- Joel Strayer
- Ryan Tedder and the rest of OneRepublic are sitting pretty atop the charts.
Go ahead. Try to avoid OneRepublic. You won't have much luck.
The balladeering pop-rockers, who currently call Los Angeles home, are everywhere these days on television, radio and probably your iPod, too, thanks to the success of their hit single "Apologize" and their newly released debut album, Dreaming Out Loud.
Let's run down the list of appearances: performing on FOX's So You Think You Can Dance, recording a faux club set for ABC soap opera One Life to Live, showing up on MTV's video countdown show TRL, being interviewed on cable music video channels Fuse and VH1 ...
(Take a deep breath. There's more.)
... performances on The Today Show, and talk shows Ellen and Last Call with Carson Daly. Oh, and there's the upcoming appearance on the CW network's Superman-as-a-teen drama, Smallville, too. That's not counting the dozens of radio interviews you might've heard in the past month or so, both on local and national shows.
All this on top of Timbaland's "Apologize" remix becoming the latest song in a long line of songs to be that song you know, the one that's never not on the radio. The song, currently sitting at No. 3 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart (where it's been in the Top 5 for nine weeks) recently set the all-time record for most Top 40-format spins in one week across the country.
It earned 10,600 plays. In seven days. A recent New York Times article on the record-breaking track quoted Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems in equating that to 70 million different people hearing "Apologize" on the radio. Again, in a seven-day span.
Think about that for a second.
Sure, it's more of a sign of the trends in radio than anything else. (These numbers weren't tracked until 1987, and eight of the songs currently in the all-time list's Top 10 were released within the past three years.) Still, it's a remarkable feat for a new-to-the-mainstream-landscape act.
As far as the year's hit singles go, "Apologize," despite only beginning to earn major radio play in late September, may be the biggest. It's right up there with Plain White T's' "Hey There Delilah" and Rihanna's "Umbrella."
Oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering why you should care: The band's from Colorado Springs.
This Beautiful Mess
You read that right: The biggest buzz band in the country is from Colorado Springs.
No, the group's two founding members, vocalist Ryan Tedder and guitarist Zach Filkins, weren't born in the Springs. In fact, they spent a blip of their childhoods here.
But the signs of Springs roots are obvious if you look closely enough. You could start in Dreaming Out Loud's liner notes, in which each band member thanks either God or Jesus Christ before anyone else, and Tedder tells someone named Boyce: "3 am Waffle House on Fillmore, it doesn't get better."
Here's how it happened: In 1996, during their senior year at Colorado Springs Christian School, Tedder, the new kid at school, met Filkins, who had moved to town as a junior. The two played on the CSCS soccer team, and while talking about their favorite musicians one day on the drive home a list that ranged from Fiona Apple to Peter Gabriel to U2 the duo decided to start a band. Not long after, they began jamming at each other's homes.
- Joel Strayer
- Tedders proud father, Gary, sits at the piano where his son wrote the hit song Apologize. The window in the background overlooks the entire city.
"I can remember being in the kitchen and hearing them be like, "Wouldn't it be cool if, one day, we started a band?'" Filkins' mother, Kathy says.
Soon, they had formed a band. The two, along with some others, played as"This Beautiful Mess." It was the first incarnation of what would become OneRepublic.
And it lived up to its name.
"It lasted probably two weeks or so," Filkins says, laughing over the phone. "It was just us wanting to play music, and we just tried to do whatever we could in the Springs to play music."
There were two or three gigs, at Pikes Perk and the like.
"They went really well," Tedder says. "It's easy when you have a lot of friends and family in the audience."
Still, little except for maybe a slight confidence boost came from those performances. After senior year ended, Filkins and Tedder went their separate ways, each heading to different colleges. But the dream didn't die.
"We talked probably every three or four months about, "When the timing's right, let's get together and let's put this band together,'" Filkins says. "We said, "Let's do it, because we'll regret it if we don't do it.'"
Five years removed from high school, Tedder was able to convince Filkins, who was then living in Chicago, to move to Los Angeles with him.
Despite their short stays here, both Tedder and Filkins adamantly insist that Colorado Springs "is home."
The family that each has scattered about the region helps. So does the fact that, for Tedder also a hit producer who has worked with artists from Chris Cornell to Natasha Bedingfield to former America Idol contestant Blake Lewis his earliest forays into producing came at his father and stepmother's home in Cedar Heights, near Garden of the Gods Park.
