Feature

The Battle Hymn of OneRepublic

It’s been three years since Denver’s hottest pop band put out a new album. In 2012, OneRepublic finally holed up in a Cherry Creek studio to lay down tracks for its third LP. Will Native, which drops this fall, prove to be the band’s breakout record?

November 2012

It's not as if they need another keyboard. With 15 stored in a custom-built cabinet along the right-hand wall of the studio, the addition of the Yamaha SK-50D seems like overkill. Plus, the 32-year-old instrument looks out of place, especially next to the recording console, the massive in-wall speakers, and the four Apple computers loaded with music-editing software used by the guys from OneRepublic, the biggest band to come out of Colorado since the Fray. But guitar player Drew Brown, a soft-spoken young man with wavy red hair and plastic-rim glasses, is stoked about the new gear, which he picked up at a Denver estate sale for $700. • “Dude, Ryan, hey man, you gotta come see this thing,” Brown yells down the studio’s hallway. Ryan is Ryan Tedder, the group’s lead singer, songwriter, linchpin, and most public personality. In the past five or six years, Tedder has exploded as a songwriter and producer for musical icons like Adele, Beyoncé, Leona Lewis, Gavin DeGraw, and Colbie Caillat. He has become friends with some of the recording industry’s most elite players—and made at least one enemy in Kelly Clarkson, who believes a song Tedder co-wrote with her sounds too much like one he co-wrote with Beyoncé. Still, his blue eyes, sandy-blond hair, omnipresent stubble, and emotive stage presence have made him a hit with women, especially those who consider themselves OneRepublic fans.

While Brown waits for his bandmate to make his way to the inner sanctum of the studio, the guitarist pokes at a few keys, moves a few slider bars, and depresses a foot pedal just for fun. Five minutes later, Tedder bounces through the studio—which he had designed and built along with a new house in a gated Cherry Creek community in 2009—to find Brown. Wearing a T-shirt and a pair of pin-striped skinny jeans that sag a bit in the rear, Tedder steps up to the synthesizer, his hands moving over the buttons and slides and knobs like he’s owned the thing for years. Before striking the first key, Tedder looks at Brown with a devilish grin and says, “Check this out.”

Instead of the canticle-like, high-soaring music Tedder has been known to write for the band he helped found nine years ago in Colorado Springs, the partial ditty he knocks out on the old Yamaha sounds more like a trippy refrain from a kids cartoon, something you might hear on SpongeBob SquarePants. Tedder had covertly set the synth to “cat sounds,” meaning every key is ringing out with an eerie “meeooooow.”

It isn’t “Apologize,” the band’s 2007 breakout hit, and it isn’t “Good Life” or “Secrets,” popular songs from the band’s 2009 sophomore title, Waking Up. But even as he drops the feline yowling into lower and lower registers, Tedder’s talent is apparent. Although he was classically trained in piano from the age of three until 13, Tedder says he’s really just a good enough musician to get the job done. Maybe that’s true, but he’s just goofing around—with animal noises—and somehow it still kinda sounds…good.

They, of course, think this little musical interlude is hilarious. But the scene is also telling: Here are 30-year-old men who are supposed to be working, supposed to be taking music seriously, supposed to be toiling over a new record, yet they’re acting like giddy teenagers who don’t want to deal with the responsibility. Instead, they want to geek out over a new toy that makes cat noises. The ADHD is palpable. For at least 20 minutes, this silliness makes Tedder, Brown, and their producer, Noel Zancanella, forget that they are behind schedule on their long-awaited third album, that the LP needs to be a critical and commercial success, and that they can no longer afford to be distracted—by one-off concerts, side gigs, family obligations, or musical instruments from the early ’80s—if they are going to give their increasingly impatient fan base something new to listen to in 2012 and take their turn as the next big thing in music.

