Zac Brown has filed a lawsuit against Ryan Tedder over their collaboration “Nowhere Left to Go,” a song that featured on the country singer’s recent solo album The Controversy but was removed after the two artists tussled legally over the song’s rights.
When the surprise eight-song The Controversy arrived digitally on September 27th, “Nowhere Left to Go” served as the opening track. However, the song has subsequently been scrubbed from the digital release of the album, with its removal the crux of Brown’s lawsuit that accuses Tedder of filing a false DMCA takedown notice. (As of this writing, the song is unavailable on Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music, among other streaming services.)
In the complaint filed Thursday in a California district court and obtained by Rolling Stone, Brown details the creation of “Nowhere Left to Go,” which began in March 2018 when Tedder sent Brown “previously recorded elements referred to as a ‘start’ (the ‘Start’), with the intention that the Start be incorporated or merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a potential new musical composition written or co-written with Mr. Brown.”
Working with one of Tedder’s engineers, Brown turned the “Start” into a demo alternatively titled “Dance on Me” and “Nowhere to Go.” “It was always understood and agreed that Mr. Brown had ultimate and sole control and discretion as to the elements to be included in, and the completion and Plaintiffs’ release of, the Nowhere Left to Go recording and musical composition,” the lawsuit claims.
However, roughly five months later, Brown alleges that further attempts to work on “Nowhere Left to Go” were rebuffed by Tedder, who he claims failed to follow through on Brown’s repeated attempts to complete the track. Brown ultimately finished the track on his own in July 2019.
A month before completion, after Brown sent Tedder a near-finished version of the track, the lawsuit claims that Tedder told Brown that “he did not realize that Mr. Brown was pursuing the completion of the Nowhere Left to Go recording” and that Tedder instead gave “the Start” to Diplo, who was using it to create a different song.
The suit claims that Tedder’s manager later asked Brown’s manager on a pair of occasions to delay the release of “Nowhere Left to Go” until after Diplo’s song came out; Brown’s manager declined, and “Nowhere Left to Go” arrived with The Controversy on September 27th. (A press release that accompanied the release of the album did not mention Tedder as a collaborator, while fellow producers Max Martin, Benny Blanco, Skrillex and Andrew Watt were named.)
Soon after The Controversy‘s digital-only release, Tedder – who has “copyright interest” in the collaboration – allegedly issued a “DMCA Takedown Notice of Infringement” on “Nowhere Left to Go,” briefly forcing the album’s removal from streaming services; while the album was restored soon after, the song remains unavailable. (Reps for Brown and Tedder did not immediately reply to requests for comment. A rep for Diplo declined to comment.)
In addition to seeking damages and demanding a jury trial, Brown’s lawsuit also seeks the right to both reinsert “Nowhere Left to Go” on the digital track list as well as include the song when The Controversy is physically released on vinyl and CD.
Zac Brown’s Lawsuit Against Ryan Tedder