10 Great Songs You Didn’t Know OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder Wrote
In retrospect, OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder‘s sideline as a successful Top 40 songwriter seems fated. His father was a gospel songwriter in the Seventies with an encyclopedic knowledge of the hits. “He could tell you the top records on the chart at any given point in time for basically all the Eighties and all the Nineties,” Tedder told Wonderland Magazine. Tedder started playing piano at age three, picked up the guitar as a teenager, and penned his first song when he was 15.
“Melody is the single most important thing to any song, period,” he explained to NPR in 2010. “I don’t care what anybody says, it trumps everything. Not because that’s my opinion, but because I think it’s actually indisputable fact: The human brain retains melody easier than it retains words. It’s that simple.”
Tedder’s career as a writer for others has been successful enough that at times it threatens to overwhelm his gig as frontman of One Republic – in 2007, the same year the band broke out with “Apologize,” Tedder penned a massive hit for Leona Lewis. Here are some of the highlights from Tedder’s extensive catalog.
Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love” (2007)
Timbaland appeared on the remix of OneRepublic's "Apologize," and "Bleeding Love" suggests that Tedder learned a thing or two from the veteran hitmaker – there are echoes of Nelly Furtado's "Say It" in the production. In a 2012 interview with NPR, Tedder suggested that Prince inspired the track. "I sat down at my piano and turned on an organ patch," he remembered. "I literally said to myself, 'What would Prince do?'"
"I thought it was the biggest hit I'd ever written," he continued, "and I gave it to the record label, and they straight up told me: 'This is not a hit record.'" And I thought, well then I need to pick a new career. My ears are telling me this a really important song." Radio programmers proved him right: for a while, "Bleeding Love" held the record for most spins in a single week in the U.S. with 10,665.
Beyoncé, “Halo” (2008)
Beyoncé was a fan of OneRepublic's "Come Home," so she reached out to Tedder to see if he would try to write her a song. "Halo" came together when Tedder was stuck at home with a torn Achilles heel. "Evan Bogart and I were superclose friends," Tedder told Billboard. "He was having his explosion as a songwriter, and I texted him and said, 'My wife's gone for three hours, will you come over? Let's write one song' … I had this idea for a patch of this weird choir of angels thing, started playing it and within three hours we had 'Halo.'" Tedder later helped write "XO" on Beyoncé's eponymous 2013 album.
Adele, “Rumour Has It” (2011)
Tedder’s songwriting and frontman work keeps him constantly busy, but he insisted on finding time to hit the studio with Adele. “I thought she was the best singer in the world,” he admitted to Billboard in 2012. “So I wanted to halt everything to make sure there was time to work with her.”
He picked up the story during a conversation with NPR the same year. “She walked in, and she was already pissed off from a conversation she had the night before with her ex,” he recalled. “She came up with this great phrase, ‘Rumour Has It,’ because people were saying that this was why they broke up – this happened, that happened – and she was sick of hearing all the rumors. That was the catalyst. I started playing this dirty, Louisiana-porch-stomping blues riff on the guitar. She just started singing. A few hours later we had the song.”
Gavin DeGraw, “Not Over You” (2011)
DeGraw's debut single, "I Don't Want To Be," was a Top 10 hit; he's been trying to match that chart success ever since. Tedder helped him get close with the keyboard-heavy "Not Over You," which climbed to Number 18. "[Tedder] came in and was like, 'Hey man what do you think of this piano thing?'" DeGraw told American Top 40. "He played pretty much what the piano part is on the album. From there we wrote the song, and what we ended up with at the end of the few days we worked on it was something that was still in the vein of what I've been doing, but with a freshness to it that I think I needed."
Carrie Underwood, “Good in Goodbye” (2012)
While much of Tedder's work has been for Top 40 artists, he has branched out into other genres, penning tracks for the dancehall singer Sean Paul and country acts like Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood. "It's nice to branch out," Underwood said in 2013. "You always want to grow as an artist and you don't want to make the same album again. You do want to experiment … I've worked with Ryan Tedder; I've worked with people who've worked with hardcore rap artists."
The Fray, “Love Don’t Die” (2013)
The Fray's Joe King and Ryan Tedder have known each other since before they were famous. "I played high school soccer against him," King said during a conversation with Radio.com. "We connected right when both of our bands were trying to get signed. We were emailing each other, 'Who are you talking to?' We had this artistic trust together against the industry and for each other."
Eventually the two decided, "Let's see what happens. Let's write something." Working together, the pair concocted the guitar onslaught of "Love Don't Die" in roughly 90 minutes.
Ellie Goulding, “Burn” (2013)
"Burn" was the product of a tour-bus writing session between Tedder and his OneRepublic bandmate Brent Kutzle. "I was so ecstatic about the song that our show was probably delayed five minutes because I couldn't stop listening to it," Tedder told Billboard. "Ellie cut the vocal, killed it, she didn't mess around. And then it sat for a year." When it finally came out, it climbed to Number 13 on the Hot 100.
John Oates, “Stone Cold Love” (2013)
One of the more surprising credits in Tedder's discography is "Stone Cold Love," a track he penned for John Oates of Hall and Oates. "He wanted to work really fast and do something that'd really stand out on the album," Oates explained to The Quietus. "He said, 'If I do something with you, it's got to be something nobody would ever expect.' And it certainly worked out, as the song 'Stone Cold Love' is probably the most extreme on the record."
Ariana Grande, “Why Try” (2014)
Grande's debut album was full of Nineties R&B homage, but her second album looked towards electronic dance music ("Break Free"), chugging Eighties pop ("Love Me Harder") and power ballads like "Why Try." This track shares qualities with a number of Tedder's co-writes: martial drums, a soaring hook and a swelling keyboard melody. Grande described Tedder as "amazing" during an interview with MTV in 2014. "I love working with him because he understands what it's like as a vocalist to want the song that day," she added. "He'll literally let me take two takes of something and then he'll have it done by the time I get out of the booth."
Ella Henderson, “Ghost” (2014)
"Ghost" is another uptempo, bluesy cut like Adele's "Rumour Has It." According to Henderson, Tedder first encountered her music online, stumbling upon a Drake cover she had thrown onto the Internet. He liked it enough to get in touch with her label, and met Henderson for a session in London. "I was quite nervous," she remembered, "but when I met him, it was like we were old friends catching up. We grabbed a drink, we had some food, and the next thing you know we were sat around a piano writing this chorus called 'Ghost.' Instantly I knew this was going to be my first single. I felt something huge about it."
Taylor Swift, “I Know Places” (2014)
When Taylor Swift made her much-publicized jump from country to pop on 1989, she connected with several of the most successful Top 40 writers of the past decade – a group that included Max Martin, Shellback and Tedder. “I sent this voice memo to Ryan Tedder, because I always wanted to work with him,” she said during an interview with Ryan Seacrest. “And finally, we scheduled some studio time. … I just sat down at the piano, put my phone on top of the piano and just kind of explained to him where I wanted to go with the song, how I saw the melody sitting in, and we ended up recording the song the next day.” Tedder, who also co-wrote anthemic 1989 opener “Welcome to New York,” later called Swift “a bit of a songwriting prodigy.”