The first thing Ryan Tedder says before launching into a story about how he wrote OneRepublic’s latest single is that it’s going to sound crazy. And, to be honest, it does.
Tedder had the idea for “Counting Stars,” off his band’s latest album, Native, while working with Beyoncé in the Hamptons. Tedder told Radio.com that he had been invited to Bey’s encampment on the South Fork of Long Island, New York, to write a few songs for her follow-up to 2011’s 4. But even though the sessions were all about Queen B, Tedder was able to find a little inspiration that he could keep for himself.
One morning while Tedder was prepping for his studio time with Beyoncé, he came across a folk song that from the moment he heard it, he knew he wanted to make something just like it. At first Tedder tried to write his own interpretation of this other artist’s song, which at the time was not being played in America and, as far as the OneRepublic frontman knows, was never even released in the states. Tedder (who did not divulge this artist’s identity) decided to reach out to the original writer and see if he would co-write the song with him. “He was like, ‘I don’t know about that,’ and it was aloof enough that I was like, ‘Oh screw it,’” Tedder explained.
Tedder’s song ended up being much different than the original, taking on a soulful, gospel sound. “It kept the spirit of what I was looking for the whole time,” he said. The track basically wrote itself, and includes some of the frontman’s favorite lines from the album, like, “Everything that kills me makes me feel alive.” He wrote the chorus — another one of his favorite lines — for anyone who loses sleep wondering how they’re going to be able to afford their rent or provide for their family.
“A lot of time I just lay in bed awake, stressing out,” Tedder said. “Everybody does it. And I just thought, I can’t wait until I’m counting stars and not counting dollars anymore. Things will be so much better.”