The Idolator Interview: Ryan Tedder

Dec 8th, 2009 // 27 Comments

It’s been one hell of a year for Ryan Tedder. In addition to his band OneRepublic releasing sophomore album Waking Up last month, the singer-songwriter is also reveling in the fact that “Halo,” which he co-wrote with Beyonce (as well as co-produced), has been nominated for a Record Of The Year Grammy. Additionally, Beyonce’s full LP containing “Halo,” I Am… Sasha Fierce, is also up for Album Of The Year.

But with “Halo” came controversy after Kelly Clarkson basically accused him of using the same melody for her own Ryan Tedder song, “Already Gone.” And then in the fall, while tackling a break-neck pace of work that saw him crafting music with everyone from Adam Lambert and Natasha Bedingfield to Adele and Leona Lewis, Tedder says he came down with H1N1: “It nearly killed me. I was sick for three weeks.”

But, hey, why not add more work to the schedule—Tedder also says  he’s been asked to contribute material to a forthcoming episode of Glee that’s set to contain original music for a change.

Hop below the jump to read our interview with possibly the busiest man in music at the moment, OneRepublic frontman and 2010 Grammy nominee Ryan Tedder.

RD: First off, congratulations on the Grammy nomination for “Halo.”
RT: Thank you. I was definitely not counting on it, because the Grammys are notorious for disappointing, but it was exciting. What I didn’t count on was [that Beyonce] also got nominated for Album Of The Year, so I could end up potentially walking away with two that night. If that happened I would probably freak out, or put at least one of them up on eBay.

Did you watch the episode of Glee where the cast sings “Halo” as a mashup with “Walking On Sunshine”?
I did! Glee is actually my new addiction. I download every episode. They actually just approached me. Adam Anders, the guy who does all the music, approached me about two weeks ago to do original music for the next season. So I’m gonna be doing at least one song for the next season that’s original.

OneRepublic has had songs in two movies by German filmmaker Til Schweiger, Keinohrhasen and the one currently out now, Zweiohrküken. What’s the history there?
Til literally is probably our most vehement fan. He got an early pre-release copy of our first album before it came out and picked “Apologize.” He didn’t think we were going to approve it for the movie originally. German budgets are not the same as an American movie. A guy that works at our label is from Germany and he knew how big of a deal Til Schweiger is. In Germany, Til Schweiger is like Mel Gibson plus Brad Pitt. He produces, directs, writes and stars in the biggest movies in Germany. None of us had any concept of any of that. It really took another German telling us, ‘You really need to take this seriously,’ and [to] do whatever needs to be done with Til Schweiger.

shock-value-iiHow did the OneRepublic song “Marchin’ On” get selected to be on Timbaland’s Shock Value II—albeit on the “deluxe” edition?
That’s really interesting. It was actually not finished. “Marchin’ On” was the last song that made the album, and it came about as an accident. I didn’t know that the album was even being made, and then all of a sudden I find out it’s being made and it’s gotta be finished in three weeks and Timbaland needs a song from you. So we did a song that we really liked that we were considering saving for our next record, and Tim heard it and he liked it but he thought it was too happy. He wanted something a little bit more somber. I just kind of kept beating my head against the wall, and tried four or five different ideas for songs. A few of them were great. I tend to not finish songs if I don’t think that they’re gonna be great. So I had four unfinished song ideas, and on the fifth one I just decided to do something really, really simple. I came up with a verse and chorus to “Marchin’ On,” I think I was in Minneapolis in some studio, and then sent it to Tim and he freaked out on it. He [had] asked me for a “Halo.” He was making all these references. I was like, I’m not gonna do that. I’m not gonna hand in something that sounds like “Apologize, Part II.” I don’t really believe in trying to rip yourself off.

