There aren’t many artists who would consider an office full of major awards, a slew of major #1 hits, a library of some of the most memorable pop songs in recent history and an induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame to be “a good start.”
Diane Warren, however, isn’t like any other artist.
Starting as something of a child prodigy, Diane Warren began laying the groundwork as a teenager for a career that has spanned decades and exceeded all expectations… all except her own. She always knew she would end writing some of the biggest songs in music, and she has never waivered from her mission. However, she tells us she is really just getting started and the best is yet to come.
From hits like “Rhythm of the Night” to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” and “How Do I Live” to “Un-Break My Heart” and “When I See You Smile” to “Because You Loved Me” and “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” and literally hundreds more, Diane Warren has written countless songs that seem to transcend time, appearing and reappearing throughout our lives, just when we need them. Her songs have received six Academy Award nominations, five Golden Globe nominations, and seven Grammy Award nominations, including one win. Her success in the US has been paralleled in the UK, where she has been rated the third most successful female artist. If Diane Warren says she is just hitting her stride, I suggest you believe her and buckle up.
We sat down with Warren to catch a quick glimpse into her relationship with her music.
Who exposed you to great music growing up? Were you taught to be analytical about music (for instance, did someone explain to you why something was great or not great)?
I was born almost 15 years after my sisters were born. When I was young, the played music all the time. My parents played records so I was exposed to all kinds of music early. I listened to the radio every minute I could. I wanted to write songs at about age 10. I learned by experience. Then in college I snuck into the practice rooms to play and write every chance I had.
You own your own very successful publishing company, but for a very brief time you were under someone else. You describe that experience rather diplomatically as “interesting.” How do you think the big publishing companies are getting it wrong? Where is there room for improvement?
I would have been signed to a publisher if I hadn’t been in a lawsuit with my publisher Jack White and was unable to sign to anyone until it was settled. During that time, I started Realsongs and from that moment forward, I owned my music. I have never looked back and it was the best thing that ever happened to me business wise. There is always room for improvement with the big publishers but sometimes I think that they are forgetting the song and concentrating on the groups or artists and advances. That keeps the artist from doing outside songs because they have a quota to fill for their albums. Sometimes these artists aren’t writers, just participants in the songs.
How closely do you follow your songs once they’ve been turned over to an artist for recording?
I follow the song every minute. I know what is going on in the studio and am usually asked to be there when the artist records so it is done right. I follow what the label is doing with promotion and have been known to promote to radio myself. I stay on the song and call radio, do interviews, and basically do whatever I can personally to make sure that the song goes all the way.
As far as the songwriting process, do you write and rewrite a lot? For instance, What is the longest you worked on a hit song for (molding it)?
I usually write a song in a week. I write it and then do not rewrite it. When it is finished, I am happy with the end product. Sometimes an artist need minor changes in lyric or something and I will oblige.
You’ve said before something along the lines of ‘the song picks the artist’ (like casting the right actor for the right role). Have you ever felt like the song went to the wrong person?
When an artist does a song, I am generally happy with it. I am sure that there have been songs that have been with artists that I was not particularly happy with. Maybe the production or the vocal wasn’t exactly like I wrote it. I write a great song and then it is organic with the artist fitting the song. Most of my songs are multi genre songs so artists of many different types of music can record them. I might have a country, pop, or Latin chart position with the same song at the same time. I love that
You’ve been known to fight for the song to go to the right person, most famously convincing Cher to record ‘Turn Back Time.’ Considering you’re arguably the greatest songwriter in history, do you ever find yourself still needing to convince people that a song is right for them?
I have been lucky that artists are happy to record my songs but at times, I have to do a little “convincing or pushing” to make it happen. I little nudge never hurt anyone. If I believe in the song and if the artist is the right one, I believe that is where it should be. That is when I nudge somewhat.
Do you believe a song exists in the future that will be the greatest song you have ever written? Will that be the last song you write?
I have not yet written my greatest song. Every song is potentially the best but I am just getting started with my writing career.