Band members Ryan Tedder (lead singer/songwriter/ keyboardist and GRAMMY® winner), Zach Filkins (guitar), Drew Brown (guitar), Brent Kutzle (bass, cello), and Eddie Fisher (drums) are known for their earlier hits, “Apologize,” “Stop and Stare,” “All the Right Moves,” “Secrets,” and “Good Life.”
OneRepublic’s third-full length album, Native, was released in March 2013. The album’s lead single “Feel Again” features the heartbeats of Guatemalan children which were recorded by the band as part of their work with Save The Children (an international children’s-rights organization to which OneRepublic is donating proceeds from the single’s sales). Equally anthemic, “Counting Stars” begins with tenderly strummed acoustic guitar before bursting into a soaring, shimmering epic featuring guest vocals by Bobbie Gordon. (“We were at RAK Recording Studios in London and she just walked in and knocked out those vocals and changed the whole song,” recalls Tedder. “Definitely one of my favorite moments in making the record.”)
Even when dealing with darker themes, Native maintains a majestic atmosphere. “If I Lose Myself,” for instance, relentlessly builds and bursts, its shining melodies and dance-floor-ready rhythms disguising the song’s somewhat morbid subject matter. “It sounds like some epic dance record, but really it’s about me going down in a plane crash,” laughs Tedder (a self-confessed aerophobe who admits that “even though I fly constantly, there’s at least a few minutes on every flight where I’m convinced it’s all over”). That joyful intensity also saturates tracks like “Something I Need” (a “Hey Jude”-inspired anthem that the band dreamed up in order to create “one of those songs that comes on the jukebox and by the time you get to the chorus, the whole bar’s singing along”), and “Life In Color” (a gorgeous slow-burner marked by galloping drum beats, warm synth tones, and vocals that reveal Tedder’s masterful range).
Throughout Native, OneRepublic augments the emotional power of each song with a newly revamped vocal approach. Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tedder grew up singing in church and counts country music and gospel as key influences on his singing style. But despite delivering dynamic and unrestrained vocals in OneRepublic’s live shows over the years, he long shied away from bringing that same brio to the recording process. “I’d always slightly neutered my voice on the albums, maybe out of fear of stepping too far out and getting all showboaty,” he says. “With this album I felt like I was past due to channel that live sound into the recordings and let a more gospel-esque sort of singing and chanting weave its way through the songs.”
The seamless elegance of that sonic weaving owes largely to OneRepublic’s artistry as arrangers, as well as to its careful studying of the EDM world. “I got obsessed with EDM after seeing Swedish House Mafia at Coachella last year and being blown away by their set,” says Tedder, who’s previously collaborated with the EDM trio (as well as with DJ-culture pioneer Paul Oakenfold). “It started off as an experiment but took on a life of its own, and eventually we stumbled into this strange hybrid that allowed us to preserve our own sound but still bring in something totally new,” he notes.
Another key factor in shaping OneRepublic’s newly refined sound, writing and recording in faraway places was crucial to opening up their sonic possibilities. “Because we’re traveling all the time, we’ve always made our albums all over the place, and what naturally happens is we end up taking on some of the vibe of wherever we happen to be at that time,” says Tedder. “In Paris we were right around the corner from Moulin Rouge—you step outside, and you’re just in the epicenter of this amazingly cool world. And in Greece we were lucky enough to play with local musicians who brought in a completely fresh sound you can’t find anywhere else.”
Freshness is infinitely essential to OneRepublic, who foremost aspired to make Native a “very modern record, a snapshot of life in 2013,” according to Tedder. “It’s so important to us that every album be an evolution, where we make these huge lateral movements with our sound and then from there write a bunch of great songs,” he continues. “It’s definitely a mother of a process, but it’s really the only way for us.”
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