Nate Ruess Has Some Fun. At Zia Records

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Up on the Sun: You guys played Conan last night. How did it go?

Nate Ruess: It was a disaster. A mad disaster.

Really? It didn't look a disaster.

That's the magic of television [Laughs]. That was our third take that we had to do, because our drum machine was breaking on stage, so it was just like...I was fuming. Just because I didn't want to waste everyone's time there. I was like, "Fine, give them the second take." But they let us to a third take, then I felt uneasy about performance of that. So I'm not ever going to see that. I don't want to look [Laughs]

Did you meet Conan?

Yeah, very briefly.

Had you ever met him or seen him around?

No, no. That was my first time, and it was [pauses] He was pretty weird. I think he's super friendly, but I might have been giving off a vibe that I was too cool for school or something. But my vibe inside was, "Holy shit, I can't believe I'm doing this." I was trying not to sweat all over the camera. So he was like, "You don't have to be cool," and I was like, "No no, trust me, I'm not cool. I'm freaking out."

I overheard one of the dudes saying that one of the kids in the children's choir had a meltdown.

Who told you that? [Laughs] It was cool that we were able to get those kids to come and do that. But yeah, in rehearsal, the day before this poor kid [had problems.] He was just a short, short kid, like the tiniest of the kids that would have been up he had every right to feel that way. [Laughs]

If you're stressing out, imagine his situation.

I'm freaking out, so imagine this poor kid just going nuts inside. [In rehearsal] someone put earplugs in his ears, and he started crying, because I think it was a new feeling for him. We were like "Oh buddy, no, don't sweat it." But when we got to Conan the next day we saw them as we were driving up and rolled down the window and said "Hey buddy you okay?" He had a very uncomfortable look and we were like, "He's not going to do it." And sure enough...but it was okay, being short one voice in a children's choir.

So obviously, the new single "We Are Young" is massive. Did you have a sense of that when you were recording it? Maybe half way through when you realized, "You know what, this song is gigantic?"

No...I never really think that way. The song started out because I sang it to our producer Jeff (Bhasker) when I first met him, and it was only he and I in New York. Andrew and Jack hadn't even heard the song yet. Jeff and I started recording it, and we finished that chorus later that night as I remember it. The whole situation was just surreal, when it was happening. He was freaking out about the song and I just didn't hear it. [Laughs] I was like, it sounds exactly the way I want it to sound, but I don't know if that makes it a hit song or not. If I've made four albums, I would say there have been at least ten songs as catchy as that one...

You never know when something is going to resonate with people. It seems like it's done that.

Yeah, everybody else felt so great about it. The head of our label called me the next morning just freaking out. So I was like, "Oh there's the single. For the rest of the album I don't have to worry about writing any more singles."

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.