Emily Warren has been the talk of the music world Friday (Jan. 13), as the new Chainsmokers track “Paris” features an uncredited female voice that was rumored to be a French singer named Luane or even Selena Gomez. But it was, in fact, three-time Chainsmokers collaborator Warren who provided vocals for the song, and now fans are eager to know more about who exactly this girl is.
The 24-year-old New York native first got to know the Chainsmokers after they picked up her breakup tune “Until You Were Gone,” eventually setting up a writing session with the dance duo’s Drew Taggart — along with fellow songwriter Scott Harris — that ultimately resulted in the Chainsmokers’ Grammy-nominated smash “Don’t Let Me Down” (more to come on that story later).
“It’s been a really great creative relationship since then,” Warren tells Billboard all the way from London, where she’s currently working on projects with various artists. Even though she’s not technically credited on “Paris” — hence the hullabaloo over who the girl on the song is — Warren is really excited about the latest Chainsmokers tune.
Once the “Paris” mystery was solved, Warren chatted with Billboard about how she got involved with the song, why her name isn’t mentioned, and how much she adores the Chainsmokers guys — oh, and all of the songs that their hitmaking team has in the works.
What was your first time actually working with The Chainsmokers like?
Me and Scott [Harris] were at Drew’s apartment in New York; he was living in New York at the time. It was really easy. I think the whole song came together in a couple of hours. Drew had a lot of energy, he had the whole track kind of nearly done at that point and was kind of picking out what we were doing and was just really positive to work with. So because it was so organic and natural, it’s been — for Scott and I both — great to work with Drew. He’s really creative and he has a good ear and he’s just fun to be in the room with. It’s always fun to share it with people who you actually like as people.
What made the collaboration on “Paris” happen after the work you had previously done with them?
I actually didn’t write on “Paris.” They happened to be in New York and I was working on some stuff at a studio nearby, and they were like, “Can you please come? We’re finishing this song. It needs a little something; we don’t know what it is. Can you just come sing some background or something?” So I came in and just layered some of Drew’s parts and sang those different parts that you can hear on the song. They were like, “All right, sick, the song’s done now.” It was awesome. They just put me in the booth and were like, “Do whatever you want,” and it turned out how it did.
So you were the missing puzzle piece, apparently.
[Laughs] Yeah, I’d like to think that.
How did you know what to do on the song when you hadn’t had any prior involvement with it?
A lot of times in sessions, when the song’s done, the producer will have you do an ad-lib track where they just play it and you riff on what’s already there, like freestyle melodies with some of the lyrics that are already there, and that’s kind of what it was. After I layered the parts — the “show them we are” part is the lyric that’s right at the end of the chorus, so it’s just little pieces that were in there and different ad-lib melodies.
When the guys called you about “Paris,” did you think you’d end up having this kind of part in it? Or that it would result in people speculating who the girl singing is?
Today’s been so insane. When I went in, I literally thought I was going to add layers to what he was doing — the kind of thing that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to pick out. And then when I heard the song done and it’s an actual part — it’s been so crazy and cool. I was just talking about how the speculation has been sick, because I think people are thinking it’s whoever it is, and then finding out that it’s me by digging a little bit. And it’s sick because we’re friends, so it’s fun sharing in this with them a little bit.
Was there a reason for the fact that you weren’t credited on the song?
I think that their reasoning was that they wanted it to be a Chainsmokers thing and not featuring anyone. Drew did most of the singing and is doing a lot more singing now. And since it’s not a proper duet, the vocal is meant to be more of an effect than an actual part. And there’s other stuff I’m doing with them that I’m singing on, so I think in terms of what’s coming out, they didn’t want to do a lot of features.
So have you talked to the guys today?
It’s funny — yesterday, I tweeted something at them like, “Oh, is this Selena Gomez on the song?” and all these people were tweeting at me telling me who was singing on it. So that was funny. [Laughs] They’re really excited. I told them congratulations, they’re like, “It’s only the beginning.” And we have a bunch more stuff that we’re doing together that I’m excited for everyone to hear.
What can you tell me about the future projects you’re working on?
I’ve written a lot with them for the stuff coming out. There’s one that I’m featuring on and then a bunch of other really sick features that I can’t talk about but that are gonna be great. It’s actually so cool watching — we’ve done a bunch of songs together, and now they can kind of have their pick of who’s singing on what, and they’ve been really creative in making sure that they’re getting a vocal that sounds good instead of just a name on a song. It’s all sounding really good. It’s going to be great.
On that same topic — what has it been like watching them achieve what they have after working with them so much? Especially watching “Don’t Let Me Down” be so successful?