When Ryan Tedder says he was raised in a charismatic environment, he doesn’t mean that his family was full of magnetic personalities. As he slouches on a plush leather couch in the den area of his studio, a rocks glass with two fingers of bourbon in his hand, he explains that “charismatic” is a Christian-based faith movement, something akin to Pentecostalism, but not exactly. As a child growing up in Oklahoma, Tedder was in church at least three times a week. He grew up singing in the church choir and alongside the gospel music his songwriter father played on the piano in their home.

Tedder’s parents allowed him few opportunities to listen to non-gospel music, but at some point he got his hands on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Then he began collecting—and learning to play—piano sheet music from movie soundtracks like The Karate Kid, Part II and Young Guns. At 12, he added the drums to his repertoire. At 15, he began writing his own songs. “I obsessed over music and just loved it,” Tedder says. “But I never considered it as a career. Where I grew up you go to high school, you go to college, you find a wife in college, you get married, you have 2.3 kids, and if that hasn’t all happened by the time you’re 24, some people think there’s something wrong with you—or the assumption is that maybe you’re not into the opposite sex.”

There wasn’t anything amiss with Tedder; he simply wasn’t interested in the traditional track. In 1996 he made that clear, when, a little more than a decade after his parents divorced, the 17-year-old Tedder decided he wanted to move from his hometown in Oklahoma to Colorado to live with his aunt and uncle and be near his father. That meant a move west to Colorado Springs, where he embarked on his senior year of high school at Colorado Springs Christian School (CSCS).

Tedder was an instant sensation at CSCS, according to his high school classmate and longtime friend Matt Hall. The girls dug him. The choir teacher, Ms. Flanagan, loved him. He played drums in the talent show in front of a breathless audience. And although he didn’t make the basketball team, he managed a hat trick in his first soccer game. It was playing forward for the Lions, maybe more than anything else at CSCS, that had a lasting effect. On that team, Tedder met not only Hall, but also Zach Filkins, a young man with model good looks, a Christian upbringing, and a penchant for playing the guitar.

The two adolescents realized their shared love of music when Filkins gave Tedder a ride home from soccer practice one day. They talked about U2 and other legendary bands and how one day they would like to achieve that kind of musical career. Together they started an act called This Beautiful Mess and played a few gigs in the Springs. But at the end of their senior years of high school, they went off to different colleges.

Back in Oklahoma, at Oral Roberts University, the largest charismatic Christian university in the world, Tedder majored in public relations and advertising. At least that’s what his diploma says. Based on the time he put into sneaking into the Timko-Barton Performance Hall’s piano rooms, he probably could have been a double major. He spent hours on the piano and the guitar deconstructing his favorite albums—like Eric Clapton and B.B. King’s Riding with the King—figuring out the chords and then trying to write new songs using those same chords. He was skipping classes—even meals—to write songs.

No one knew. Not friends. Not his roommate. He sang in secret. He was in the school choir, but his friends always thought it was odd that a person who didn’t seem overly musically inclined would be taking a singing class. When he was in one of the piano rooms he would tape a piece of notebook paper over the small window in the door so that no one could see him.

Tedder says there were two reasons he hid his passion. The first was that he believed there were so many bad singers and bad songs in the world that he didn’t want to add to the noise. He wanted to be certain he would be successful before he revealed himself. The second reason was more deep-seated: Being raised in a religious home, Tedder had been taught that there was a purpose for his life, and that because God had ordained that purpose, he should live the life expected of him—one that was pious and humble. “Deciding you want to go into the music business is about the most narcissistic thing in the world,” Tedder says. “I had this constant battle—and to some degree I still do.”

Internal struggle or not, Tedder felt confident enough in his singer-songwriter capabilities by the summer of 2000, before his senior year at ORU, to (once again, on the sly) enter a music competition in downtown Nashville. He played an original song—and won. The contest had been part of a national talent search—an early predecessor to the wave of American Idol–like shows that were to come—and four weeks later Tedder received a phone call that informed him he had been selected as one of five finalists nationwide. Those five finalists would be flown to New York City, where they would perform on MTV’s Total Request Live (TRL). The winner would receive a recording contract.

