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GUY RAZ, HOST:

And if you're just joining us, this is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. And it's time now for music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")

FUN.: (Singing) Tonight, we are young...

RAZ: This is the number one song in America right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")

FUN.: (Singing) So let's set the world on fire, we can burn brighter than the sun.

RAZ: It's called "We Are Young," and it's by a pop rock trio called fun. And that's "fun" with a period at the end of it. And over the last few months, the band has blown up, period. Their new record is called "Some Nights," and at times, it sounds like it was co-written by a consortium that includes Andrew Lloyd Webber, Freddie Mercury, the rapper Drake and Crosby Stills and Nash.

And not too long ago, not a whole lot of people had heard of fun., and even fewer people thought they'd ever make it big, but they have. Nate Ruess is the lead singer for fun., and Nate joins us now from KUT in Austin. Nate, welcome to the program.

NATE RUESS: Thank you for having me.

RAZ: And first of all, congratulations on the top spot, man.

RUESS: It's pretty surreal. Thank you. I mean, this was never - it's weird. It was never really our intention. I had signed to a major label when I was 19 years old. I - and I kind of gave up then when I was dropped on the next album. And here I am 11 years later.

RAZ: That was more than 11 years later. You've been in the game, as they say, for a long time. I was listening to Hot 99.5 here in Washington, D.C. last night. This song is on supersize heavy rotation right now. Tell me the story of how this song got made.

RUESS: I remember I had just started - I began the writing process for the album, and I was driving in a car and the chorus just popped into my head.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")

FUN.: (Singing) Tonight...

RUESS: 'Cause that's how I write music is - I don't play an instrument. I just - I hear the songs in my head. And I thought, like, oh, this will be nice for, like, the end of a song, like, on an album. And as the days passed, the chorus just kept, like, getting stuck in my head.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")

FUN.: (Singing) ...than the sun.

RUESS: At the time, we were trying to get a hold of Jeff Bhasker, the producer who had done the last two Kanye West albums.

RAZ: And has done a Beyonce record, a huge producer.

RUESS: Yeah. And someone that wouldn't generally, like, take a meeting with us. But he blew me off two times, and then he and I met in the Bowery Hotel.

RAZ: I read that you were waiting for him, you got there early and you were so nervous you actually had to have a couple of drinks at the bar.

RUESS: Yeah. I mean, I was - I think I was a little lubed up at that point, so I was able to kind of shed my general self-demeaning layer and just talk to him about everything. And we had a really great conversation. And he was working on the Beyonce stuff, so he was like, why don't you come up to my room and check out a demo for the Beyonce song I'm doing? And I was just so inspired in the moment that I just decided to sing that chorus.

RAZ: You sang the chorus to the song "We Are Young"...

RUESS: Yeah. Sing the chorus, yeah, yeah.

RAZ: ...in his room, in his hotel room at the Bowery Hotel.

RUESS: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")

FUN.: (Singing) Tonight we are young.

RUESS: And the other two guys in the band hadn't even heard the song yet.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")

FUN.: (Singing) So let's set the world on fire...

RUESS: And...

FUN.: (Singing) We can burn brighter.

RUESS: ...I sang it to him...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")

FUN.: (Singing) ...than the sun.

RUESS: His jaw just, like, dropped.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")

FUN.: (Singing) Tonight...

RUESS: But we had to go to the studio either the next day or the day after that.

RAZ: It's amazing.

RUESS: It was incredible.

RAZ: He - you sang him the chorus, no guitars, no nothing, just a cappella, you sang it for him, and he was like, this is going to be huge.

RUESS: Yeah. It was amazing, the foresight that he has. And it went from, oh, this guy just wants to produce this song to the next thing I knew he wanted to do the whole entire album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")

FUN.: (Singing) I'll carry you home tonight.

RUESS: It was so surreal for me, just one of those daydreams where you, like, think about just the utmost, like, goal that you think will never happen. And this whole entire year has just been that.

RAZ: I'm speaking with Nate Ruess. He is the lead singer for the band fun. Their single "We Are Young" is now the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOME NIGHTS")

RAZ: That song ended up kind of setting the tone for the record that you guys released two weeks ago...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOME NIGHTS")

FUN.: (Singing) There are some nights I hold...

