Wiz Khalifa, Alex Da Kid, Linda Perry, Charlie Wilson, Others Share Songwriting Stories at BMI's Pre-Grammy Panel

Wiz Khalifa, Charlie Wilson, BMI's Catherine Brewton, Alex Da Kid, Linda Perry and Dallas Davidson at BMI's “How I Wrote That Song” panel at Los Angeles' House of Blues on Jan. 25.

Araya Diaz

Similar to last year, when Snoop Dogg lit up during BMI’s annual pre-Grammy Awards “How I Wrote That Song” discussion, rapper Wiz Khalifa walked onto the stage Saturday (Jan. 25) at the House of Blues in Los Angeles puffing on a joint before sharing stories behind such monster hits as “Black and Yellow” and “Payphone.”

Left to right: Alex Da Kid, Dallas Davidson, Wiz Khalifa, Charlie Wilson and Linda Perry with BMI's Catherine Brewton at BMI's “How I Wrote That Song” panel at the House of Blues in Los Angeles on Jan. 25. (Photo credit: Araya Diaz)

Moderated by BMI’s Catherine Brewton, who serves as VP of writer/publisher relations in Atlanta, the ticketed event also featured producer Alex Da Kid, singer Charlie Wilson, and songwriters Linda Perry and Dallas Davidson, discussing the writing process behind some of music’s biggest hits in recent years. See the highlights below.

Wiz Khalifa on “Black and Yellow”
“It really took off on its own. It was a combination of me being on tour and some other things that happened around that time -- I went to jail. People were, like, ‘Who’s this kid and why’s he smoking so much weed?’ The Steelers were going to the Super Bowl. So there were a lot of things that made it more of what I could be than I could ever make it turn into. Stay out of jail!”     

Charlie Wilson on “You Are”
“It’s basically about my wife. She was there when I was strung out, or whatever. She came to my rescue and for 19 years, every single day, hour after hour, we’ve been together. I decided to write this song about the reasons I love her. ”

Linda Perry on writing P!nk’s “Get the Party Started”
“I thought of every stupid thing I could come up with -- every cliché. I ad-libbed the whole lyrical content and told this whole story about someone on their way to a party, and it’s not going to start until I fucking get there. I literally wrote the whole song as a joke. I called up my manager and said, ‘Listen to this. I wrote a dance hit. I can’t sing it, we have to find someone who can!” … A week later, some crazy chick named P!nk calls me and says, ‘I want you to write a song or sing on my album.’”

Alex Da Kid on Eminem’s (featuring Rihanna) “Love the Way You Lie”
“I did that beat like three years before anyone even heard it. I did it at my mom’s house in the basement. It’s weird, because Alicia Keys warmed up to it before but it didn’t go anywhere. I sent it to everybody I knew and nobody wanted it. Rihanna was in Dublin at the time and we were pretty much done with the album. She was recording there and she didn’t sent it back until 20 minutes before the album had to finished.” 

Wiz Khalifa on his recording process
“It’s always the beat first. Everything starts out as a melody and mumbles.”

Charlie Wilson on going solo from The Gap Band
“I rode it down on the way out and it tanked out. When I got ready to try and do something, I really wanted to bring the Gap Band back, but we were so discombobulated and I wanted to try and do something else. When I tried, everyone said, ‘Man, you’re too old.’ I just went for it. After the first hit I had, I said, ‘Look, man, I’m not looking to be someone’s pin-up on the wall. I just want to sing and have some fun for the rest of my life. This is what I do.”

Dallas Davidson on writing Lady Antebellum’s “Just a Kiss”
“I wrote this with the band. We wrote a song that morning and I loved it. Right before we got to the office, [Dave Haywood] was playing that thing on the keys that I remembered it all day. We were writing a whole other song, but that stuck in my head. After we wrote it, I told Dave to play that piano riff again. I had the idea of “Just a Kiss” on my phone and thought, ‘Now is a good time for an idea.’ So I was looking through my phone and that filled what we were doing. It’s one of those things where you think you’re done, but then you’ve just written a big hit song. That was my first crossover hit.” 

Linda Perry on writing Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”
“I’ve always been a very insecure person. I know I come off as a porcupine and kind of strong, but I’m not. I’m very fragile. I sat down at the piano and started writing… I’m playing the song and it gets to the chorus, ‘I am beautiful.’ As soon as I heard myself say ‘I am beautiful,’ I freaked out. I took the foot off the pedal. I was thought, ‘I can’t say that, I don’t think that about myself.’ I thought I was writing a song about somebody else. The second chorus came in, ‘You are beautiful,’ and the third chorus, ‘We are beautiful.’ And the song started making sense to me… Christina started singing it, and then it hit me: This isn’t about what the song is about. It’s about someone who doesn’t think they’re beautiful and they’re trying to find power within themselves to change their whole outlook on life.”   

Alex Da Kid on working with Dr. Dre on “I Need a Doctor” (featuring Eminim and Skylar Grrey)
“Dre is the nicest person. He’s super cool. That was the first idea I played him. I had all these gangsta, grimy beats.” 

Dallas Davidson on whether he gives artists his opinion on a finished song
“It’s a touchy thing with artists. I consider myself an artist, too, and when I do something and it’s done, that’s the way I want it to be. If you start critiquing the guy or girl singing your song it doesn’t go over very well. But the more successful I get, the more opinion I have – or the more opinion they listen to.”

Perry ended the discussion with an impromptu songwriting session with Wilson. She also offered the audience of aspiring songwriters some useful advice.

“We’re not looking for hits,” she said. “If you’re chasing what’s happening out there, then you’re chasing a rabbit down a hole. Just follow what’s going on with you, because that’s why everything sounds the same -- everybody is trying to mimic what’s already out there. Why we have great artists in our history is because those people did something different every single time.”