From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song

Ryan Tedder

Written by Ryan Tedder
Recorded by One Republic

I won a record deal in a singer-songwriter competition on MTV when I was 20 and went from being a college student to a professional in two months. It turned into a bunch of nothing but hype. I was broke, frustrated and generally disgusted with the music industry, so I went back home to Oklahoma.

For the next three years, I started searching for the type of music that was the best fit for me. I tried everything from hip hop to pop, rock, R&B, everything, and I kept going back to British rock. I started working a little — I did a record with Timbaland and a few others.

I wanted to start a band and I had a name — Republic. So I moved to Colorado Springs, where I had gone to high school and a lot of my old band mates still lived, and formed One Republic. I stayed with my dad. He had just gotten a grand piano and I sat down to work at it. “Apologize” just kind of popped up. I was 23 at the time. I was writing about relationships, like almost every songwriter does. It’s instinctive. I had no luck in relationships from the time I was in middle school through college. Every relationship blew up in my face. I had no girlfriend for more than four or five months. I had become the definitive lonely heart.

My family couldn’t figure me out. I could always get girls, I just couldn’t keep them. I attracted the flavor of the month (or week) but I wore my heart on my sleeve, a set-up for disaster. I became totally disenchanted with women and wrote “Apologize” as the ultimate kiss-off song. It was the last song I was going to dedicate to relationships and it summarizes all of the relationships I had.

I was always the nice guy and treated girls really well. They’d break up with me and go off with some badass. Then I’d get a call six months later and the girl would tell me she realized how well I treated her and that she was sorry and wanted to get back together. I got tired of hearing “I’m sorry” and realized I value myself more than that.

When I finished the song, I was so convinced that it was a hit that I said I would get a new job if I was wrong. One Republic was signed to Columbia at the time but they dropped us despite hearing this song. Of course, it was the same week they dropped the Jonas Brothers and Katy Perry.

All the labels passed on us, but I still believed in the song. It sat on the shelf for five years until Interscope Records heard it and got it. Ironically, Interscope was the first label I did a showcase for when I moved to Los Angeles and I told friends that it was the label I wanted to be at. The rest is definitely history. It was very vindicating. The song was not only #1 in countries all over the world, it made history by getting the most airplay ever for a song in one week and it sold over 10 million singles.

I’ve cornered the market on breakup songs, so I’m trying to write more positive songs now. They come more naturally now that I’m happily married.


I’m holding on your rope,

Got me ten feet off the ground.

I’m hearin’ what you say but I just can’t make a sound.

You tell me that you need me

Then you go and cut me down, but wait

You tell me that you’re sorry

Didn’t think I’d turn around, and say…

It’s too late to apologize, it’s too late.

I said it’s too late to apologize, it’s too late.

I’d take another chance, take a fall,

Take a shot for you

And I need you like a heart needs a beat

But it’s nothin’ new.

I loved you with a fire red —

Now it’s turning blue, and you say…

“Sorry” like the angel heaven let me think was you.

But I’m afraid…

It’s too late to apologize, it’s too late

I said it’s too late to apologize, it’s too late.

It’s too late to apologize, it’s too late.

I said it’s too late to apologize, it’s too late.

It’s too late to apologize, yeah

I said it’s too late to apologize, yeah —

I’m holdin’ on your rope, got me ten feet off the ground…


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