Why go back there, anyway?
Yeah, it’s not worth going back. That territory, for better or worse, was conquered. So, nevertheless, I wanted to give him something that had tempo, that was four-on-the-floor, that could almost be a dance song. The funny part is it was only supposed to be on his album. Our album was done. We had ten songs. Originally our album was only gonna be nine songs, and the album title for the longest time was 9. We even had artwork and everything, but we had to scrap that because two different movies and a book and all this crap was coming out called 9. So we literally added a tenth song.

waking-upYou said “Marchin’ On” wasn’t finished?
What happened was there was a miscommunication and the label thought we were putting “Marchin’ On” on our album as well as Timbaland’s album. And so they printed every single album sleeve with “Marchin’ On.” But the problem was, with the Timbaland version I only did half of a song. I did a verse and a chorus. So I find out literally the evening before the whole album was being mastered, it’s being mastered in 12 hours—and I’d just finished a show—and my manager says, “You’ve got to gotta go into a studio tonight and finish ‘Marchin’ On.’” I was like, hell no! It’s not supposed to be finished. Timbaland finished it. He was like, “No, we need a OneRepublic version now, because wires got crossed and everything’s been printed with ‘Marchin’ On.’” So that’s how that song ended up on the album. That song went from a verse-chorus to a full song literally in an hour and 45 minutes.

It’s got to be wearing on you at this point, trying to balance the songwriting for other artists as well as your own career with OneRepublic.
It really is, man. It really is. And that’s kinda the thing I’m trying to figure out. I was just talking to Max Martin the other day—he was an idol of mine, and so now he and I have developed a friendly relationship. The single greatest email I ever got in my life was Max Martin emailed me about a year-and-a-half ago and said, “There are only two songs ever written that I’ve told anybody I wish I’d written.” And he said, “You wrote both of them.” I saved the email! I was like, are you kidding me?  I wrote back and said, “You have about five.” He just emailed me yesterday, actually, and was like, “I don’t know how you do it,” because I was just venting to him, saying things are busy, it’s crazy. And I’m the kind of person that, in anything I’m doing—if it’s exercise, if it’s running, if it’s sports, whatever it is—I tend to see how far I can push myself. It’s almost like self-torture. I wanna know what my threshold is. And so this past fall was probably the most intense—we were rehearsing, shooting a video, I was wrapping Adam Lambert’s album, handing in mixes for Leona [Lewis] and writing with Natasha [Bedingfield] while finishing our record, all simultaneously.

Were you trying to set some kind of record?
It nearly killed me. I got H1N1. I was sick for three weeks. I was like, okay, that’s my threshold. So now I’ve kind of backed off it a little bit. I have the uber-drive like the Energizer bunny that just makes me just go, go, go. And I wanna do it all. But the problem is, I’m realizing, in trying to do that you can just kill yourself. And it’s like once you reach whatever that level is, the thought of maintaining it is just nauseating. It’s like trying to pull a Madonna or something. I like Lady Gaga, but when I think about her life I literally have to go take a nap. Thinking about her life makes me tired, because I’m thinking, you really should have taken about eight years to get to where you are. I can say this because I’ve done it—not on her level, but I’ve been doing this for a long time. When you start at that velocity—I mean, that’s what happened to Panic! At the Disco, and now, I don’t know if they’re done, but pretty much. When you start at that maximum velocity, crazy level, maintaining it is ten times worse than getting there.

tedderHow do you give the brush-off to other artists wanting a Ryan Tedder track on their album?
Now I just balance it out. I’m only working on stuff that I absolutely love now. I get hit up for songs every day, probably four or five times a day. And they’re all  huge artists, so it’s really hard to pass on a lot of them. But now I say if inspiration hits me and something absolutely magnificent raises its head, then I’ll do something. But what I’m not gonna do is hand in a B+ song just for the sake of handing one in.

