12 December 2008. The last show on OneRepublic’s 15-month world tour. Backstage at the Grand West Arena, minutes before his band go on, singer Ryan Tedder is clearly relieved.
“All I can say is I’m excited (A) that I’m in Cape Town and (B) that tonight is the last time I have to play these 12 songs together. We’ll always be playing some of them but we’ll never play this many songs off this album after tonight,” he grins a little wearily.
“It’s like eating the same meal for five years in a row. Even if it’s really good food, at a certain point you get tired of it.”
Not that Tedder and his bandmates are complaining – less than five years ago they were hardly selling out arenas on the southern tip of Africa.
“Once we played the downstairs of a pizza parlour,” remembers the frontman, nursing a beer. “We had no monitors. We had one mic. There was not enough room on the stage for all us of to fit so I had to stand off the stage and sing in the crowd. And throughout the show people would shout things like: ‘Table 22 your pizza’s ready’.”
“We got paid two large pepperoni’s and beer.”
Success then, wasn’t overnight.
“What many people may not know is most of ‘Dreaming Out Loud’ was written approx 5 years ago,” Tedder recently wrote on his MySpace blog. “We went through record label hell being courted, then signed, then shelved, then dropped, then courted, then signed.”
After years of struggling, one song changed it all. ‘Apologise’ has gone on to sell over 10 million copies at last count.
“It’s given us the opportunity to basically flip the bird to our old record label and say: ‘See what you could have had but you chose to drop us.’,” deadpans drummer Eddie Fisher.
“All we ever wanted was a completed album, pressed and out in stores so people can hear it, feel it, get it whenever they want it. So when the single was out and doing well, there was a feeling of ‘Yes!’.”
Tedder felt the same when, at around the same time, his sideline career as writer and producer went stratospheric with Leona Lewis’ ‘Bleeding Love’. Surely, though, the 29-year-old must have been a little annoyed he didn’t keep the song for himself.
“It never even occurred to me it could be a OneRepublic song,” he counters. “The rest of the band would have shot it down in a minute.”
It’s all about the words.
“I would never sing those lyrics and if you took the lyrics out of ‘Bleeding Love’, it’s not ‘Bleeding Love’. My lyrics for the band are more inspired by someone like Bono and less of a female pop kind of thing and I try to keep them separate as much as possible.
“Usually the songs I do for other people are distinct and different enough – if nothing else, the lyrics are different enough that it would never be something I sing with this band.”
Not that there’s a template for writing OneRepublic songs.
“Our next album is going to be very eclectic. There’s going to be crazy rock moments, crazy pop moments. That’s the thing about pop – there are no rules, you can do what you want to do.”
And what Tedder wanted to do is record songs for their second album in studios around the world – including Johannesburg.
“We were surrounded by African drums everywhere and I love African music so it definitely influenced the music and influences the vibe of what you write,” he says of the two “pretty phenomenal” songs completed here.
“I love both of them.”
As the publicist indicates it’s almost time for Tedder and Fisher to get ready for the show, talk naturally turns back to the matter at hand: touring.
“The hardest gig we’ve played was Indonesia. We landed there after flying for a day and a half and then had a show six hours later. So when we went on, for us it was still 5am. And it was hot as could be, humid, sweaty,” he grimaces a little.
“I was asleep 60 seconds before I went on stage. They ran back to the room and said: ‘You’re on stage in a minute.’ I literally woke up, got off the couch, put my ear monitors in and I was on stage. The whole first two songs I was like: ‘What’s going on?'”
That’s where the audience fits in.
“If you’re doing this same thing day in and day out you need to have a great audience. Some audiences haven’t been so good but then you get to South Africa and everyone’s been phenomenal – the audiences are crazy.
“There couldn’t possibly be a better way to end 15 months of touring. On our next tour we have to end here too because of the crowds, the scenery, the weather, the people.”
And with that Tedder and Fisher are off, to face those very people one last time.
- This article originally appeared on iafrica.com.