In front of emcee Lance Bass of ’N Sync, judges Pink and Brian McKnight, a studio audience, other music industry giants, and millions of TV viewers, the 21-year-old Tedder played an original song called “The Look.” Sporting a high-and-tight haircut and dressed in a blue collared shirt and baggy jeans, Tedder perched on a stool with an acoustic guitar and channeled angels on high. On display even then was Tedder’s effortless ability to hit the tall notes and captivate an audience. After he finished his performance, he told Bass he’d only been playing the guitar for about two-and-a-half years and that he’d learned listening to the Dave Matthews Band in college. He won the contest. “The next day I’m in the Dakota, in the apartment next to the place where John Lennon had lived, and I’m doing a song-writing session with this dude who played with Eagle-Eye Cherry,” Tedder says. “You remember that guy? It was wild.”

But as these things often go, the recording contract was a farce—the fine print actually said the winner would attain the possibility of a record deal—so Tedder headed back to school, where he quickly learned his secret was out. A friend at ORU had taped his MTV appearance—and showed it around. To everyone. Tedder could no longer hide. Not that he needed to anymore. He had played onstage, in front of other people, millions of other people in fact—and the reveal had been a success.

For two years after college graduation, Tedder did what he could to work in the music biz. He spent time in New York City and Nashville. He was barely scraping by. He came home to Colorado Springs, where his soccer teammate and guitarist friend Zach Filkins was also living. They thought about starting another band and maybe basing it out of a college town like Fort Collins. Instead, in September 2003, Tedder and Filkins did what they knew they had to do: They moved to L.A.

Within a month, Tedder, Filkins, guitar player Drew Brown, and the band’s original drummer, Jerrod Bettis, formed what was then known as Republic and began doing the L.A. hustle. For more than a year, they paid $400 or more to play at crappy bars in front of disinterested audiences and worked side jobs to cover the bills. They were no different than a thousand other musicians and actors and models looking to make it in L.A.—but the company didn’t make the slog any less miserable. They pounded the Sunset Strip, playing as many venues as they could. They traveled to other cities in California when funds allowed.

Eventually, it began to pay off. A small fan base turned into a medium-size fan base. Republic started booking—and selling out—venues without having to negotiate with the clubs about payment—a sure way to get the attention of record labels. In late 2004, they were signed by Columbia Records as OneRepublic, a moniker that, Tedder says, the band chose because Republic would have had to sell a “kajillion” albums to beat out the People’s Republic of China in a Google search.

They went to work on an album. They let Bettis go because of creative differences and hired drummer Eddie Fisher, a mostly self-taught musician with a knack for feeling the music. They auditioned for a bassist and got a twofer in Brent Kutzle, who played the cello as well. The band was set. It was all happening. They were on the precipice of stardom.

The guys were finishing up their debut album in early 2006 and had a single that was heading to radio when the bad news broke: Along with Katy Perry and the Jonas Brothers, OneRepublic was being dropped by Columbia Records. The label never gave an official reason for letting the band go, but Tedder attributes it to a show OneRepublic played in front of label executives. Tedder had come down with bronchitis—his voice was nearly gone—but they were required to play the show anyway. The performance was a disaster.

Losing the record deal was a devastating blow. Tedder told his wife, Genevieve, whom he had married just months before, that OneRepublic was done; that at 27 years old he was going to have to give up the dream. Instead he would continue producing music for other people, something he’d been doing on the side anyway. That night, Tedder typed Myspace.com/onerepublic into a Web browser to change the band’s status from “signed” to “unsigned.” Then, because he was no longer beholden to the label’s rules not to post songs online, he uploaded “Apologize” and “Stop and Stare.”

