'That's not the way I want to write songs': Diane Warren on the co-writing revolution

Diane Warren

At the Ivor Novello Awards yesterday, there was one hot topic of conversation amongst the publishers and songwriters at the Grosvenor House Hotel bars.

After Music Week’s revelation that it now takes an average of 4.84 people to write the UK’s biggest hits, UMPG boss Mike McCormack’s quip that “They’ll have to increase the size of the Ivors stage” occasionally looked like coming true, as multiple co-writers and publishers took their bow.

But one person definitely not playing that game is legendary songwriter Diane Warren. The writer behind songs such as Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing and Toni Braxton’s Un-break My Heart features in this week’s Hitmakers special edition of Music Week, and has plenty to say on the new trend.

So Music Week sat down with her in Los Angeles to talk Adele, songwriting splits and life as one of music’s few remaining ‘100%-ers’…

 

How do you feel about co-writing?

”I write by myself.”

Not many people do that anymore…

“No, it’s like this weird lost art or something. I don’t think it’s that weird, but then I meet with artists and they’ll go, ‘Man, you’re a 100%-er’. I’m like, ‘100%-er’? ‘Yeah, you write everything yourself’. Yeah, it’s just what I’ve always done, man.”

Do people want you to change that?

“I’m not against co-writing with an artist. I’ll do it. I did some songs with Adele that supposedly she still loves, and that was fun because we actually sat in a room and wrote together. I wrote something with Lady Gaga that’s coming this year. So, every now and then, I’ll write with somebody. But I won’t get in those rooms. I won’t go to a writing camp and sit with five people on a track.”

Why is it happening?

“I don’t know. What happened is the producers became writers. It happens to me sometimes, where someone will produce a song of mine and say, ‘Well, what are the splits?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, you didn’t write it.’ It’s the new normal. But I usually don’t put people’s names on a song they didn’t write. I mean, I don’t want my name on something for something I didn’t do. It’s surprising, even with some artists, ‘Really, you want that?’ But I still do what I do and people still do my songs. I’m good.”

 

For a songwriter coming up now, I don’t know how you make a living when you’re one of 10 writers on a hit

Dianne Warren

 

You don’t feel like you’re missing out on work?

“No. I’m writing the best songs of my life, songs that make a difference.”

Co-writing clearly produces hits. But does it produce great songs?

“It depends. Uptown Funk was a really good record, but every week there were new writers, because there was some other song they’d lifted from! Every time I heard it there was another really cool funk record it reminded me of. It was a good record but it’s definitely good that they gave credit to those people.”

Would co-writing dilute your vision?

“That’s not the way I want to write songs. I want to write songs that last.”

What does it do to songwriting economics?

“For a songwriter coming up now, I don’t know how you make a living when you’re one of 10 writers on a hit. I hear people fight over 2% and 3%, sit and negotiate over that shit. You need it to be a really big hit to make good money on that. I guess it all adds up, but I’m glad I just do my own thing.”

 

* To read Diane Warren’s full interview, see this week’s print edition of Music Week, or click here. To read Music Week’s analysis of the reasons for the co-writing explosion, click here. To subscribe and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

subscribe link free-trial link

follow us...