She’s your favorite’s favorite and arguably the most sought after female songwriter of all time. Lending her pen to hits such as ‘Unbreak My Heart’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing’, and more, Diane Warren has seen her name inked in history books almost as many times as she’s inked hits for the likes of Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Mary J. Blige, and countless others – most recently Beyonce for ‘A Star is Born’.
Recognized four times Billboard’s Songwriter of the Year and six times ASCAP Songwriter of the Year, Warren tells That Grape Juice there are still unconquered territories in her already decorated career. Giving us the scoop on her latest sessions with Beyonce, Kelly Rowland, and more, she dishes on her feelings on Rihanna and Nicki Minaj while addressing rumors that she is currently working with Pop icon Whitney Houston!
All this and more after the jump…
Diane Warren Shouts Out That Grape Juice
TGJ: Thank you for taking time out to speak with us.
DW: No problem, I’m happy to talk to you.
TGJ: So, you’ve definitely had a storied career. Hailed as one of the greatest songwriters of all time. When did you first become aware of your passion for writing?
DW: When I was a kid. I was about 11, I wanted to be a songwriter even younger than that. I taught myself guitar listening to the radio. The cool thing was, I grew up with the best music ever. I feel bad for people growing up now. It’s not the same level of songwriting. I’ve always loved writing songs. I kinda had a vision, put in the work, and here I am working harder than ever.
TGJ: What would you say are some of your favorites of your songs?
DW: One of my favorites is ‘I Was Here’ from Beyonce’s album. It was a cool story how the whole thing happened with her. I was waiting for a meeting with an A&R guy at my house. I had my guitar there and he was two hours late. I started making up this song saying “I want to leave my footprints on the sands of time”. Pretty cool opening line. I thought “one person I’ve yet to work with is Beyonce”. I literally called Jay Z up and played him the song. And, he thought it was one of the best songs he’d heard and he had her call me and she loved it. And, literally this was on a Monday with her album due to be mastered that Friday. She came in that Wednesday, sang it, and blew my mind. I mean her vocals were amazing.
TGJ: It’s amazing how things just fall in place like that!
DW: I know! Who would’ve thought it would happen and she only heard it one time on the phone and decided to basically stop her album and get the song on it. Her work ethic is…just amazing. She sang for three hours and it was the best vocal I’d ever heard. She took a dinner break and told me “I’m just getting started”. That’s what separates the good and the great.
TGJ: Mentioning Beyonce, we recently read quotes where you mentioned you’d do “anything for Beyonce”…
DW: Yeah! Artists like that can come at 4 in the morning and lets do it! Tell me what time, I’ll walk or fly there. The artists that are cool and good artists, absolutely, I’d do that. She’s a cool person and I’m doing ‘A Star Is Born’ with her now.
TGJ: And how is that going? What should we expect different from Barbra Streisand’s iconic version of the film/soundtrack?
DW: This is going to be the new iconic version with Beyonce. She’s going to be great. Clint Eastwood’s doing it. You can’t do better than that.
TGJ: Your career has often been compared to David Foster and others, old or new, who are some of your favorites?
DW: It’s different. David’s more of a producer than a pure songwriter. There are so many. I love Motown writers like Stevie Wonder. I also like The Beatles, Burt Bacharach to Bee Gees and Prince. So many great writers I’ve learned from and been inspired by.
TGJ: On that same note, anyone you haven’t worked with that you’re looking to? Singer and/or songwriters?
DW: Not one person. I love great voices and great singers. I love Andre Bocelli. Fun to go from people like Keri Hilson, who I just worked with (who’s amazing by the way). She’s a great singer. Also a few country people. I’m all over the map. It’s so funny how [Keri and I] met. Twitter!
TGJ: Speaking of Twitter, your sense of humor has definitely made headlines recently – namely a comment about rapper Nicki Minaj’s ‘Stupid Hoe’ where you mentioned you’d change it to your own tune ‘Dumb…(insert expletive)’.
DW: Can I say it?
DW: Well I said ‘Dumb C*nt’ but I wasn’t make fun of her, just the title. I make fun of my own titles. ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing’ became ‘I Don’t Wanna Kiss Your Thing’. I wasn’t making fun of Steven Tyler. I always make fun of titles. I wasn’t saying that about her, I don’t even know her. People took it the wrong way.
TGJ: What do you think of Nicki Minaj generally?
I think she’s cool. I’d love to work with her. Somebody played me something today called ‘Ass’ [by Big Sean]. Yeah, it’s not something that I would write. It just was like “whoa”. I’m not prude or anything, call me crazy. It’s not my thing. I think there are more clever, creative ways to get down and dirty. I think Nicki’s pretty good though. I wouldn’t write songs about ass-eating and stuff though.
TGJ: So we’ve talked about Beyonce and Nicki and previous projects, but who’s up next to work with you? We’re hearing rumors that you’re working with Whitney Houston.
DW: Not yet. I would love to because I did a few songs on her last project like ‘I Didn’t Know My Own Strength’. I’d love to work with Whitney anytime but we’re not as of yet. I will be working with Beyonce, working with Kelly Rowland, Keri Hilson then Beyonce again. Akon, John Legend, a new guy named Luke James. He’s excellent. I gave him a really great song. Also, a new artist named Emeli Sande. Just all over the place. Also, just did a great tune for Jennifer Hudson for the movie ‘Winnie’ where she plays Winnie Mandela called ‘Bleed For Love’. We’re hoping the movie comes out this year.
TGJ: Thanks again so much for your time. As ever, we like to wrap things up on a contextual tip. So, if you could write an entire album for one person – maybe a contemporary singer – who would it be and what direction would you take it?
DW: I met Jamie Foxx a couple of weeks ago and he would be an interesting person to do something different with. I have something in mind where I would take him. Something really “soul”.
TGJ: Seeing that the industry goes in trends like Disco, ballads, and now electro pop – would you say the overall industry has declined. Also, what do you think would be the next trend?
DW: Yes it’s certainly declined. Listening to the radio, its like you’re hearing the same electronic track over and over. Being an insider leads me to believe that it’s time for artists like Adele and Bruno Mars to take center and leave less room for other, less talented artists. Sign more real artists. They don’t have to write their own songs, they just need to sing good songs great. It’s gotta get back to real arists and real songs.
TGJ: Being that you’ve had such a storied career, what advice would you give songwriters trying to get in the business.
DW: You gotta be great, can’t just be good. Not just with songwriting, with everything.
TGJ: We’ve seen you on American Idol. What are your thoughts on X Factor and The Voice. Would you ever consider being a full-time judge?
DW: I would never consider being a full time judge. I was on that one time and I’d do something like that – a one off. It’s too many of the shows. Idol’s on then The Voice. It’s fatiguing. Anything but another singing competition please.
TGJ: Picture this: You’re in the studio with Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Adele. Who do you A) write a hit song for B) who do you advise C) who do you wave “hello” and “goodbye to”?
DW: I’d like to work with all three. Adele has a magical voice and Rihanna has a really cool sound. I love the sound of Rihanna’s voice and I love Gaga. If you put any other singers in there, I may answer more easily. But, I’d love to work with all three of them.
TGJ: Finally, how would Diane Warren like to be remembered?
DW: As somebody who wrote f*cking good songs that mattered. How about that?
Interview & Transcript: Quinno – That Grape Juice Team