“I’m jealous of her,” ASCAP president Paul Williams said during a lunch at the Hard Rock Café prior to Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge presenting the award to Warren. “Most songwriters are jealous of her. Not her success. It’s the dedication, the unwavering passion to create a song that hits people in the center of the chest.”
Known for “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith, “Un-break My Heart” by Toni Braxton and close to another hundred top 40 hits, Warren shared anecdotes on writing, perseverance and dedication during the hourlong chat. A few of the tidbits:
Writing for film: “I like to have an idea (when I start) and sometimes I just play around with chords. A lyric never comes first. A concept or a title, which is sort of a lyric, (does). Concept is important for me. (For film work) it’s about getting inspired and making a song that fits the movie and fits outside the movie. ‘Because You Loved Me’ (from “Up Close & Personal”) was odd because it became popular at weddings even though it had an ‘e d.’ It could be a divorce song.”
Upcoming songs: Rascal Flatts perform “Compass” in “Heaven is For Real” and she has a song slated for “Hercules” but no performer assigned yet.
Work schedule: “I show up at 8:30, quarter to nine every day and try to wrote the best song I can, hit my head against the wall if I have to. I try to stay out of the office on Sundays.”
One good story: “There was a song I wrote 2-1/2 years ago and I had no idea what to do with it. I heard Paloma Faith and said that’s the act I want to record it. I set up a dinner with her and asked if she would listen to it. She said ‘no way am I doing a song I didn’t write.’ I did think the song was going to be a hit. I said would you just keep an open mind and just listen to it. (Later) I spoke to her on the phone and she said ‘f--- you,’ slammed the phone down and said ‘I’m booking a flight to come record it.’ I knew it was right – that this was who the song was born for.”
Biggest influence: “The radio was my best influence. I was glued to the radio. I learned song structure in the ‘60s, music from the Brill Building – it doesn’t get any better.”
Favorite singer of all time: Dusty Springfield.
Writing hits: “I think they’re all hits. Maybe I delude myself.”
Her favorite story: “ ‘I Was Here’ was a really open song when I wrote it on my guitar. It could be Beyonce, it could be Susan Boyle. I’m friends with Beyonce’s A&R rep, but I thought I’m going to go to Jay Z – let me do something different. I also sent it to Simon Cowell. Jay Z didn’t return my calls at first, but then I got a hold of him and said I want to play you a song. I felt that this was, if not my best song, in the top five. I think this was on a Monday and Beyonce was busy doing ‘Oprah’ or something. (Jay Z wanted her to record the song). Beyonce said ‘look, my album is supposed to be mastered on Friday.’ I went into the studio on Wednesday and we were there until 2:30, 3 in the morning. I think she delivered one of her best performances. I saw that I got an email from (an unspecified A&R office in England) that said ‘it’s an OK song, but it doesn’t go all the way for us.’ I responded ‘I’m in the studio with the biggest artist in the world and it went all the way for her. (Smiley face).’ ”