So who’s getting your “A” material these days?
I’m working with Adele right now, who’s inspiring me like crazy. I hadn’t written a song in about a month, literally, until yesterday. The less I write, the better the songs are. When “Halo” came about, I hadn’t written a song in two months. Then two months after that I wrote “Battlefield,” and two months after that was “Already Gone.” When I don’t do a ton of writing, then typically the quality of the song is a lot better.

You’re very tight with Simon Cowell and you work with all the artists coming out of American Idol. Were you asked to be a replacement judge when Paula left at any point?
[Laughs] You know, yeah, as like a joke in a passing conversation with Simon. I was like, “So Paula’s leaving?” He was like, “Yeah, you wanna replace her?” I was like, “Uh, no.” I’ve known Randy Jackson for years. I actually know Paula pretty well. My wife’s best friend was her roommate and personal assistant for the last few years. It’s a really small world in Hollywood, which is partly why I left. But I can’t say that at some point I won’t do something like that, because I love every aspect of music and I love evaluating music. I love listening and just taking stuff apart—not necessarily critically, but from a songwriter-artist perspective.  Those shows are amazing. What I like about those shows, X Factor and American Idol, it’s gotten the whole country obsessed with music. That makes me happy. I always loved Star Search. I never understood why that show got taken off the air. I think once X Factor starts [here in the U.S.], Simon’s going to—he’s extremely competitive—and I think he’s going to attempt an overthrow of the American Idol paradigm. He’s gonna shift it to X Factor. I’m pretty sure that’s gonna happen.

One of the best albums you had a hand in was Blake Lewis’ first one, Audio Day Dream. It had to be disappointing that it didn’t take off like it should have.
I loved that album. I was actually with Blake about a week-and-a-half ago. He pops up random places. We were in Vegas and Seattle, and somehow he always just manages to pop up. He’s still bummed about it and confused about it. He’s moving forward and doing his own thing, as he should. But something weird happened on that project, and I can’t really go on the record saying exactly what it is. I have my suspicions. I feel like the label was in a transitional period when that album came out. They were switching heads of state, more or less, and that was one of those albums that had singles, I think, for days. I know it did. I know for a fact, because they researched the crap out of that album, and there were five songs that tested Top 10—which is astronomical, as far as research goes.  His album was maybe a little too eclectic. And frankly, when the first single didn’t just explode, they shifted their attention to Jordin and thought, well, let’s work Jordin’s record. And that’s really what happened.

kelly-clarkson1The year’s almost over. Have you made amends with Kelly Clarkson after the whole “Halo”/”Already Gone” drama?
Man, I haven’t talked to her, to be honest, since that went down. She has my email. Her attorney or somebody from her camp told somebody from my camp that she’s willing to work with me again. I was like, oh, thank you. I mean, I’m looking at your song right now and it’s #1 for the fourth week on Hot AC, so I’m sorry that I helped with that. I was absolutely livid when that whole thing came out because she had no idea what she was talking about when she said that. Somebody got up in her ear, and she got a bug in her ear. It was how she said it and how she worded it. If I was going around and selling the same track to the biggest artists in the world, how long would my career last? It’s ludicrous. And she knows me well enough to know I’m not an idiot. I’m not the kinda guy who’s gonna bust my ass for ten years to try and pull a fast one on Beyonce or Kelly. I’m no longer mad about the situation at all. “Already Gone” has just about done as well in America as “Halo” did. She literally wanted to sabotage the song. I’m happy that it saw the light of day, because I actually liked “Already Gone” more than “Halo.” I connect with it more. It gave me goose bumps. I’ve watched girls I’ve played the song for cry. It’s just an emotional, heartbreaking breakup song. I always liked it more than “Halo.”

