A highlight of our trip to Paris for the Mondial de l’Auto was sitting down with OneRepublic‘s frontman—and singer, songwriter and producer for many other celebrated acts—Ryan Tedder at Molitor, the chic reborn swimming club and hotel.
We spoke about what it means to be a car geek and how the band’s track “Counting Stars” became the theme song for the all-new 2015 Mercedes-Benz B Class. Tedder is one of the most prolific creators in the music industry today with four songs on the new U2 album and collaborations with Adele, Beyoncé and more.
Tedder makes evident the longstanding history between the music world and the automotive industry. Behind the wheel of a car is a place of inspiration for him. “I write and produce for tons of artists, and I do 75% of all my listening to mixes, demos and every iteration of the song in a car. I give it the car test,” he shares with CH. “In LA, I will get in a car and drive down Sunset, all the way to Palisades and back and turn the songs on. I get a huge amount of inspiration from those journeys. Oddly enough, the last time I was in LA, I was finishing the U2 album and they’d loaned me a Mercedes. I was driving to the studio in Malibu when I wrote ‘Love Runs Out,’ because the music came on and I had an idea for the chorus. The PCH wrote that chorus. Cars play a huge role.”
Tedder and OneRepublic have long been timid about their partnerships. “I hate product placement. When it comes down to that, we’ve had many discussions among the band, and were we to associate with any brands, it has to be mutually beneficial.” On the other hand, he understands how much the music industry has changed and how performers have to evolve along with it. “In 2014, people aren’t selling albums or even songs. Everything is difficult.” He calls to attention one of his personal favorites, Phoenix, and how they were able to place themselves on the map thanks to partnerships. “They are one of the coolest bands in the world. They weren’t on anybody’s radar until they did a car commercial. They never had a commercial hit [in the US]. All of a sudden everyone started paying attention to that vehicle, and that band, and their song ‘1901.’ With bands like that, and even bands like us, it’s so hard to let the world know that you exist.” This thought eventually led Tedder to Mercedes.
“We were playing a show in Germany, a variety show that’s three hours long and happens two or three times a year and two thirds of everyone that speaks German watches it. We knew ‘Counting Stars’ was going to be our next single. I wanted a connection with something bigger than just, ‘Oh, you got it in the next movie.’ I wanted something reputable that was something we loved and believed in. We in the band all talk about cars. We obsess over cars and technology. We we’re standing there. We look up and there is a giant Mercedes symbol spinning above us, in the arena. Our manager snapped his fingers and pointed up and said, ‘Counting Stars.’ Two days later we approached them and told them the idea. They couldn’t believe we were there; that we called them.” Rather than shoehorn a partnership, both sides agreed to wait for something organic to happen. More than a year later, it worked out.
For the event in Paris, Mercedes unveiled an array of their newest automobiles, including the world premiere of their new generation of the top selling B-Class featuring new bumpers, lines and Notable with the new models are the B-Class Electric Drive and the B 200 Natural Gas Drive. The campaign featuring OneRepublic and “Counting Stars” was also unveiled.
With the overwhelming power of the internet and, in turn, access to information, Tedder shares, “It’s not just about selling the music. It’s about selling the people. You have to create, basically, a cultural moment—a catalyst that reacts so you become embedded in the cultural vernacular, much in the same way Mercedes did.” Tedder believes, in light of this, that authenticity is key—and finding the perfect match. “It’s all about relationships and not something that feels unnatural. At any given moment, I am competing with others whether that’s for space or time. In the producing world, I’m competing with guys who are seven days a week in the studio, when I am out touring with my band.” It took Tedder years to be able to divide his brain and manage both parts of his profession. “There are hardly any bands left, bands on a global level. In the last decade we can name three in the world that are really relevant.” This makes his work easier. “Anything I write that sounds like it’s for a band goes to us, all the others I try to find a home for. A lot of people say, ‘A hit is a hit is a hit.’ A hit can destroy a career if it’s the wrong kind of song. And this is true in any endeavor.”
Images courtesy of Mercedes Benz