For Tedder and Co., social media was a godsend. Within two months, OneRepublic was the number one unsigned act on Myspace, and the band quickly became one of the hottest independent acts in L.A. The guys scored a residency at the Key Club in West Hollywood, and, after three initial shows, the band sold out each subsequent concert. They were running out of T-shirts and CDs. They were signing autographs. They were being courted by promoters to play in Canada and Washington and Florida. But they still didn’t have a record deal.

That’s when Tedder received a call from an old friend. Timbaland, the prominent hip-hop and R&B producer, wanted to sign OneRepublic to Interscope Records, the home of artists like U2, Sting, the Black Eyed Peas, and No Doubt. OneRepublic’s frontman hadn’t spoken to Timbaland since Tedder had worked for him in the wake of the TRL appearance years earlier. Timba- land thought OneRepublic deserved better treatment than what it had received from Columbia. He wanted to sign OneRepublic as the first band on his Interscope Records sub-label, Mosely Music Group.

There was just one catch: Timbaland wanted to remix Tedder’s “Apologize” and put it out on his own DJ album, which would hit the airwaves well before the release of OneRepublic’s first album, Dreaming Out Loud. The song Tedder had written in Colorado Springs before he moved to L.A., the song that was supposed to come out on his own band’s forthcoming album, would be modified with a hip-hop beat and additional vocals and released on Timbaland’s Shock Value in April 2007. Tedder agreed to the remix, unaware of the possible consequences.

Radio stations began spinning the altered version of the cello- and keyboard-heavy ballad. Within weeks you couldn’t turn on an FM channel and not hear Tedder’s soaring vocals backed by Timbaland’s hip-hop drum line and strategically placed “ayy, ayy, ayys.” The song rocketed up the charts. “Apologize” was at one point that year the biggest radio airplay hit in the history of Billboard magazine’s Mainstream Top 40 (Pop Songs) in North America, with 10,394 plays in one week.

Everyone in America knew the lyrics to “Apologize,” but the cruel twist was that no one knew who really sang it. Radio DJs rarely mentioned OneRepublic before pressing play, instead saying the song was from Timbaland’s hit album. It wasn’t until Interscope released Dreaming Out Loud—with Tedder’s original version of “Apologize,” as well as the remixed version—seven months later that folks in America learned who the real musicians behind everyone’s favorite song were. The album sold more than 2.3 million copies worldwide and was certified gold in the Unites States. “Apologize” ultimately went platinum three times over.

It often looks like a parking lot outside Tedder’s Cherry Creek home. The horseshoe-shaped house with a three-car garage, a sprawling side yard, and a tall wall that surrounds the property is the epicenter of OneRepublic’s world. This is where everyone congregates, even though Eddie Fisher has a home in Wash Park, Drew Brown has a place along the northern reaches of Larimer Street, and Brent Kutzle keeps an apartment in central downtown. On any given day, Fisher’s Range Rover, Tedder’s Land Rover Defender, and Brown’s vintage BMW glint in the Colorado sun. Today, however, there are a few other vehicles parked along the quiet street, including studio manager David McGlohon’s SUV, producer Noel Zancanella’s Land Rover Sport, and engineer Smith Carlson’s Mercedes.

It’s late June, and the band is finally humming on its third album. About eight months earlier, in October 2011, Tedder had told me he and the guys were clearing their schedules beginning in early 2012 to start recording new material. That was their plan. My plan was to be around them to document the makings of the third OneRepublic album, much of which would be recorded in Tedder’s studio.

It hadn’t been easy to catch up with them. Although everyone except Filkins lives in Denver at least part of the year, no one stays in one place for very long. Brown often visits his girlfriend in California, sometimes jams with a band called Debate Team, and has a time-consuming affinity for collecting vintage cars in various states of disrepair. Filkins is occupied with being a married father of two in the Chicago suburbs. Fisher, who has been lying low since an argument with a lady friend in Denver ended in his arrest over the summer, does some drum work on the side and likes hanging with his French bulldog, Louie. Kutzle spends as much time as he can with his family in Orange County, California. Tedder, though, is the busiest of them all. His bandmates say he is the Energizer Bunny, a lightning-in-a-bottle type of person. (They also say he is a “sufferable” know-it-all, a great leader, the voice of the band, and an obsessive foodie.) He is also constantly and almost unbelievably overbooked—usually with work unrelated or only loosely connected to OneRepublic.