Would you consider working with her again, then?
As far as working with her in the future, I would—but I don’t know, man. It really is tough to say. I like Kelly a lot. I have nothing but amazing stuff to say about her. Her album just got nominated for Pop Album Of The Year, and I like to think I contributed somewhat with that. She’s the easiest person to work with in the studio, and all these other great superlatives. But having said that, it’s like, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. And I just don’t know that I wanna venture—I don’t wanna get some crazy-ass backlash or get my head snapped off for writing a hit song. I do wish her the best, and if we work together in the future, then I will be a happy camper about it and let bygones be bygones.

idolator

  1. cg

    Your a total d-bag about the whole AG/Halo thing Ryan and making Kelly sound like the bad guy, which she isn’t. Your delusional if you think that the two songs don’t sound a like or any song your wrote since those two. Let’s see how many people compare AG and Halo alot. I hope Kelly never works with you again. You have no idea what your are talking about. How did you help the song be #1 on the Hot AC Charts, you may have co-wrote the song but that’s not the reason why, it is because of the fans who request it and stations that play it. I have lost respect towards you deeply. To me and others you just sound like an a**. And it’s Kelly who should be saying “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” And she didn’t snap your head off.

  2. Kay

    This guy sounds like a delusional creep. How can Tedder not hear the similarity between the Halo & Already Gone tracks when the rest of the world can? Nobody should be giving him any future business.

  3. Hannah

    I swear I remember Idolator writing douchery entries about bands ~*~*standing in the way of great art*~*~*~.
    Have Ryan Tedder and Adam Lambert always been Idolator’s idea of great art or did something happen?

  4. shaun

    ya know, I love “Already Gone,” but, when it and “Halo” were contemporaries on radio this summer/fall, I could never tell at first which was playing…that pretty much says it all…he is a bit delusional if he thinks he was entirely in the right there, no matter how well “Already Gone” has done since with its rather glacial and surprising climb up the charts.

  5. wolfey

    It’s funny how this d-bag can turn things around and make it seem like he’s the wronged one. AG was written by him and Kelly waaaaayyyy before Halo and so imagine Kelly’s dismay when learned a similar song was released.

    • Patricia

      In highschool Queen’s I’m going sltghily mad was my theme song’ *laugh* in University it was Love & Rockets So Alive now I’ve got a bunch depending on my mood and the moment but Show Must Go On will always have very strong connections and imagery for me.

  6. cg

    Wolfey actually he wrote the lyrics to Halo before him and Kelly wrote AG together. I’m not sure if Halo had a different track or not but I do know tthat he used the track first for AG. Apparently Ryan said in some interview back in the beginging of the year that when Already Gone was being mixed Beyonce’ was visting the guy who was maxing it, she loved the sound of it, went to Tedder and asked or demanded to have a song that sounded like AG so he gave Beyonce Halo and when he did, he gave it the same track as AG. When Kelly found out she was pissed and called him and asked why would he do this. He’s a jerk for doing that behind Kelly’s back espeically she has 40% of the rights to the song and he has 30%

  7. delusional tedder

    Dude, seriously!? Everyone and their dog compares AG and Halo and can hear the many similarities. And this guy’s in the music industry? Wow…also, notice that Kelly changed the arrangement and won’t ever perform it the way it was recorded. That and her insane vocals just *might* have something to do with the song doing well. Not to mention, the record label made it pretty much clear from the release that AG would be a single…Kelly objections be damned.

  8. Observer

    His fellow ban members probably can’t stand him. He comes off as being very self-centred and full of it.
    Already gone is a hit b/c Kelly has the most beautiful voice- not b/c of you Teddy Bear

  9. Rob

    Ryan Tedder is a great writer but I am sorry, what sells the song is the singer, not the lyrics. The lyrics set the stage for the performance but the singer is the one who tells the story, it doesn’t matter how great the lyrics are if you have a singer who can’t capture the emotion. Tedder should be incredibly thankful to Kelly for making that song a #1… personally I feel Already Gone’s recording on the album is weaker then most of the album but the way Kelly changed it and rearranged it sounds so much more mature and amazing then the track originally used for the album. If Kelly is smart, (which she has proven time and time again that she is) she will stick to her guns and put this whole thing and Tedder behind her. There will always be amazing song writers in the world, but there will never always singers like Kelly who can capture emotion and sing with a crazy amazing skills, especially in an industry that has become more about image then talent. So in conclusion, I hope Kelly tells Tedder to suck it when she wins the Grammy for her album (hopefully. She deserves it.)