RAZ: ...which is called "Some Nights." That sort of - was that sort of the building block for this record?

RUESS: It was. It was - I knew that we wanted to make the songs, like, add that element that Jeff brings to the table. And so after hearing "We Are Young," and the fact that it did work, I only had a month to finish really writing the gist of the entire album. And it was awesome because I felt like it was catching lightning in a bottle.

RAZ: So I've been listening to your record these past few weeks, popped in my ear buds, and it starts something - it starts actually like this:

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOME NIGHTS")

FUN.: (Singing) 'Cause there are some nights I hold you close, pushing you to hold me, or begging you to lock me up, never let me see the world...

RAZ: So, Nate, I'm hearing, like, Freddie Mercury and "Jesus Christ Superstar" right at the top of this record.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOME NIGHTS")

RAZ: I've read you describe it as theatrical music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOME NIGHTS")

FUN.: (Singing) Oh my God...

RAZ: I mean, it's literally, this album, parts of this album sound like you should be watching people on stage.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOME NIGHTS")

FUN.: (Singing) And you...

RUESS: Thank you. It's very flattering. And I don't know where that really came from. Obviously, we're massive Queen fans. But it feels so much more inherent.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOME NIGHTS")

FUN.: (Singing) There are some nights I wait...

RUESS: I think a lot of it has to do with, like I said, writing songs in my head. Because of that, it's not on, like, this grid, it's - with the lyrics. I'm writing the lyrics and the song. So I'm then presenting it to the other two guys in the band, and they do such a wonderful job of feeling where I'm at and feeling the tempo. And a lot of it is live, so it does move up and down, and it makes it very theatrical.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOME NIGHTS")

FUN.: (Singing) Some nights. Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck. Some nights I call it a draw.

RAZ: Rolling Stone magazine called your sound a classic bubble pop tunefulness with rococo rock and roll. I'm not sure what that means, but I think it's good. But they called your voice huge, all snarl and Broadway panache.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOME NIGHTS")

FUN.: (Singing) What do I stand for? What do I stand for? Most nights I don't know anymore. Oh, woah, oh, woah, oh.

RAZ: Nate, I love this music. You are so talented.

RUESS: Thank you.

RAZ: This is such - there's an amazing wall of sound and melody in what you recorded. And by the way, that - what we just heard, that's you, just on different tracks, right?

RUESS: Yeah, that's a whole bunch of me. There's a gospel singer somewhere in there.

RAZ: Tell me about yourself, Nate. I mean, you've been in this business a long time. You were in bands before. You were not in New York. It's been a long road.

RUESS: Yeah. It's been a crazy, crazy long road. And as soon as my last band had broken up, I spent many night just, like, sleepless and wondering whether I had some, like, major personality flaws, why maybe someone wouldn't want to be in a band with me anymore. And I thought, all right, well maybe I should kind of just give it up.

RAZ: You sing about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOME NIGHTS")

FUN.: (Singing) Ten years of this, I'm not sure if anybody understands.

RAZ: Ten years of this, I'm not sure if anybody understands.

RUESS: Yeah. It's - I do - I worry about how much older I'm getting and what my threshold is. And I'm learning a lot right now just based on all this new success that we've had. I used to think I knew everything. And really, now, I know nothing. And I'm excited to know nothing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")

RAZ: You said that even before this record became a huge hit and "We Are Young" became the number one song in the country as it is now, that you found this record to be the most rewarding thing you have done in your career.

RUESS: Without a doubt.

RAZ: What makes you proudest of this album?

RUESS: I think the content. I think lyrically, just maturing into something and not being as closed-minded, I think, as I have been just about music in general and being more willing to try things. And Jeff Bhasker, the producer, played such a huge part in that because he brought something that none of us knew anything about and made us feel like children again.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")

FUN.: (Singing) Tonight...

RAZ: That's Nate Ruess. He's the front man for the band Fun. Their new album is called "Some Nights," and their single "We Are Young" is currently the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100. Nate, congratulations. And thanks so much.

RUESS: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE ARE YOUNG")

FUN.: (Singing) ...than the sun.

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