lines between what is a OneRepublic song and what isn’t are blurred.”
That same evening Ryan joined Adele on stage as she claimed the Grammy for Album of the Year for 25. He is credited with co-writing the song “Remedy” featured on that album. Earlier in 2016 he revealed to Breathheavy.com, “I play the piano on ‘Remedy’ and I don’t consider myself an A-level piano session player. I wanted to redo the piano with a brilliant pianist, but she insisted we keep my take on it because there was an emotional context there and it wasn’t perfect. Perfect isn’t perfect.” He concluded, “I hear that record and can hear a couple of moments that I go off tempo, and it drives me crazy, but it’s part of what makes us human.” It is that drive for perfection that speaks to his unique songwriting, as well as the success that inevitably follows it.
As for what is next for Ryan and OneRepublic, that is where it comes full circle. The band announced they are preparing to head out on a national tour in support of Oh My My, the album that was inspired by the same. They kick off their travels by headlining the 2017 Honda Civic Tour with an itinerary slated to make 36 stops over the course of three months. The band will be accompanied by Fitz and The Tantrums and most notably, the third to last stop lands OneRepublic and company back at home in Denver, at Fiddlers Green on a September 9th, 2017. Tickets are on sale now!
If all that OneRepublic has accomplished in the last decade serves as any indication of the future, their tenacious drive and work ethic is nowhere near exhausted. Their empire wasn’t built overnight, and the infectious melodies combined with emotionally charged lyrics have continued to evolve, proving their staying power. It is all steadied by their continued charitable pursuit, individual accomplishments and expanding reach in the industry. Together, it makes for an unparalleled arrangement that is suited to orchestrate a masterpiece that promises to resonate for years to come.
Ryan concludes, “The cool thing about writing music, writing anything, is that once you publish it, it’s there forever.”