  10. ohreli

    Maybe Kelly should have called up Ryan and discussed it one-on-one rather than making a big public stink in the media. Thats usually the nice, civil way to settle disagreements.

  11. Maybe Kelly should have called up Ryan and discussed it one-on-one rather than making a big public stink in the media. Thats usually the nice, civil way to settle disagreements. Wouldnt you all be pissed if the next time your co-worker or friend was upset at you they called the press rather than talk to you?!

  12. bink_blank

    @ohreli – actually she did call ryan and asked him why he would do that? she never said what his response was to that question, but she did call him before any of this came out in the press.

    Kelly said she heard some DJ’s on the radio talking about the similarities and even played the songs on top of each other and said how they both can be sung over the same music. when she learned of that – not only did the songs sound similar but the fact that the listeners noticed this she asked her label to not release “already gone” at that moment since “halo” was still being played on the radio. she wanted to release the song just not at the same time as “halo” b/c she knew they would be compared.

    when her album leaked many critics and fans noticed how similar “already gone” was to “halo” so it wasn’t a “bug” in her ear there was an obvious similarity between two songs that happen to be produced/co-written by the same guy. people also noticed how another tedder song on her album, “if i can’t have you” sounds like miley’s “fly on the wall”. dude just needs to take a break & get his head out of his butt.

  13. sassy

    Ryan Tedder is a hack. All his songs are sounding the same. He is doing the music industry and artists who work with him a disservice.

  14. What a creep. He obviously thinks we don’t have ears. She tried to stop it from being released because she has integrity, something this idiot doesn’t have. I dont care that the key is different the back track is the same. Why would he do this and then not admit any type of similarity AT ALL. I used to be a fan, NO MORE, HE IS WRONG AND OWES CLARKSON AND US AN APOLOGY, But he wont because he thinks who he is. I will have no respect for him until he owns up to this. His music has been deleted from my iPOD as a result of these new coments

  15. henry

    oh, you poor deluded dumbass…are you deaf? maybe you are. because your songs sound the same..and i’m not just talkin bout halo and already gone. perhaps you should a listen again. and again. and again. if that doesn’t work, do us all a favor. quit the industry. it was ok even without you around.

  16. Daniel Donegan

    Can all these people not hear or something! Listen to the lyrics! Just listen to the lyrics! AG wouldn’t of gotten anywhere if it sounded similar to Halo! Congratulations Ryan on having the most SUCCESSFUL music career in history! Dreaming Out Loud and Waking Up are my two favourite albums! Its like a song is stupid if it has a double Hi-Hat Snare beat! It just dosen’t make sense! Have another listen! A closer listen! You WILL hear the difference! Q: Why would Kelly want to work with him again? A: Ehh..Because SHE KNOWS he is the best in the business! Great interview Ryan! keep up the amazing work! =]

  17. Daniel are you deaf???????? We are not talking about Lyrics. the back track is near identical and Tedder thinks there is nothing similar about it. Clarkson is being accused by BEYONCE FANS of stealing!!! You can praise him all you want. He IS WRONG AND OWES EVERYONE AN APOLOGY

  18. boycot tedder

    Yeah Ryan knows what he did but hello he’s not going to admit it. lost total respect for the guy.

  19. No matter what happens, Ryan will be the best songwritter and singer of the time ! KC sucks a lot !
    OneRepublic is so amazing , I really love those songs ! “Waking Up” is very good !

