Living Their Dreams Out Loud
by Jay S. Jacobs
You know that you’ve heard it. Topping the charts and all over the radio in recent months there was that mournful voice crooning: “It’s too late to apologize… It’s too late…”
The funny thing is, this grand rock ballad came off of the new CD by dance/hip hop impresario Timbaland (Justin Timberlake, Aaliyah). However, while Tim added his own mix, the tune is all OneRepublic.
The California-by-way-of-Colorado-based band turned out to be the first band signed to Timbaland’s new label Mosley Music Group, which is distributed by mega-label Interscope. Then Timbaland did a remix of their single “Apologize” for his own disk as a way to introduce the band before their recently released debut disk Dreaming Out Loud.
“It’s funny, because Tim and [lead singer] Ryan [Tedder] used to work together years ago,” explains band drummer Eddie Fisher. “Ryan was doing stuff with Bubba Sparxxx and other producers. Things I guess didn’t work out and Ryan was forced to go his separate way for the moment. It was all on good terms. They didn’t have any hard feelings for each other. So, that was kind of good.”
“Apologize” doesn’t sound like the kind of stuff that Timbaland – who had made his name on dance jams like “Get UR Freak On,” “Sexyback” and “Promiscuous” would pick to feature. However, the band knows that things aren’t always what they appear.
“Tim… it’s funny, he’s not into hip hop. He loves alternative rock people, you know? I don’t even care for some of the music that he likes.” Fisher laughs. “I mean, I like it, but it’s not something that I would put as a musical influence. To be honest, I can’t even think of one artist off the top of my head right now. He’s pretty eclectic. He’s pretty artistic musically. He loves hip hop but he loves alternative rock. He loves classical. He wouldn’t even be opposed to do something with Carrie Underwood.”
OneRepublic is made up of singer/pianist Tedder, guitarist Zach Filkins, keyboardist Drew Brown, bassist/cellist Brent Kutzle and drummer Fisher. The band was originally started by Tedder and Filkins, who were friends in their native Colorado Springs. When they moved to LA to pursue music they hooked up with the rest of the band.
“It was almost four years ago,” Fisher says. “The previous bass player had asked me to try out for what was at the time called Republic. I’m like, yeah, totally. He sent me some music – which was ‘Apologize’ and a couple of other songs that actually didn’t make the record. I tried out. And… here I am. They enjoyed what I had to give to them.”
Kind of a low-key memory for his entrée to a band that is on top of the charts, but this laissez-faire attitude to getting the job is not so out of character with his music background. Fisher was a local Cali guy who had almost just stumbled into music. He never learned as a small child, never grew up expecting to be a rock star. It all came later for him.
“Back in high school, my brother had a set of drums in his room. I used to always sit in there and fiddle around with it. I was like, man, this is so fun. And he’s like ‘Dude, you picked it up so fast. You should take lessons.’ I’m like, nah… I don’t want to take lessons, because I don’t know if I want to do this. So, after high school, I moved away from my father and moved in with my mother down in Orange County. I had some neighbor friends who both were drummers. They were brothers. I was, dude, let’s go play drums! I just grew into it and finally got my own drum set for like $250.00. It was a piece of junk, but man, I played the crap out of that,” Fisher laughs.
Even after hooking up with OneRepublic, it took a while for Fisher’s beating on that kit to get widespread notice. In fact, the breakout single “Apologize” has been recorded for a few years now. The group had previously been signed to Columbia Records and recorded a CD which ended up never getting a release. On the aborted project were many of the songs which would end up forming the band’s current release – including the mega-smash hit single. That sound you hear coming from the Sony building is some Columbia execs kicking themselves.
“Columbia just kind of brushed us off,” Fisher acknowledges. “We had a complete album. We were done. We had eleven songs. They said – basically in a nutshell – that they weren’t going to put it out. It was going to be shelved. They decided to drop us, which – I’ve got to be honest, thinking about it now – I’m so happy they did. Interscope came and picked us up. Tim picked us up. We had some new songs in mind. Tim was 100% like, ‘Right on. Let’s try it. Let’s do it.’ So we took some songs off the old Columbia album and added four or five new ones. ‘Say’ being a new one. ‘All Fall Down.’ ‘Come Home.’ ‘Won’t Stop.’ Those are all new fresh ones.”
Timbaland did come to the rescue – however, he wasn’t alone. Actually, before Tim even considered taking the band on, they became a sensation on MySpace, where they had posted some of the songs that had been recorded. The spreading buzz not only eventually led the band back onto a new label, but also kept the guys from pulling the plug.
