One nation, OneRepublic
When OneRepublic booked a July 4th concert at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheatre, lead guitarist Zach Filkins may have inquired about the venue’s policy on pyrotechnics.
"When I was little, the best thing about the Fourth of July was lighting things on fire," he says. "I would just get a sick kick out it. My parents had to make sure I didn’t light the car on fire. For me, that’s what the Fourth of July meant and it still kind of does," he adds with a laugh.
In spite of having eight years under their belts as a successful pop rock band, the members of OneRepublic have yet to play a special Independence Day show.
"This show is going to be probably the most exciting Fourth of July that we’ve had as a band," Filkins says. "We love Park City and at the same time, it will be a first for us. And hopefully they’ll let me set some things on fire on stage."
Filkins, who also sings backing vocals, is a founding member of OneRepublic with lead vocalist, guitarist, pianist and songwriter Ryan Tedder. The pair actually attended high school together and started a band around age 17, but it fizzled when they parted ways to attend college.
In 2002, Tedder convinced Filkins to move to L.A. to give music another shot. At the time, Filkins was enjoying a semi-lucrative career as an underwear model in Chicago, but he wasn’t against the idea of returning to his musical roots.
Following a period of test runs with different band members, the group solidified with Drew Brown on guitar, Brent Kutzle on bass and cello, and Eddie Fisher on drums and percussion. It didn’t take long for Columbia Records to come knocking with a record deal, but two months before the scheduled release of its debut album, the band was dropped from the label.
Undeterred, the group started posting music on its MySpace profile and soon became an Internet sensation. They signed a contract with Interscope Records under the Mosley Music Group, a label created by hip-hop artist and producer Timbaland.
OneRepublic rocketed to pop notoriety with the 2007 hit "Apologize," which earned the band a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Performance, and followed its breakout success with "Stop and Stare," another single from their album "Dreaming Out Loud."
The group’s second studio album, "Waking Up," was released last November and spawned a Billboard Hot 100 hit with "All the Right Moves."
According to Filkins, "Waking Up" is "very different" from "Dreaming Out Loud." "We gave ourselves license to be more extreme with our influences from hip-hop beats and Top 40 songs to classical music," he says. "There’s a lot we can do as a band and still be genuine we can lean more toward pop rock and we can also get a little more eccentric and go toward alternative, moody classical rock. We tried to find a little bit of everything on this album and be free with our boundaries and still be genuine."
Some of the classical influences may come from Filkins’s early musical experiences. He lived in Barcelona, Spain, from age 7 to 15 and learned classical guitar despite pleading with his parents to play electric, which he didn’t actually master until forming OneRepublic.
To this day, Filkins finds himself drawn to Spanish-style melancholy tunes. "Playing electric, I still gravitate toward guitar parts that have a little bit of a sadness to them," he says. "Sometimes that’s good and sometimes it’s bad."
Filkins assists with writing and composing music for the band. When it comes to songwriting, Tedder is typically the brain behind the lyrics. He not only churns out material for OneRepublic, but he has written hits for artists including Leona Lewis, Rihanna, Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson.
"For [Ryan], OneRepublic songwriting is extremely different from writing for Rihanna or someone else," Filkins says. "It’s a completely different hat he puts on. We sort of get involved and it’s collaborative."
The most exciting situation for the band, he says, is when a song just happens. "That’s very rare, but when it does happen, it feels the best because everyone feels involved and like they own a part of that."
In terms of composing music, Filkins is inspired by innovation. "What influences me is when every note is so well chosen for the song and not overindulgent or riffing you won’t hear that in our songs," he says. "If someone can reinvent the guitar sound or use it in a different way, I always really respect that."
He says the band members are constantly working on new songs and ideas. "We’re not consciously writing for the third album, but I think we’re subconsciously looking for the next sound or the next thing we’re going to try," he says. "When we are ready [to record], we’ll probably have 40 ideas that are just kind of stacked on our hard drive. We’ll see where it goes. It could go anywhere, really."
Filkins recently took a sabbatical from touring for the birth of his first son. He rejoins the band this weekend for a short North American tour before embarking on a European leg next month, during which OneRepublic is slated to open four shows for U2.
After that, he says, the group will plan an extensive U.S. tour in the fall followed by stops in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Asia. "Hopefully our fans will come with us for the ride," he says.
When Filkins thinks about how his life would be different today if he wasn’t a part of OneRepublic, his mind wanders back to the decision he made eight years ago to give music another try.
"If I hadn’t trusted Ryan’s songwriting ability and what we had going on, I wouldn’t have randomly or blindly jumped into another band," he says. "This was my one and only chance. If it hadn’t worked out, I don’t know what I would’ve done. Other guys will go from band to band until they find the right one and then they’ll make it, but I don’t have that kind of energy."
As for returning to a career sporting his skivvies, he says it’s highly unlikely (sorry, ladies). "People can expect to never see that again," he laughs. Admittedly, though, it’s not hard to find remnants from his phase as a Jockey pinup, he says. "It’s on the Internet and there’s nothing I can do to take it off at this point."
The show begins at 7 p.m. Lawn ($35) and reserved ($65) tickets are available at the Eccles Center Box Office, 1750 Kearns Blvd.; at Deer Valley Signatures or Etc. stores, located on Main Street and at Deer Valley Resort; online at ecclescenter.org or via phone at (435) 655-3114.
Gates open 90 minutes before show time. Coolers are permitted and a nine-inch chair height restriction is enforced. Cameras or recordings of any kind are strictly prohibited. The concert will be held rain or shine. For more information, visit http://www.ecclescenter.org .
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