"My wife and I would be up on the top floor," says Tedder's father, Gary, "and at 3 in the morning, from the basement, we'd hear "boom-boom, boom-boom' ... we didn't know he was a budding talent."
Perhaps they should have; it was on Gary's piano, situated in front of a glass wall that overlooks Colorado Springs from the hills above Manitou, that Tedder first composed the music and hook-heavy lyrics to "Apologize."
"The view from their house is literally, you look to your right, and it's Pikes Peak and the whole range, and you look down to your left, and you're looking down at Garden of the Gods," Ryan Tedder says of his father's home.
"The song's about Kissing Camels, actually," he adds, laughing. "And, the chorus is about that guy what's that guy's name? General Palmer. I'm not gonna say it was the factor, but [the view] is inspiring. I was joking with my dad the other day that I'm going to have to come back and ... rent his house for several weeks when it's time for album two, so I can write at that piano."
The biggest buzz band on radio at the moment, and, statistically, the biggest song in radio history, each coming from Colorado Springs.
Shock and awe
Really, there's no precedent for this in local music history.
Sean Anglum, a local, longtime, self-proclaimed musicologist, can think of only two other acts with local members to even sniff the Top 40: The Serendipity Singers in the '60s and Firefall in the '70s. But, really, as far as local products gone mainstream, OneRepublic and "Apologize" are as big as it gets.
- Joel Strayer
- Filkins (above) and Tedder hoped to play arenas one day. Now, they are.
"It's massive," says Chris Pickett, program director of My 99.9 KVUU-FM. "This is a song that, in every way, we know is a hit. With every form of measurement that we have that we use to answer the question of, "Is this song a hit?' it's overperforming."
Indeed. So much so that My 99.9's local Top 40-format competitor, Magic 98.9 KKMG-FM, is playing the song as often as 100 times a week. That's roughly once every 90 minutes.
"It was the right time and the right song," says Magic's music director, Kat Jensen. "A lot of it has to do with the fact that Timbaland had just had two major hits, two No. 1 songs ["Give it to me,' with Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado, and "The Way I Are,' with Keri Hilson and D.O.E.] before he came out with this one. So everyone gave it a better look.
"I think they owe their entire career to him. They owe everything that they have to him."
Well, sort of. Really, the credit belongs to, of all people, N*Sync's Lance Bass. In 1999, Tedder entered a songwriting contest held by Bass and TRL. He performed a song called "The Look," live on the air and won. That got him signed to Bass' now-defunct Free Lance Entertainment label.
That opened another door: Timbaland had seen the show and, a year and a half after it aired, reached out to Tedder to express his interest. The relationship the two shared led to Timbaland taking Tedder under his wing as a producer. With Timbaland's backing, Tedder, under the stage name of Alias, started producing tracks for artists as varied as Jennifer Lopez, Bubba Sparxxx, Hilary Duff and Ludacris.
But, after a few years of studio work, Tedder's own artist aspirations took over. That's when he reached out to Filkins. After filling out the rest of the lineup with Drew Brown, drummer Eddie Fisher and bassist Brent Kutzle, and recording some tracks, the band was signed to Columbia Records.
Shortly thereafter but not before OneRepublic had finished recording its debut album the subsidiary label onto which it had been signed, folded. The band, subsequently, was dropped.
Re-enter Timbaland, who signed the act to a subsidiary of the Interscope label, and remixed the track "Apologize" for a compilation disc, Shock Value, which he released earlier this year.
"He always loved the song "Apologize,' and I think, when Timbaland he's a big rock fan, and after all the pop stuff, he wanted to move into rock was ready, he called us, and that was a perfect time for us," Filkins says, before laughing. "Pretty much any time he calls, it's like, "Sure, we've been waiting for you.'
"It really was overnight. It took four years for an overnight success."
On some levels, though, the assistance was a bit disconcerting. Though Timbaland's remixed track now appears on Dreaming Out Loud, because it was first released on Shock Value, no one in the band except for Tedder, who received a writing credit saw much of a kickback.
"It was hard to swallow at first," Tedder says. "It was difficult because it said, "Timbaland featuring OneRepublic,' which was difficult because it's always been the other way around. But, truth be told, he did it there because he knew if he put his name on it, everybody would listen.
