Ryan Tedder may be the busiest guy in the music business these days. Lead singer for the band OneRepublic, Tedder also writes and produces hits songs for other artists, last year earning an estimated $2.5 million from his extracurricular songwriting alone.
OneRepublic’s first hit, “Apologize,” didn’t make much of a splash until Timbaland remixed it - and it went on to be Ryan Tedder’s first multi-million seller. Soon he had an impressive second career as a songwriter and producer for other artists, writing or co-writing such global hits as Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone,” Beyonce’s “Halo,” and Adele’s “Rumour Has It.”
The son of a musician father and a school-teacher mother, Tedder grew up in a religious family in rural Oklahoma. Before he was a teenager, he listened mostly to gospel music. You can hear that gospel influence not just in the sound of some of his songs, but also in the spirit. Andrew Hampp, who recently profiled Tedder for Billboard Magazine, thinks one reason his songs are so popular is that people find an extra layer there. There’s a deeper meaning, not just a great pop hook.
"A lot of his songs are very spiritual. I think they are very life affirming," Hampp said. "They’re not just throw your hands in the air party jams - often the antithesis of that.”
In the past six months, Tedder has had writing credits on hits by Maroon 5, Ellie Goulding and Demi Lovato. Yet to be released are songs he worked on with U2, Ariana Grande, and Taylor Swift. While it’s not unusual for a singer to co-write with another artist, it isn’t common to cross styles as effortlessly as Tedder seems to.
Nashville’s Gretchen Peters is probably best known for writing the country hit “Independence Day” for Martina McBride, though dozens of other artists including Neil Diamond and Bonnie Raitt have recorded her songs. While she often writes with Bryan Adams, Peters says solo writing is always easier. She’s impressed with Tedder’s ability to write with such a diverse group of artists.
“You really, really have to get in their head. As a songwriter, that takes a certain amount of your energy just sort of understanding where that artist is coming from, what it is they would say, will say and want to convey in a song," Peters said. "And also other mechanical things, like their range, their ability to sing, the kinds of melodies they sing. All of that you have to take into account. It’s a very intuitive and sensitive process, trying to get into that artist's head.”
It’s a secret that Tedder has figured out, both as a co-writer and with his band.
OneRepublic’s third album, “Native,” has just gone gold, and “Counting Stars” just topped “Apologize” as the band’s biggest single. They spent much of this North American spring touring Europe, and have U.S. dates scheduled through the summer. But being on the road won’t stop Tedder from jumping into the studio and working with other artists and producers.
So where does Andrew Hampp see Tedder in 20 years? Will he still be on the road?
“His ambition is to be U2. To have songs that are a part of people’s life milestones," Hampp said. "It’s important to him that he not be the songs that you just hear at a party or in a club, that he writes the songs that you hear at your wedding, you hear at your engagement party, your graduation party, whatever it is. So, U2 is in their 50s now, and they’re still touring the world. And ironically, making an album that will have songs produced by Ryan Tedder.”