Our first meeting had to be postponed because Adam Levine was in town to work with Tedder on Maroon 5’s next album. Other times we couldn’t get our schedules to match up because he was wrapping up Leona Lewis’ album or had to go to the Grammy Awards because he was nominated for Producer of the Year, as well as for producing two songs on Adele’s Record of the Year, 21. He was also busy with negotiations to open a Denver outpost of Southern Hospitality, a New York City–based eatery owned, in part, by Justin Timberlake. He took time to make a cameo on NBC’s hit drama Smash with Anjelica Huston, Debra Messing, and Katharine McPhee. At one point I got an email auto-response that said, “Hi everyone, I am gone gone gone until next Monday afternoon on vacation w/ wife and friends. I am unreachable…if u are one of the people I have over-committed to, I promise I am getting to it!!”

It would be easy to think that Tedder lets his individual work supersede the needs of the band—and, sometimes, maybe it does. But it’s not because Tedder isn’t invested in OneRepublic. He does a million things because, he says, he still feels like he’s that 21-year-old kid who sold his car to buy recording equipment and couldn’t even let himself dream of a real career in music. He also still feels the sting of losing not one but two recording contracts. The tug of history makes Tedder a perfectionist, an overanalyzer, a control freak. He likes to orchestrate everything his way, from the dinner menu at home to his edict that no one can be in the studio when music is being written.

Although it has been three years since Waking Up hit iTunes—and met a chorus of less-than-stellar reviews from the likes of Rolling Stone (“The hook on this mid-tempo, strummy number [‘Good Life’] is pretty meek”), the Los Angeles Times (“The band needs to stop mistaking the cello as an inherently ‘meaningful’ instrument—it’s too often deployed for maximum syrupiness”), and a host of music blogs (“Take any track on the album, and you’ll find a potentially decent song buried under tacky studio gimmicks and blustery arena-rock posturing”; “You get the impression that they’re trying to channel Muse having only heard Muse once in their lives”)—the guys are still riding a five-year high that began with “Apologize” and Dreaming Out Loud, continued with a year of touring in more than 35 countries, and held steady with another world tour and myriad one-off concerts associated with the second album, which sold 1.2 million copies and had more hit singles than the band had anticipated. In just the past few months, they’ve played one-offs in Qatar, Vancouver, and London.

But still…they had wanted to go back into the studio to record a third LP sometime in late 2011. When that didn’t happen, they penciled in early 2012. They didn’t get rolling until April. Tedder’s ridiculous schedule; the unexpected phenomenon of “Good Life,” which meant booking more shows; and, well, real life—both Tedder and Filkins had children over the past couple of years—all got in the way. It happens, even to rock stars. But, in the case of OneRepublic, it seemed that there was something else, too: fear.

The song sounds pretty sweet. It’s catchy and has a stirring melody that’s quintessential OneRepublic. Maybe the song—entitled “What You Wanted”—will be a huge hit, but it doesn’t matter right now because it’s not lead single material. Tedder loves it though; in a dream world he would release it as the first single of the third album, but in his gut he knows it’s a bad idea.

It’s too OneRepublic, he says. It also doesn’t “move quite enough.” As always, Tedder has thought this through. He’s clearly bummed by the revelation, but he’s also glad he thinks he can recognize a misstep before it happens. The bandmates see this next record as an opportunity to break out in a big way—to sell out larger venues instead of small concert halls and to be as big in the United States as they are in Europe and Asia—but they want to do it right. They don’t want to put out the same kind of music they’ve produced before. They don’t want people to expect cello-laced ballads and mid-tempo piano songs. Which is why “What You Wanted” is all wrong for the lead single, even if it does ultimately appear on the album.