"Now it's No. 1 in, like, 25 countries. It's ridiculous. And I'll credit him for that. He did that. I wrote the song. We played it. He took it to every country."
Pride and prejudice
The positive response helped the band garner some name recognition. But even now there's some confusion as to who, exactly, OneRepublic is.
"We heard that someone thought that we were a boy band," Filkins says. "And some people thought that we were a black boy group we got a lot of Urban [radio format] spins off of that.
"Some people thought that it was just Timbaland. There were a lot of different misconceptions, but you can't take it personally. You just have to keep presenting yourself out there."
Hence the current whirlwind tour. The TV appearances, the radio interviews, the upcoming cycle of radio station-promoted Christmas concerts, even the band's sure-to-be-a-big-hit-among-the-locals gig on Jan. 18 at Englewood's Gothic Theatre it's all aimed at putting a face on the OneRepublic name. And, perhaps, aimed at ensuring OneRepublic doesn't go the way of so many other acts that, in the past, had huge first releases, only to be never heard from again.
- A little boost from Timbaland helped Tedder (center) and company get to this point. But are there other worthwhile tracks on Dreaming Out Loud?
Tedder and Filkins' expectations are tempered, yet high.
"It's impossible to beat our first single," Tedder says. "And I mean that literally. I don't see us breaking two records anytime soon. So there's a lot to live up to."
There's also the fact that, even though Tedder says Timbaland has other remixes of OneRepublic tracks stored away somewhere, you won't see the super-producer's name attached to any upcoming singles. At the very least, that won't make selling records any easier no matter what spin the band wants to put on it.
"I believe with every fiber of my being that we have songs better than "Apologize' on this album, and that we're gonna have a lot of love off of these songs," Tedder says.
To Tedder's credit, Pickett and Jensen, the local radio programmers, agree. Each predicts the group's next single, the Fray-esque "Stop and Stare," which is already earning rotation on each station, will do well within the Top 40 format.
"The next song that they have is definitely a hit," Jensen says. "[Tedder's] just got that magical power to write, I guess."
And, each station says, as local listeners come to further realize that OneRepublic is a (somewhat) local product, interest will only grow.
"There are people that may have run across these guys, but these are not the guys that were playing The Black Sheep," Pickett says. "They made some personal relationships, though. And the story of them forming here, I think that helps."
Himself a Denver native, Pickett compares OneRepublic's potential local impact to that of Big Head Todd and the Monsters' influence over the Denver scene in the '90s.
"It gives us [in Colorado Springs] credibility," he says. "It's because of [Big Head Todd] that people like The Fray and these other acts have come out of [Denver] with some strong success."
One difference Pickett notes: The Fray was better known in Denver as a local, live performing act than OneRepublic has ever been in the Springs. That, and the type of music OneRepublic plays, could mean that the Springs sees little as a result of its most successful local product becoming so popular on the national scale.
"Just the fact that they're a rock band and they're just doing their thing and playing their music, and not out there in front of the public eye, screaming where they're from, I don't think it's really going to make that big of a difference [in the local scene]," Jensen says. "I don't know, necessarily, if people from all over the country are going to recognize that they're from here.
I know that there's a lot of artists from other places, and their hometowns are very proud. But unless you're Eminem or you're Ludacris and you're constantly saying where you're from and how proud you are of your hometown, I don't necessarily know if that gives [a town] nationwide appeal."
So maybe nothing much comes out of OneRepublic's being from Colorado Springs, as far as the local scene goes. But the fact that people are talking about the band's roots can't hurt, Jensen says.
To virtually everyone involved, the whole thing just feels surreal. On a recent flight to the Springs from Chicago, even Filkins' father, Doug, was surprised to learn that the young woman seated next to him had heard of his son's band and song.
"When I told her, she just about jumped out of her seat and hit the roof," he laughs.
You can't blame him for being proud. You can't blame Tedder's father, either, for talking nonstop as soon as you mention OneRepublic. You can't even blame Filkins and Tedder's CSCS music instructor, Dena Flanagan, for being too honored by Tedder's thank-you in his liner notes to care that he misspelled her name.
And it'd be tough to blame the band, its family and friends, or any local music fan, really, for being excited about seeing this scenario play out.
It's not like this town or OneRepublic, for that matter has been here before.
"We got put in the passenger seat of a freakin' rocket with the first song," Tedder says. "Now we're just gonna see how much momentum it has, and where it takes us."