What they’ve done on their own is incredible anyways, just from what they came from — “Selfie” and reinventing themselves. And it seems like everything they’ve put out has done really well. For me and for Scott, when we wrote “Don’t Let Me Down” with Drew, it just completely changed our lives. We get sessions now that we couldn’t get before, and we’ve gotten opportunities that the song itself gave us. All of our lives changing separately, but also together, and now we all still write together and we have a bunch more stuff that we’re doing together, it’s cool. It feels really good that we did that together and they keep wanting to work with the same people. A lot of artists, once they have a certain amount of success, they switch to big writers and big producers — but they’re still coming to us for stuff. It’s the best feeling in the world, and above anything, it’s just fun. We’re all so in this together that when you get in the studio, there’s no ego and no competition — it’s actually fun to make stuff together.
Would you say that their creative process has changed over the course of your time working together?
Yeah, actually Drew said something to me last April which really hit me at the time. He was saying that, what “Roses” did for him originally, it was the first song he really believed in and he had done that did incredibly well. And what that gave him was a kind of confidence. He was saying, “Listen, you and I have both grown up listening to music our whole lives, so we know what we like, we have tastes in the sense that you hear something and you think it’s good, or you hear something and you think it’s bad. So the best thing to have is confidence. If you trust yourself and you hear something and you think it’s good, then it doesn’t matter what anyone else says or thinks — you go with your gut, and more often than not, that’ll be the right thing.”
When he said that, it was really huge for me. We were actually backstage at Coachella when he said it, and right after that, they went out and played “Don’t Let Me Down” — that was the first time I’d seen it live like that. It was a cool moment. I was, like, hysterically crying. But then with “Don’t Let Me Down” doing what it did with [what Drew said] in my head — it’s definitely had an impact on me. I really think he’s good, I really admire his stuff, and having him think I’m good has just been unreal.
In music, with people having so many people involved on the business side or the creative side, you end up getting kind of insecure and forgetting that you got into it originally because you have ideas and you trust yourself. And so once you have a little bit of success — I think that’s kind of what it takes — you can start trusting yourself. And it’s so true what he said. Once I started believing in myself really after that conversation, it’s so much easier to write songs because you’re not scared to throw ideas out, you’re not scared to try things. It’s like, you trust yourself, you know what you know, you have an idea of what’s good or bad, at least to you. That’s changed a lot in a really cool way. I sat behind him while he was producing another song we have recently, and it was so cool watching him try things that I might not have chosen myself and watching him try all of these different things until he felt it. The outcome is so cool — he’s not copying anything, he’s just trusting himself.
Do you have any stories about the creation process of “Don’t Let Me Down” or how it came to be?
Yeah — Scott and I were at Coachella a couple of months before we wrote the song, and we had seen a bunch of EDM acts play. So when we were on our way to a session with Drew, we were brainstorming what we could write about and we were talking about — all of us had gotten separated [at Coachella] at one point or another, and being separated from people at Coachella is really scary. Everyone’s a zombie, you’re probably a little f—ed up, it’s hard to find your way around and you feel like you’re never going to see anyone again. So when we were on our way to the session, we were like, “It’d be so sick if we could channel that feeling and make a song that would be comforting to hear if you were in that situation at Coachella.” That’s kind of what the song is about. It’s so crazy and cool that it’s actually been played in settings like that.
Actually, I have a friend who told me she was really f—ed up one night and couldn’t calm down because people were playing Beethoven and stuff trying to calm everyone down. Then she put on “Don’t Let Me Down” and it finally settled her, so it was a huge win on that because that was the goal of it anyway.
Switching gears a little bit — have you seen or heard anything said about the Chainsmokers that you’d consider a misunderstanding or misconception of the guys they are?
Yeah, definitely. I think it’s actually really sad that a lot of stuff has been spun that way because they really are just really grounded dudes. I think just because they’re so normal — in the sense that they’re just nice, grounded dudes — they say some stuff sometimes as you would in a conversation with your friends that ended up being spun by some parts of the media to be that they’re a–holes, which is really unfair. They’re the nicest dudes — I love them and have nothing bad to say about them, so it kind of sucks that that’s been the interpretation of some of the things that they’ve said.
How much involvement do you have once you’ve written the songs together?
With them, I definitely have involvement and we’re in touch all the time about what’s happening with songs, such as cutting them. And they’re really cool about when, if someone cuts something and I or whoever wrote it don’t like it, they’re really cool about us going back and working on it with them and meeting in the middle. I really like to be involved as much as I can, and they definitely don’t keep me out of the loop on stuff, which is great.
Anything else you want to say about “Paris” or the Chainsmokers guys?
I’m just excited to see what happens with “Paris.” I think it’s being responded to really well. I fully believe in the song, so I’m really excited to see that. It feels really good — it’s got a cool, nostalgic feel to it.
I can only imagine the tears that will happen once you hear it live, huh?
Yeah. [Laughs] Getting ready for the waterworks.