Zach Filkins of OneRepublic
On November 17th OneRepublic (Ryan Tedder, Zach Filkins, Drew Brown, Brent Kutzle, and Eddie Fisher) will release “Waking Up”, the follow up to their debut album “Dreaming Out Loud”. If you’re sensing a trend with the titles “Waking Up” may surprise you. The new material is a bit more up-tempo and the product of their exciting times on the road in support of “Dreaming Out Loud”. According to guitarist Zach Filkins “it’s more energetic and it’s not as brooding or melancholy; we like those kind of songs too but we want to show another side to the band.”
Front man Ryan Tedder, well known for the award winning songs he’s written for other artists, admits that the hat he puts on to write OneRepublic songs the most difficult, because they belong to him and OneRepublic. They are more personal, more honest, and in the end it’s that honesty that gives each song its identity. With Tedder’s experience and Brent Kutzle’s unique perspective on things from a classically trained cellist position, the core songwriting team has put together a sweeping collection of songs for “Waking Up” utilizing every element imaginable from strings to piano to a children’s choir and orchestra. But at the end of the day it’s not the bells and whistles we remember but just good songs and Waking Up gives you nothing but.
OneRepublic is currently out on tour with Rob Thomas. We caught up with guitarist and founding member Zach Filkins to talk about the new album and the last few years in the day in the life of OneRepublic.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | November 2009
So now that things are on target for the album to come out on November 17th, how does the vibe of releasing this album, shortly after you made it compare to the last where there was a three year waiting period? Do you feel closer to the music?
Oh yeah, definitely. That’s actually a good point, I never really thought about it but the first album took at least three years before we could release it. There was a lot of impatience and frustration involved with that and by the time we released it we did feel slightly disconnected because we had played those songs so many times around LA that we almost felt like we should have recorded a second album right then. So getting off the road was definitely a good idea after all the touring last year and writing all the new music so fast. Now we’re touring and half of our set list is new songs so it’s completely refreshing to play new music, music we’re more connected to because we just wrote it. I think it’s completely revived us and it makes the older music stand out more for us too to go from a new song to an old song refreshes that too. Releasing the album this November is waking us up a little bit.
Is everyone in the band involved in the actual writing process?
There’s no formula that we stick to without veering off at times. This time around the album was written mostly by Ryan and Brent and the rest of us came in afterwards in filled in parts on what inspired us. Some songs are written the old fashioned way where we were all just sitting around with our instruments and something comes out of it and sometime someone just comes with a guitar riff or a beat and it becomes an interesting song.
With Ryan having so much success with other artists, is there a different approach when it comes to writing OneRepublic songs?
It’s definitely different for him, he’s mentioned a lot before that OneRepublic is his platform to say whatever he wants to say according to how we all agree on things. Our perspective on music as a band is very different than writing a song for example for Beyonce. He writes that song for her or for whatever artist he’s writing for versus with OneRepublic he’s writing it for himself. A OneRepublic song is 100 percent what he wants to say and he’s not really thinking about what’s going to sell or what the artist needs as a single, or anything like that.
I’ve been lucky enough to get a preview of a few songs including “Everybody Loves Me” which I loved. It sort of starts off in one direction and by the time you hit the chorus it’s gone a different way. Can you tell us a little bit about that song and how it came together?
A lot of the songs on this album have their beginnings from when we were out touring on our first album and “Everybody Loves Me” started when we were in South Africa, Ryan and Brent were at the studio and they had indigenous South African drums in the studio and Ryan started messing around with them and playing a beat and then Brent came up with the guitar riff in the verse, so that’s what really spawned the idea of the song. They worked out the music for it pretty extensively right there in Johannesburg and then we brought it back to the US and finished it from there. The chorus, the lyrics and the feel of it, came later. Usually we let the music tell us what the song is going to be about and that’s what came out of that song. It was kind of a parody on an artist that’s too full of himself and goes to Vegas kind of thing, and everybody is throwing money and drinks at him, it’s just kind of a joke about how you can give in to your own hype kind of thing. It’s a fun song, it’s one of our favorites to play live because it’s aggressive and it’s funny and it’s a little bit of everything.
The first single is “All The Right Moves”, was that the bands decision to go with that as the single and what made you pick it?
It was, we all agreed on it. That was one of those songs that was written while we were on the road. That song originally started with a track that Ryan had that he had never really intended to be a OneRepublic song but he hadn’t written it for anyone else either. We were sitting around in Tokyo writing and he played it for us and we thought it should be a OneRepublic song. The version he played for us was very synth-pop and so he was surprised that we liked it but we all agreed and it slowly evolved and then in Germany we finished it up in the studio. It evolved into what it is now and we liked so much and the label liked it so much they wanted us to get off the road and continue writing off that one song, they felt like we were on a roll. So that song we had written a lot earlier so we were able to test it out onstage and online and it had a lot of good reaction so that was a unanimous decision that it should be the first single. We’re happy about it, it’s a lot different than “Stop and Stare” or “Apologize”, it’s more energetic and it’s not as brooding or melancholy which we like those kind of songs too but we want to show another side to the band. We’re not sitting around destitute or anything like that.
So in listening to you talk about the makings of some of these songs it Possibly a little bit. They were really influenced by the music we were listening to at the time in combination with traveling the world and experiencing a lot of cities for the first time. There’s an excitement in this music because whatever was written on the road had that excitement, it had a new feeling vibe to it because our lives were moving fast. We hadn’t been stuck in LA trying to get our album out so there was no sadness or angst from that perspective. I think that’s probably why this album is more up-tempo. Every city is so different and we love traveling so being in Tokyo is a high for us and going to South Africa and Germany, yeah I guess you could say it was an influence.
sounds like they really came together all over the globe. Were they influenced at all by those places you were in at those times do you think?
Ryan has called this album a lot more edgier than your first. What’s your take on that?
Yeah it is. It’s a different kind of edge. Most people would think if it’s edgier that it should have more aggressive rock and roll guitar but it’s not edgy in that sense, it’s just a little more aggressive in the production and the presentation of the music. It’s kind of a weird dichotomy because we like strings and Brent obviously influences the music coming from a cello point of view, a classically trained cellist listening to classical music. So there’s an edge to it but there’s still a beauty to it because of all of the strings involved in the production. So I would agree. A lot of the edge also comes from the vocals and what Ryan’s singing about and how he’s singing. It’s a new look for us.
I want to talk a little bit about the bands past, you originally met Ryan in high school but after that you parted ways for awhile, how did you come back together and form the band?
It was really the kind of thing that friends do, we’d talk every two month or so and I’d be in Chicago and he’d be in Nashville and we’d always talk about playing music together someday. It was one of those things where I felt at some point it would happen but I never wanted to force anything. I never wanted to force being in the music industry because I knew how difficult it was and how long it would take and I didn’t have the energy. Ironically it took us five years so I guess you have to be in it to have the motivation to stay at it. If you look at it from the outside sometimes it seems like too long but we had an optimism about it. It was just one of those things, at one point I was in Chicago and we were talking and he was beginning to learn a lot about being a songwriter and he was making really good connections in the business. We didn’t want to just move to LA with nothing under our belts, there was a certain amount of preparation before we made the leap. We were both at that transition moment so I packed everything I owned in my 1986 Jeep and it was a miracle that it even got me there, it was a piece of junk but somehow I made it there. I drove out on my birthday, I was turning 25 that day and we started a new life from scratch and went from there.