Waking up to One Republic

hot Magazine, Issue 137, November 2009

Waking Up to One Republic
Guitarist Zach Filkins starts our day with tidbits on the band’s new album, reality TV and his plans for a family

By Sophia Goh

To say that the last couple of years have been amazing for Zach Filkins would be an understatement. As co-founder of One Republic, the guitarist/songwriter/vocalist says nothing could have prepared him for the “craziness” that has been the band’s meteoric rise to success, thanks in large part to two not-so-little tracks called ‘Apologize’ and ‘Stop and Stare’.

“The journey’s really been incredible,” he admits. “From the very beginning of having the idea to form a band with [frontman] Ryan [Tedder] – that was back in university – till now, it’s been more intense than I thought it would be. Just everything is incredible but also when you have a dream to do something, you always imagine in your mind what it’s going to be like but you never know until you get there.”

Despite his newfound fame and fortune, the 31-year-old former model has stayed down to earth, and is refreshingly so. The first thing he wants to know during our phone interview is: “What time is it over there?” When we reply that it’s a little over half past eight in the morning, he says: “Oh, cool. I wouldn’t want to wake you up in the middle of the night.” Which of course made us love him (and his band!) all the more.

Less than a week before the release of One Republic’s second album, Waking Up, Zach says the band’s international success was what surprised him the most. “I think the biggest surprise from last year was how many countries we went to before we decided to stop touring and take a break,” he says.

“A part of that is really due to the fact that Timbaland (who features on the remix version of ‘Apologize’ and whose record label One Republic is signed to) is so active. We went to 27 countries last year and that was a big surprise because I think we all thought it was going to start in our country and then move to the UK and then spread out from there. But within three months it went everywhere and suddenly we had to try to be everywhere at the same time.”

The band even clocked a stop in Malaysia for the MTV Asia Awards, a visit they remember fondly. “Oh it was incredible,” Zach says of their red carpet experience. “[The fans] were screaming and singing so loud. We still talk about that actually. That was the most incredible red carpet experience we’ve ever had. It was really the best reception or greeting we’ve ever had in a country.”

What are you most excited about for your second album?
I think as a band, we had a great amount of success with the first album and we were extremely happy about it, but the challenge is always to keep that momentum going and try to get further. I think the exciting thing is to have more music, different music, and then go back to all the countries that we went to before because the first year and a half were really kind of a blur, you know. And now we talk about all the countries we want to go back to and all the great food that we had and all the different people and cultures… Hopefully this time we can take more pictures and experience it all a little bit better.

What are your hopes for it?
We have high hopes, I think. We aspire for this album to show a different side of the band, musically. We obviously had great success with ‘Apologize’ and ‘Stop and Stare’ and the album itself but we want to leave that in its own category. We never talked about trying to beat it but what we talked about was, okay, that was one album with music that we wrote five years ago. ‘Apologize’ was written by Ryan before we even moved to LA [to form the band]. So the aspiration for this album is to show what One Republic is doing and our musical inspirations and sort of stretch out and do something different and take some chances. I think we did that; there are songs on Waking Up that are similar enough to Dreaming Out Loud (the band’s debut album) so hopefully our fans won’t be confused and will go on the journey with us. We want everyone to come somewhere else with us. Every album should be that way, I think.

You guys were, and still are, huge on MySpace. Are you planning to use the Internet in any way moving forward?
Yeah, we talked about all kinds of things and what we can do; we’re still trying to get used to Twitter and things like that. You’re right, MySpace and the Internet really helped us in the beginning but the Internet’s always changing and we’re not sure how we’re going to do it but we want to do more interesting things. Especially since people are looking at the Internet more from their phones than from their laptops now so everything has to change. I think what’s interesting to me is how you have to be simple on the Internet so everyone can access it on their phone. And I think that’s where we’re going – how can we be more active, how can we reach our fans through the Internet and through their phones?

U2 recently streamed one of their concerts live on the Internet. Would you guys want to do anything like that?
I definitely think that we should. We have no plans to do it right now but I would love to have a whole show streamed on the Internet. I think that would be incredible. It’s funny how you have Twitter where you can basically tell people what you’re doing at any time. But what if we take that to the extreme where we actually have video cameras attached to our heads so that we’re always streaming what we’re doing. I mean, that would be kind of intense but… I don’t know [laughs].

That would be like reality TV.
Yeah, it would be like reality TV, which doesn’t ever stop. Which maybe is a little too invasive [laughs].

Is reality TV something you would ever consider?
I would probably do it. Yeah, I would try that, but not like 24 hours a day. I have to have privacy. But I think videos are fun. We’re always travelling and if we can put up a video every day or videos like every five minutes… I don’t know.

Unlike most of the other rock bands, your frontman doesn’t always run around on stage. You guys are often just playing your own instruments. How do you keep your live shows visually entertaining?
That’s a good question. We’ve asked Ryan to dress up like Lady Gaga but he won’t. I’m just kidding. The way we do things live is we play our own different instruments and Ryan is a very good lead singer, he goes back and forth, sometimes he runs out into the crowd and sings ‘Apologize’ with everyone. So we always try to keep our show very active, very energetic. We don’t ever want to just stand there and play our music, we want to try and engage with everybody and at the same time, we don’t want to use tricks or anything, we just try to play our very best. Sometimes we’ll have TV screens or something where we can add more visual representations of what the music makes us think of.

You’re on the road a lot. Is that difficult for you and your wife?
Yeah, it is difficult. We love being together so much and when we have to go a month and a half before we see each other, it pains us. But we have a very strong relationship. She stays home a lot because she doesn’t really like to travel but we always know that I’ll come home and we can be together. That’s kind of how it is right now. But I could never do this for 40 years. You know the Rolling Stones or U2, they do it for so long and I couldn’t go that long. I love to be with her too much.

How long do you think you’ll go on for then?
I really don’t know; there’s no way of saying. I love the band and I love the music so, you know, you can’t plan that. You just go with it.

Any plans for a family?
Yes, definitely. I think in the next two or three years. We’d like to have three or four kids, but one at a time right? [Laughs] I’ve always wanted to be a father so I think it’s probably time.

If you could write a song for someone, who would it be?
I’m actually a fan of Pink and I’d love to write a song for her. I think she’s pretty awesome. She’s got an amazing voice but she’s still kind of aggressive, you know. I like it. I think she’s funny. I’d love to write a song for her; I think that would be an honour.

One last question: since you guys are currently on tour, who’s got the worst habit when you’re on the road?
[Laughs] The worst habit… It would be too insulting to name one person, but I will say we all sort of have the same habit and it has to do with cleanliness. I think we all need to get better at showering when we’re on the road if that makes any sense. That’s all I’m going to say. No names. I can’t do it. I just can’t.

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