Interview: American Authors on stalking Ryan Tedder and Paul McCartney
American Authors are having a moment: the quartet’s debut album, “Oh, What A Life,” came out Tuesday (4), as its banjo-laced song “Best Day of My Life” is reaching critical mass.
Even if you don’t think you know the bouncy song, which was released nearly a year ago, you do: it’s achieved near ubiquity through its usage in commercials for Lowes, the trailer for “Delivery Man, “ as the opening sequence for ESPN’s World Series of Poker series, or, of course, on the radio. It reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Pop Songs chart, No. 6 on Billboard’s Rock Songs chart and is still climbing the Billboard Hot 100.
The rest of the album follows a similarly upbeat trajectory, with the band musically aligned with such acts as fun., and The Script. Most of the lyrics are positive, or if not outright celebratory, accepting of life on life’s terms.
“It wasn’t intentional to make the album so upbeat,” says lead singer Zac Barnett. “But I guess it was the kind of thing where it was us discussing our lives and what we’ve gone through and everything we’ve had to do —all the good times and the bad times, going after our dreams and goals in life. I think a big thing with the record is no matter what’s going on in life, it’s not a perfect world —whether it’s craziness in your everyday life or what you see in the world around you —but you do what you can to create your best situation.”
The four members of American Authors — Barnett, guitarist/banjoist James Adam Shelley, bassist Dave Rubin, and drummer Matt Sanchez — met while attending Berklee College of Music in 2006.
They played for years under the name The Blue Pages, switching to American Authors in 2012. Success took some time to achieve and they’re enjoying it now that it’s here. “It is kind of all about timing, right now is obviously our time,” Barnett says. “It’s all working out great. I think because we worked so hard and put everything into it and struggled for so long, we’ve been able to be humble. We still have the apartment in Brooklyn. It’s just exciting that we’re getting the chance now.”
The reaction to the band’s upbeat music has buoyed them, with fans telling them they played “Best Day of My Life” at their weddings and at high school victory parties, but one story stays in Barnett’s mind. The group’s song “Believer,” which was their single preceding “Best Day of My Life,” deals with having faith through good and bad times. “A son reached out to us. His mom was suffering from cancer and her levels were extremely high,” Barnett recalls. “She found our song ‘Believer’ and she made it her theme song for her life. As she did that, her cancer levels went down an insane amount.” When the band played the family’s hometown of Cincinnati, they dedicated the show to the woman, who was unable to attend. However, her son was there and he and his mom watched the show together via Facetime. “We skyped with her that night and now we try to meet up with her every time we come through Cincinnatti,” Barnett adds.
Barnett’s best day of his life would be spent with Paul McCartney and would unfold this way: “We start off at the studio, we’re at Abbey Road. After working on some music for awhile, then we all head over to sound check together to Wembley Stadium. Paul McCartney would be opening for us, so we’d get a nice long soundcheck and he’d get 30 minutes,” Barnett says before dissolving into laughter.
Until Sir Paul comes around, Barnett and his band mates are thrilled to be opening for The Script and OneRepublic this summer: the tour already includes two sold out nights at Colorado’s Red Rock and a sold out show at the Hollywood Bowl.
And with one of pop music’s top songwriters, OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, within such close proximity, Barnett says there may be a little stalker action: “You better believe that we’re going to stand outside of his dressing room for a few hours every night until he lets us in.”
(The official video for “Best Day Of My Life” is pretty cute with the friendly monster, but the doggy version is even better, so we embedded that one).