Interview: Diane Warren “Being a successful songwriter is hard work. You have to show up, write and keep at it all of the time. Nobody hands you hits, you have to write them.”
When it comes to songwriting, there aren’t too many who can say that they’ve achieved the success that Diane Warren has had throughout her illustrious career. With multiple hits and accolades (five time Grammy nominee, Songwriter Hall Of Fame Inductee in 2001) on her résumé, there is no denying the impact she has had on music over the last 30 years. In this interview, Diane talks to us about her entire writing process and reflects back on some of the R&B songs she’s penned throughout the years.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Do you still listen to the radio to see what’s popular right now? I know a lot of the music out right now is very different from the classics that you’ve written throughout the years.
Diane Warren: I listen to the radio all of the time, both terrestrial and satellite. Steven Spielberg bought me a satellite radio a few years back and I love it. Radio is still very important in terms of knowing what music is out there and selling. I love hearing my songs on radio. It is a real thrill for me driving down the street hearing a song I wrote playing in my car. It is important for me to keep up with current songs and productions to keep things in my studio current and marketable.
YKIGS: What is your writing process like?
DW: I write everyday. I get up and go to the office at about 8:30 and write until night. I write on Saturday too and love to be in my office without others around. It is peaceful and one of my favorite times to write. On Sunday I write some but try to take a minute to think about what I have written during the week. See, I am always writing. Being a successful songwriter is hard work. You have to show up, write and keep at it all of the time. Nobody hands you hits, you have to write them.
YKIGS: You’ve been able to write hits for every genre, how do you kind of shift gears from writing one style to another?
DW: I get an idea for a song by either a title, an idea, I might read something that inspires me, or have a musical idea. At any rate, I sit down and write what feels right. I don’t write for particular artists, I just write a great song. Then after it is written I decide who would be best to record it. Most songs I write fit multiple genres. I might demo the song pop, urban, country, Latin or a mixture of these. A great song is a great song. With any genre.
YKIGS: One thing I’ve noticed throughout the industry is that we rarely see females writing for male artists. Why do you think that is and how have you been able to overcome that barrier?
DW: I don’t write for females or males. Either generally, can record my songs. I don’t think that it is a female not writing for males, but producers write with male artists because they are in the studio with them. If a woman were producing, she would write with the artist. Sometimes it is just about who is in proximity to the artist. I do not co write. I don’t like to write a part of a song, I prefer to write the entire song, both words and music. My songs are good for both men or women artists. I am working with both all of the time. Right now I am working with Akon, John Legend, just had a song with Justin Bieber, Lenny Kravitz, Aerosmith, Mike Posner, Rascal Flatts, and females such as Jennifer Hudson, Cher, Mary J. Blige, Kristin Chenoweth, Rihanna, Beyonce, and on and on. It is even for me. I have never seen a male artist not interested in my songs because I am a female. Never in my career.
YKIGS: I have a couple of songs that I’d like to ask you about. If you could give me some background information on these tracks:
Brandy – Have you Ever
DW: I think this is a classic song. She sang it amazingly. I’m still waiting for the country version.
YKIGS: Aaliyah – The One I Gave My Heart to
DW: I think this is the song that showed what a great singer Aaliyah was. I was so impressed not only by her amazing talent but by what a hard worker and lovely person she was. Hard to believe it’s been ten years since we lost her.
YKIGS: Beyonce – I Was Here
DW: Being in the studio watching Beyonce sing the song was one of the greatest experiences in my life. Her record was basically done when I played it over the phone for her. She stopped everything to record this. It was one of those meant to be situations.
YKIGS: Ginuwine – Superhuman
DW: I loved the first song we did together. This should have been a single. It would have been a hit.
YKIGS: Monica – For You I Will
DW: This was for the Space Jam soundtrack . I was probably the only person who didn’t know what Michael Jordan did, except that he was an athlete. I’m not exactly into sports.
YKIGS: Whitney Houston – I Didn’t Know My Own Strength
DW: This is a song I sat down and wrote specifically for her. She sang it beautifully. I know a lot of people can relate to the lyrics.