Tedder and Kutzle—who do most of the songwriting—want to compose an album that has continuity, transcends time, shifts their sound, pushes the creative envelope, and establishes that OneRepublic has arrived, something the guys say they haven’t quite done yet. For his part, Tedder believes the band is ready to explode—poised to overcome a shaky start, a whirlwind ascension, and a second album that he admits was not their finest effort. They’re ready, but they’re nervous, too. “Every single album is scary as hell,” Tedder says, but it’s apparent he means this one is the most frightening. OneRepublic has more to lose now than it did with either of the first two albums, when the tiniest successes seemed monumental and failure was expected. When Tedder talks about it, you can almost hear that college student, the one who didn’t want anyone to know he could sing until he was sure about it himself.

For OneRepublic, the basic melody, harmony, and rhythm of a song usually come well before Tedder or Kutzle begin penning lines. In fact, Tedder often sings along to the music in gibberish—mishmashes of consonants and vowels—until his brain finds the path of least resistance and words and phrases begin to form. When the band does happen to have a saying or chorus in mind—for example, for the upcoming album, Kutzle threw out the phrase “burning bridges”—it can take weeks to hammer out just the right way to express it lyrically. “For a song on Waking Up, I knew I wanted to use the word ‘secret,’ ” Tedder says, “but I drove around in the car for two months before ‘I’m gonna give all my secrets away’ came to me.”

It’s easy to see that Tedder puts a lot of brainpower into dissecting what makes a song worthy of pressing the repeat button. He knows arrangements. He understands what’s appealing to audiences right now. He’ll listen to two scarcely different bass lines for 20 minutes before deciding which one he thinks is unequivocally better. And although he says he never forsakes the music to chase a lyric, he knows a good line when he hears one. “Kings of Leon’s ‘I could use somebody, someone like you,’ ” Tedder says, “is an awesome line. It might not have been if they’d done, ‘I could use somebody, somebody right now.’ ”

The desire to make this third album a winner puts pressure on everyone, but especially Tedder, who has the added stress of knowing that he seems to be a veritable hit-maker for other artists. Adele’s “Rumour Has It,” Gavin DeGraw’s “Not Over You,” and Colbie Caillat’s “Brighter Than The Sun” were all enormously successful songs he produced in 2011. But killer singles like, say, “Not Over You,” don’t always make for a winning album. Sometimes a single song can garner 10 million iTunes downloads, but that doesn’t mean people are buying the other 10 tracks.

The age of digital music has, according to Tedder, had a dramatic impact on the music industry for one primary reason: “When you buy one song,” Tedder says, “you don’t invest in the artist.” Before MP3s, he says, if you liked a song you heard on the radio, you had to buy the album. And because you bought the album, you were compelled to listen to it as a whole and found other nonsingle songs you loved. You found you liked the artist. When that artist came to town, you bought tickets for the concert. Because you went to the concert and loved it, you were a fan for life. You bought the next album and the next album—maybe without even hearing a single on the radio to prompt you.

The ability to just buy one song from iTunes has, in Tedder’s mind, done two things. One, it has erased the days when teenagers and college kids obsessed over music, lying on their beds listening to an album from beginning to end, in favor of making music background noise they sort of listen to through earbuds while walking to class. And two, downloadability has shortened the lifespan of artists. “One successful single could sell three million copies and make a band culturally significant for nine months,” he says. “But because hardly anyone bought the album, that artist has zero long-term fans.”

The one-song-and-done reality has other consequences as well. Album sales create diehard fans who often go to concerts. Tedder says executives from the Recording Industry Association of America have told him that if Dreaming Out Loud had come out in 2001, for example, it might have sold six or seven million copies (instead of two million) and launched the band into touring huge concert venues sooner. Touring—concert ticket and merchandise sales—is how most bands make the majority of their incomes. The download era has also cut into record labels’ profits, which means one substandard album—even from a well-known act—can be reason enough to get dropped. All of which makes Tedder want to craft the Holy Grail of popular music for this new LP: songs that, even today, will make people say I have to have this album.

