By Brian Ives
What’s it about? “It’s about obsession… the Calvin Klein fragrance,” frontman Ryan Tedder jokes in an interview with Radio.com. He notes that he doesn’t like discussing lyrics in too much detail, but he’s happy to talk about the video.
“The quote that’s the theme of the video is a famous quote, I don’t know who said it—so I’ll say that I made it up—it’s ‘The mass of mankind lead lives of quiet desperation.'” [The quote is actually from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden from 1854.] “The idea that probably more than half the population has those moments: you walk to work, and you see everyone else walking to work dressed as you are, drinking your Starbucks going, ‘God, is this really it?’ And [in the video], the guy has that moment.”
The band make a short cameo in the video. Tedder says, “Most of our favorite videos as a band, the artists are not in the videos. It’s an art piece. If it’s going to be a piece of art, let it be a piece of art. Squeezing the band in is tricky. We barely fit in to the narrative of this video. Barely. And I could have easily removed us from it.”
Of course, OneRepublic, like all bands, live at the crossroads of art and commerce: “It’s hard, because if you have a song that explodes… we’re already a band that’s gotten where we’ve gotten, operating below the radar. We’re maybe sonically ubiquitous; you’ve heard us everywhere, for almost a decade. But visually, we can still walk into a Walgreens and not get mobbed. That’s been amazing. And with this video, we’re definitely not putting ourselves on blast. I’m sure in future videos, we will probably take a larger role.”
Outside of OneRepublic, Tedder is one of the most in-demand collaborators in music today: he’s worked as a songwriter and/or producer for U2, Adele, Beyonce, Madonna and Maroon 5, among many others. OneRepublic, however, hasn’t traditionally invited many other artists to work with them on their records. That’s about to change, though.
“For the first time, we’re going to have quite a few features,” Tedder says. “We’re doing something with Peter Gabriel—I just recorded him yesterday. It’s a very modern sounding song. I hope it’s the single, because I desperately want him on the radio again. We did a record with Pharrell, one with Romy [Madley Croft] from the XX, [French dance music duo] Cassius, and a few other people who I can’t mention [yet].”
The band—who generally let Tedder do the talking—all got animated when informed that Gabriel’s classic album So just hit its 30th birthday. They’re clearly all jazzed about having him on their record, and are all hoping to catch his tour with Sting this summer if schedules permit.
Tedder says, “I was Skyping with him and we were recording and he was like, ‘Right, I have to run in a minute, we’re rehearsing in the other room, I don’t want to keep Sting waiting.'”
But the whole session wasn’t just done online: he did get actual (and literal) face-time with the legend. “I did record with him at his studio in London, in Notting Hill. He was making me tea and we shared Pakistani food.” He even heard some of Gabriel’s next album. “He did play me some stuff, it’s supercool. There was one song in particular that I loved, it reminded me of the Peter Gabriel that everyone fell in love with in the ’80s.”
OneRepublic’s new album doesn’t have a release date yet, but is expected to come out later this year.