Ester Dean has spent the past few years penning hits for everyone but herself. Since 2006, the singer/songwriter has built a resume packed with chart-topping singles including Rihanna's "Where Have You Been," Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" and Katy Perry's "Firework." But after a few false starts to her singing career, the 26-year-old is ready to take the spotlight.
Following her big-screen debut in movie musical "Pitch Perfect," the Muskogee, Okla., native is prepping her studio debut, "Story Never Told" (Interscope), which is currently without a street date, though it was completed five months ago. The disc will be led by the single "How You Love It," featuring Missy Elliott, but Dean drummed up buzz by closing 2012 with a self-financed video for slow jam "Baby Making Love." She's also prepping a mixtape for later this winter. She's flirted with solo success before-2009 single "Drop It Low" with Chris Brown peaked at No. 38 on the Billboard Hot 100-but now, she's prepared to go full swing.
"I'm more than a songwriter. I'm a creative person," Dean says. "Some people you just always see. I won't allow you to see me unless it makes sense. There's a reason to see me."
Dean is scoring on the charts with the "Pitch Perfect" soundtrack, which features her singing on several songs alongside the ensemble cast (most notably her rendition of Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone"). The album has skyrocketed in the past three weeks, rising 45-10-7 on the Billboard 200 and selling 142,000 copies-a whopping 54% of its sales since its September release. The success surprised even Dean.
"It's crazy because I tried to pause the songwriting part to do the movie, even though I wrote songs while I was there," says Dean, who penned "Where Have You Been" and Machine Gun Kelly's "Invincible" on the set. "For me to put a hold on it and it still ends up on the charts? It's so funny."
Dean aims to continue acting (though she doesn't yet have any roles lined up) and plans to launch an animation company to build on her Hollywood breakthrough. She also recently started her own production company and hit the studio with Britney Spears for her upcoming album, though she's mum on details. It's all part of Dean's master plan to succeed on her own terms.
Dean was reportedly signed to Roc Nation management, but a label representative confirms that she is currently without management. She announced the signing via Twitter on January 2012: "I'm so Grateful 4 my Team Past and Present! Bringing in the New Year with my new Team @RocNation 2012."
"I see what other people do and what songwriters don't. They don't get out and take care of themselves," she says. "Producers turn themselves into a massive brand. Songwriters tend to be under someone else's umbrella. If you're building your own legacy, it can't be under an umbrella. I'm not looking to be an artist to make money. I'm looking to be an artist."