A piece of paper is taped to the wall of the Cherry Creek studio where all the keyboards are stored. The seven-item list printed on it is entitled: “Things 1R Needs.” In order, the list reads:

1) tempo

2) simple

3) space (see No. 2)

4) singing with soul

5) vulnerable lyrics

6) investability

7) global but unique chorus/title

I want to ask Tedder if the list is arranged in order of importance, but as I turn to ask him he hits the play button on his Mac. The first notes of “Feel Again,” the group’s first single from Native—which will be released this fall—pump out of the huge speakers and I have my answer.

The toe-tapping, stand-up-and-clap-along hymn is nothing if not up-tempo. It’s the fastest song the band has ever produced. It’s supercatchy—the kind of song you want to crank up and belt out when you’re alone in the car. It’s also got an unmistakable gospel influence that’s noticeable about one minute into the 3:05-minute-long song, when Brown’s, Filkins’, Fisher’s, and Kutzle’s background harmonies become reminiscent of a church choir. Tedder’s voice is characteristically lofty, but it sounds natural—instinctive maybe—as if gospel just feels right to him. And, like many of OneRepublic’s songs, the message is upright—I reach out trying to love but I feel nothing/Yeah, my heart is numb/But with you I feel again/Yeah with you I can feel again—as is the band’s commitment to give part of the song’s proceeds to Save the Children, an organization that helps kids in the United States and around the world. “The world needs a few tunes that aren’t about getting drunk until the sun comes up,” Tedder says unapologetically.

Tedder is also unrepentant about the three months it took him and his bandmates to complete “Feel Again,” as well as “40,000 Ft. (Lose Myself),” a song that initially had single potential. (Tedder says it took only six months to write and record the entirety of Waking Up.) Although OneRepublic is considered a pop act by most people, the band doesn’t churn out music as quickly as, say, Rihanna or Katy Perry or Usher might. “We’ve never taken quite this kind of time before,” Tedder says, “but when you’re attempting a sound that you’ve never attempted there’s a big learning curve. On one of our songs we did five versions until we found the one that felt right.”

On August 10, just weeks after Tedder gave me a preview of “Feel Again,” the band debuted the song on Good Morning America’s Summer Concert Series. More than a week later, at 4:50 p.m. on August 21, OneRepublic tweeted: “The day has come! ‘Feel Again’ has officially shipped to radio in the U.S.—u can now call/email & request it—off we go!” And on August 27, the first single off their third album became available digitally on iTunes in North America. Word from @GavinDeGraw (“YO! u gotta check out @OneRepublic’s brand new single i’m feelin’ ‘Feel Again’ ”), @adamlevine (“Hey guys. Our good buddies in @OneRepublic have a new single out called #feelagain. Check it out!”), and @jtimberlake (“Check out my good friend Ryan and the boys from One Republic’s new single. I dig.”) flooded the Twittersphere.

The scant critical response to “Feel Again” has been mostly positive. A couple of reviews have implied that “Feel Again” feels too much like Florence and the Machine’s hit “Dog Days Are Over.” Others have simply stated that “Feel Again” is one part Killers mixed with a dash of Coldplay. OneRepublic fans seem to be pleased enough. A week after the song hit radio, it went as high as 12 on the iTunes top singles chart. It was at 42 at press time.

The real barometer, and industry-wide judgments, will come when the album—which the guys finished up with recording and production time in London, Greece, Paris, and Denver—drops later this fall. By that time, the guys will have played “Feel Again” on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, on America’s Got Talent, at the iTunes Festival 2012 in London in mid-September, for multiple radio stations, and likely at a few other spots here and there. They’ll have put themselves out there, and they won’t be able to hide any longer. They are, of course, hoping that they won’t want to.