‘The first idea you have with Adele often ends up being the best,’ says Ryan Tedder, the OneRepublic frontman whose production and writing collaborations include Leona Lewis’ Bleeding Love and Beyoncé’s Halo.
Tedder co-wrote Rumour Has It and Turning Tables with Adele, the second and third tracks on 21. He also ended up producing Rumour Has It despite Rick Rubin initially being poised to produce the entire album.
Tedder first met Adele on the night of the Grammys in 2009, in unforgettable circumstances.
‘It was absurd. She was standing there by herself in the lobby of the London Hotel in LA holding 50 balloons and we both got in the elevator at the same time. On the way up we tried to have a conversation through the balloons,’ he laughs.
When Adele and Tedder first began working together she only had two songs, demos of what would become the first and third UK singles; Rolling in the Deep, which was co-written and produced by Paul Epworth, and the Fraser T Smith collaboration Set Fire to the Rain.
Eager to impress, Tedder remembers arriving four hours early on the first morning of the two-day session for Turning Tables and teaching himself Adele’s previous single Chasing Pavements.
‘I was trying to digest what chord changes and voicings would work for her and after about three hours of chasing that kind of stuff I ditched it and thought “to hell with this, I am going to write something that I want to hear”.
‘I came up with the opening piano sequence and when Adele walked in I had the concept of Turning Tables. I thought it was interesting, it felt connected – Chasing Pavements, Turning Tables; two completely odd non sequitur statements. I also had the opening line, “Close enough to start a war, all I have is on the floor”.
‘I had no idea about the break-up with the boyfriend, but then when she heard the lyric she said it was literally what she was going through and so we made the song autobiographical.’
The first session lasted only three hours and the next day Adele finished the vocals, Tedder added piano and some drum programming and the first demo was completed.
I got goose bumps all over
‘I went back to my hotel room that night and was listening to it on headphones while lying on the bed and I got goose bumps all over. I texted Adele and said “Are you awake?” She said “Yes, I’m listening to the song and crying”, I said “Oh, wow, that means we have something real here”.’
Tedder and Adele reconvened at Serenity West studios in LA to record Rumour Has It, a two-day session that Tedder remembers as among the best of his career.
Before Adele arrived Tedder was already playing around with a riff inspired by Radiohead’s I Might Be Wrong. ‘It has this drop de-tuning and an American blues vibe to it, that was the impetus for the whole song,’ says Tedder.
He recalls that aside from the bridge linking to the orchestral section, Rumour Has It came together quickly, not least due to Adele’s vocal prowess.
I have never had anyone do that in ten years
‘The entire vocal took about ten minutes,’ says Tedder. ‘She sang it once top to bottom, pitch perfect, she didn’t miss a note. I looked at the engineer then at her and said, “Adele I don’t know what to tell you but I have never had anyone do that in ten years”. Putting a vocal on typically takes around four or five hours to make perfect; she did it in one take.’