Billboard once called Ryan Tedder the "The Undercover King of Pop." You might know him as the front man for OneRepublic, but what you may not know is that he is a from-the-ground-up music-industry veteran, an in-demand producer and composer of hit songs for Adele, Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson, Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, the Jonas Brothers, and Ed Sheeran, among others. Having shot an episode of Behind the Brand with him--just before the Covid-19 outbreak--I can confirm that he's a genius in the studio and has legitimate chops for entrepreneurship.
Tedder has a TV show on NBC called Songland and is an active investor in tech and commercial real estate. In his latest venture, Tedder is jumping into the incredibly competitive beverage space with a drink called Mad Tasty. It's an all-natural restorative drink with zero sugar, no calories, and 20 milligrams of hemp extract, developed with high school friends, the Stanley Brothers, co-founders of the hemp health supplements company Charlotte's Web. You can watch the Part 1 of this four-part interview series with Tedder here. Here are my takeaways from the show:
Interpret the Signals Correctly
If you're paying attention, there are signals and signposts all around us with important information about the path we should take. The key is to seek out these signals and interpret them correctly. For example, have you ever had what you thought was a great plan that didn't work out? What went wrong? Were there any signals before, during, or after the fact to help you understand the problem or how to improve? Signals can be quiet and nuanced, or loud and obvious. In most cases, a "swing and miss" can be boiled down to one or two issues: Either your stuff isn't as good as you think it is, or you're talking to the wrong audience. Sometimes it's both. Decoding the signals is the key. Maybe your last Instagram post didn't get as much engagement. Was your message too self-serving? Was the timing off? Tedder got several early signals, some subtle and others more overt, from his high school teachers, who not only encouraged him to pursue his talents, but also promised to help him achieve his goals. His success was a result of recognizing these signals and taking action at the right place and time.
Get to Where the Opportunities Are
Tedder is a musical savant but no overnight star. His dad was a gospel songwriter and Tedder himself started playing piano at age 3. But he grew up in Oklahoma, far away from any music industry hub. So after high school, Tedder followed his gut and moved to Nashville, to work as an intern at DreamWorks (music) Publishing. He did grunt work like cataloging songs, booking studio time for other musicians, and fetching coffee. But he also spent off hours writing songs and producing pop demos for country music artists for $300 each as a side hustle. Being inside the industry gave him access and key information to opportunities. One day Tedder heard about a songwriting competition coming to Nashville sponsored by the popular band NSYNC. The winner would receive a music contract and perform on MTV's TRL, reaching millions of people. Tedder auditioned with an original song and won. It was his first taste of fame and he was able to shift into a new gear of success.
'Have More Than You Show. Say Less Than You Know.'
This is a quote from William Shakespeare's King Lear but it serves as an important lesson. Tedder told no one about his sudden discovery and that he was on his way to New York City to perform on national television. Not a word to his friends or family. Why? Shakespeare's advice about humility and being a man of action instead of words might shed light on his stance. "I never want to be that guy who talks about his plans or dreams," he says. "I always want to be the guy who just does it."
You Never Know Who's Watching
Was it serendipity or fate that one of the most prolific music producers at the time, Timbaland, happened to be watching the songwriting competition on TRL the night Tedder performed? In either case, the lesson here is that sometimes it just takes one person paying attention to you at the right time to make all the difference. Timbaland, who was producing for Nelly Furtado, Missy Elliott, and more of the hottest artists at the time, cold-called Tedder to fly him to Miami to sign a production deal and as an artist. The point is to always perform and do your job as if your hero is watching. At the very least you'll earn respect and become a pro. At the most, your career will take off.
Scratch Your Own Itch
Tedder's new beverage brand, Mad Tasty, is a solution to his own problem. By his own admission, "In 2016, I was overworked and burnt out. I traveled several hundred thousand miles across every continent that year in about six months. I was totally fried and couldn't recharge by seeing my family or take a break. I wasn't sleeping ... and for the first time I started having panic attacks and feeling depressed." His doctor prescribed meds to help him deal with anxiety. Around that same time he reconnected with high school friends, the Stanley brothers. These are the seven siblings who founded Charlotte's Web, a CBD market leader, and they talked with Tedder about investment opportunities. He has always believed in clean living and avoided illegal drugs. He did significant research and started dosing with CBD and discovered that it quelled his anxiety and helped him feel centered. Inspired by his new discovery and the need to hydrate during the rigorous tour schedule, he developed a new brand of sparkling water infused with CBD called Mad Tasty. The brand also has a philanthropic mission; it contributes to Drop4Drop, which provides clean drinking water to children and families in need.