  20. boycot tedder

    First of Kelly doesn not sucks. If she's sucks how she was voted the very first American Idol and back then it was a show about talent not popularity like is now. Or getting praises from people like Steven Tyler, Jeff Beck, Reba, Mariah Carey, and the lead singer of Mottorhead. Ryan is a good songwriter (minus the fact that he uses the same track for almost song he writes nowadays, but doesn't admit it) but I don't think he will be the best songwriter of all time. He's far from being a Max Martin or Dr. Luke. Which those two espeically Max have the better chance to be the best songwriter of time. Ryan is an okay singer (not the geatest) but he is far from being the best singer of all time. Kelly's a better singer than him by a long shot. Ryan is just a fad. I do like some of OneRepublic's stuff though.

  21. guest

    I know than I like “Halo” and hate “Already Gone”…

  22. MK

    this guy makes hits, none of you comment(ers) understand how important the songwriter/producer role really is.. what gets the fans are the songs, what keeps the fans is the artist. and in this case, ryan actually did help put her album on the charts, the same way, max and dr. luke did with breakaway. boo ya.

  23. Tiff1luv

    like u know nething about him. don't be ridiculous. he is a wonderful songwriter and singer. all of one republic's music is varied and great. They have a different mood in all their songs its like listening to the perfect song on both of their cds.

  24. RV

    this is really great

  25. jon

    EVERYONE ON HERE is being ridiculous. to the people that are slamming Ryan tedder- I will never understand the people who say things like “he’s a hack- all his songs are the same”. that is INSANE PEOPLE. Open your clogged ears- the same guy wrote “Do it well” for JLo, “Bleeding Love” for Leona, “Apologize”, “Stop and Stare”, “All the right moves”, “battlefield”- jordin sparks, “Reach Out”- hilary duff (#1 dance record), “Secrets”- (his own current hit with onerepublic). CAN ANY OF YOU MUSICAL GENIUSES TELL ME HOW ALL THESE SONGS ARE THE SAME?? ARE U INSANE? U all worship at the altar of ms. clarkson or something- she made a stink about 2 songs being similar and you people think every hit he’s written is the same song- point out to us please how all the above listed hits are the same- they are ALL DIFFERENT. I hate witnessing ignorant, uninformed arguments about music. He’s not my absolute favorite writer in the world, but My God people- he didn’t murder somebody. He loves music, that is obvious, and he has contributed alot to of great songs that will be played for a long time.
    Oh and just to clear up the timeline of events- He wrote HALO months before Already Gone- i read an interview months ago where he explained what happened. Halo was written in the key of C. Already gone was in key of A. “different keys”. Beyonce recorded the vocal on Halo while Ryan was on tour in Germany, and because Beyonce’s label is so protective over her songs- he didn’t even get a copy until the week before it came out. Upon which he discovered- Beyonce had dropped the key of the song 3 full steps DOWN….into the same key as “Already Gone.” if u listen to both songs back to back- the drums are different, the instruments are different. even the chord progression is different. the ONLY similarity is they are the same tempo. You can find a demo of Ryan singing the original Halo on youtube- and guess what????? doesn’t match Already Gone at all. Something tells me that guy doesn’t need money bad enough to try and sell the same track to 2 different artists. That doesn’t make any sense people…THINK. think before accusing.
    Anyway- I love kelly, I love onerepublic- but i officialy don’t like this site- whoever runs it should change the name from Idolator to kellyclakrsoncandonowrong.com

    -Jon A.

  26. April

    The above comment is quite long, BUT i actually kinda agree with Jon. I’m not sure why anyone’s bashing that writer his band is amazing and I actually love the songs he writes. Am I missing something here? Did he accuse Kelly of something? he wrote it, produced it, she helped. Already Gone is a hit, it’s beautiful, gorgeous, and I actually used it to break up with my last boyfriend (who broke my heart). I also loooooved Halo. I don’t see what the issue is, they’re different songs. they’re both amazing. kudos to mr. tedder I hope he keeps writing real songs, with all the dance trash that’s disposable as hell now, we need more ‘real’.

    April R.

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