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Ryan Tedder On Working with Adam Lambert, David Cook and Season 10 Finalist Stefano Langone

The hit songwriter has his hands in all sorts of 'Idol'-related projects, including producing Stefano Langone's track for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame week. He talks to THR's Idol Worship.

ryan tedder publicity 2011
Autumn de Wilde
Ryan Tedder

In addition to working with chart-toppers like Adele, hit songwriter Ryan Tedder is all about American Idol these days. Not only did he produce and co-write two tracks for Adam Lambert’s forthcoming second album (the final decision on which songs will make the record won’t come until closer to release date), Tedder co-wrote the lead single for David Cook’s much anticipated second effort (not to mention songs for Jennifer Hudson and Jordin Sparks) and was in the studio with Season 10’s Stefano Langone just the other day! We caught up with Tedder just before his band OneRepublic hit the stage at Dancing with the Stars.  Read on for his take on Idols past and present. 

The Hollywood Reporter: You haven’t been in the core group of producers working on Idol this season, was your time with Stefano on Rock and Roll Hall of Fame week a one-off?    Ryan Tedder: Yeah. Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of actually being in one spot all the time, so they caught me when I was floating back through the LA region. So, it was a random one-off. When we started, I thought I had Pia Toscano, who had apparently picked me, and then 45 minutes into the session, I get a phone call saying that there's been a mistake, you're doing the wrong song with the wrong artist. So they switched everything, which was tedious. I had to totally switch gears, but I'm actually extremely happy with how it turned out. I’ve only seen a couple episodes this season, but I did catch Stefano doing “Tiny Dancer” and I was blown away by his voice.    THR: What are the challenges that are unique to working with someone who is a contestant in the TV show?    Tedder: Besides time constraints and chaos, often they are so green that getting the vocal takes in the allotted time is next to impossible. But I will go on record in saying that Stefano is one of the most talented male vocalists that I've ever worked with, Idol or not. He actually blew me away. I didn't go in with any expectations but I couldn't believe how good he was in the studio. He seemed like a seasoned pro who knew what he was doing.    In general, the difficulty in working with someone on a show like Idol or X Factor is they have an idea of what they think is cool in their heads, and it's important as a producer to maintain control of the session and not let it get side-tracked or chase too many rabbits. But it's also important to let the artist feel like their opinion matters, so that balance is difficult.   THR: Were you disappointed that you didn't get to work with Pia?    Tedder: Yeah, Stefano more than made up for it, but I spent three days in the mind frame of Pia Toscano. It’s kind of like when you're so hungry and all you've been talking about is Chinese food, then you find out that the Chinese restaurant is closed and the only place open sells pizza. But I've come to find out that the pizza was actually pretty good!   THR: You recently worked with several Idol alums including Adam Lambert, with whom you’ve written two songs. In terms of the progress of his new album, where do you think he’s at musically?    Tedder: I think he's a rocker. He can definitely pull off a dance song, but after working with him, I really think he’s a rock dude and one of the greatest male vocalists around, for sure. The first album was trying every musical style under the sun, but I believe his naturally proclivity is rock and I think that's the direction he's going to go. No matter what, I think Adam’s a star.   THR: Adam has described the album as slightly more serious, did you get that sense in the studio?   Tedder: He’s still super funny and goofy as hell. We just have fun in the studio. He doesn't take himself seriously at all. It's still cheeky and sarcastic, but he definitely knows what he wants. As for me, the only stuff I've ever had success with is when I'm trying to be completely original and not thinking about mirroring what else is out there. So basically – and  selfishly -- all I really do is, I write or produce the kind of Adam Lambert song that I would want to hear.    THR: What about David Cook, did he voice any concerns coming into this second record?   Tedder: I think a concern that anybody might have with working with me after "Already Gone," "Apologize," and "Halo" is that I’m going to give them this huge sweeping ballad. Even on Adam's last album, I gave him "Sleepwalker," but I'm kind of over that. I got sick of it about a year-and-a-half ago and stopped. David was, like, "I want to do something uptempo," so his first single, “The Last Goodbye,” you would never know that I wrote it. It’s really emotional and it hits you with the chorus about 40 seconds into the song, so it's just immediate.    THR: And how is David as a co-writer?   Tedder: Great, more than any singer I've worked with, he contributed enormously lyrically and musically – he can play, he knows voicing, chords and arrangements as well as lyrics. He's a full-on writer. I love David, he’s a great guy.