“It’s amazing. We give a lot of credit to our MySpace family,” Fisher says. “[After] the Columbia deal, we were thinking about packing it up. Going our separate ways and doing our own musical things. MySpace kept us together. The amount of responses, friends, emails and comments that we got was so overwhelming that we felt obliged to continue. It actually opened up our eyes to understand what our music was doing to people. What it was actually doing to us too. We love playing our music. We get chills. Recording the album and hearing it… you listen to it and we’re all going, ‘Whoa, man…’”
In the meantime, beyond his work with OneRepublic, Tedder has also made himself quite a reputation as a songwriter and producer – working with the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Paul Oakenfeld and Hilary Duff. However, Fisher says that the band doesn’t worry that he’ll move on to toil away behind the scenes – nor do they envy the new songs for his outside work.
“He’s got a different way of writing when it’s just himself,” Fisher says. “It’s more poppy. It’s more dance-y. He just finished working with Blake Lewis. It’s kind of like; you compare us to Blake Lewis? That’s how he writes. He writes definitely different. He’s more professional when he writes for other people.”
So how is it when Tedder writes with the band? After working by himself, is it a culture shock being a part of collaboration? Or does everyone just go their own way and put together songs on their own?
“Well, Ryan wrote ‘Apologize’ four years ago, but most of the time we all come together and write,” Fisher explains. “It is a family. We are all family – brothers. We respect each other musically. So we go, ‘Oh, that’s cool. Let’s try it.’ Or we’ll be blunt enough to say, ‘What are you thinking about?’” He laughs.
Now, years after many of the songs were written, months after “Apologize” became a smash; finally, that album has been released. Dreaming Out Loud hit the music stores and download sites in late 2007 and has been an immediate smash.
“I tell you, we’ve been spending so many years,” Fisher says, “with Columbia, having a complete album, going back, changing songs and rerecording. Actually, finally having an album out is such a relief. [We were] kind of at that breaking point. If can just get past this point in our musical career… that would be great for us. Then the album came out and it just keeps skyrocketing. We’re like, ‘Wow!’”
Fisher laughs. “It’s actually hard for us to keep up, to be honest. There are so many people that want to talk to us and hear us play live and countries – you know, we’re number one in Australia, Germany, the UK….”
The second single is “Stop and Stare,” and it is already picking up airplay. That tune was the band’s choice, though they tried to keep their ear to the ground to see what others wanted to hear from the band next. This has led to a bit of a conflict as to what song will be getting out there.
“We [tell the label], ‘This is the song that we want,’” Fisher says. “We also pay attention to the plays on our MySpace page. And [suddenly] ‘Say [All I Need]’ is blowing up on iTunes. It’s just ridiculous. We’re going… should we put ‘Say’ out [instead]? But we’ve already serviced ‘Stop and Stare.’ We’re excited about ‘Stop and Stare.’ [It’s] doing really well.”
Too many potential singles is a problem which most bands would love to have, though, so it is all good. Dreaming Out Loud is full of beautiful, moody, atmospheric tunes which could be gracing radios and Grey’s Anatomy episodes for months to come.
There is a melancholy beauty to the lyrics as well as the supple music. For example, it seems like on the new CD, when the songs turn to relationships like “Say (All I Need),” “All We Are,” “Mercy” and “Apologize” the relationships seem to be in trouble or dying.
“There is a saying that broken hearts write the best love songs,” Fisher laughs. “Although these aren’t technically love songs, these are pretty much finding hope out of unhappiness. We want to be able to touch those people with our experiences – musically and just our general life experiences.”
So which tunes does Fisher particularly like?
“‘Mercy’ is my favorite,” Fisher admits. “Why? It’s just so epic and huge, you know? And me being the drummer, of course, it’s like my, ‘Hey, watch me…’ I like that one. I like them all though. I’m a feel kind of a drummer. So, if I can feel it, I love to play it. If it makes my head move, then I’m happy.”
Now that his band has broken out – is life in the limelight all that OneRepublic had imagined it might be?
“It was definitely a milestone in my life,” Fisher says, enthusiastically. “I’ve worked so hard, and the rest of the guys have worked so hard. [We’ve] sacrificed so much. To finally hear our song on So You Think You Can Dance, see it played live and hear it on the radio – it’s so surreal and so humbling. It’s the break that everybody dreams of. We can’t be thankful enough, to be honest.”
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 10, 2008.
#1 © 2007. Courtesy of Mosley Music Group/Interscope Records. All rights reserved.
#2 © 2007. Courtesy of Mosley Music Group/Interscope Records. All rights reserved.