The Hot Seat: Diane Warren

Published in The Music Network

The saying goes, behind every great man is a great woman. In the music business, behind almost every great pop star is Diane Warren. The Californian songwriting legend has written hits for a who’s who of superstar performers, a list which includes Elton John, Tina Turner, Aerosmith, Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Rod Stewart and Barbra Streisand. The hitmaker’s songs have been nominated for four Golden Globes, six Academy Awards, and nine Grammys, and her works are featured in nearly 100 movies. And there’s a lot left in the tank. TMN caught up last week with the industry legend, who will make her maiden voyage to Australia when she speaks at the Oct. 16-18 One Movement conference in Perth.


Hi Diane, what’s keeping you busy at the moment?

Writing a lot of songs.


And how many songs have you penned?

I’ve got a lot of songs. Thousands at this point. But I can’t remember all of them. I have so much stuff in my brain.


Why have you never grabbed the spotlight?

I’ve always wanted to be the name in parenthesis. I like to be the name, “written by”. That’s not to say I’m not going to do a record. Maybe I will do one. I think I should do one just for the hell of it. I just never wanted to be a performer and I have no desire to be a performer.


But you’ll be speaking at the Big Sound conference. What do you make of public speaking engagements?

I hate the idea of it. If someone’s interviewing me it’s not so bad, but if I had to go up there and talk without being interviewed I couldn’t do it. I’d have stage fright. It would not be easy for me. If I’m sitting there and someone is asking me questions, that’s cool.


I saw you receive the special international award at the Ivor Novellos last year in London. That’s a lot of fun for a lunchtime gig.

I love it. Everyone’s drunk. It’s so cool. The guy who walked up to get his award before me had a beer bottle, I though ‘this is fucking cool.’


What’s the proudest moment in your career?

Oh, there’s a lot of them. I’m proud to be able to do this as a career. One of the proudest moments was today. I was watching Oprah and Whitney Houston was on the show doing her comeback interview. Whitney sang my song that I wrote for her, I Didn’t Know My Own Strength. People in the audience were crying, including Oprah. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen or heard on TV. It was so intense. I’ve had like 50 emails from people in the last few hours. Anytime you’re recognized for your achievements is great. Being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, winning a Grammy was amazing, getting a star on Hollywood Boulevard was a great moment. I’m proud I still do this. I’m proud that my songs still reach people.

What has it been like to work with Whitney.

She said it best in the interview with Oprah. She said it’s not a comeback, it’s a come-through. She’s come through so much. I love looking at it that way. I’ve done a lot of songs with her, but this is the first one I’ve written for her. I’ve had a couple of big hits with her. We had a hit with her in a duet with Enrique Iglesias called Could I Have This Kiss Forever. She’s done a lot of my songs.


You own a publishing company, Realsongs. How do you split your time between looking after the business and songwriting?

There’s only one writer here. Me. I don’t do the technical business stuff like licensing, But I deal with the placement of my songs. I’d like to grow it with my own songs.


Do you have any tips on how to get the songwriting juices flowing?

I only know what works for me. It’s such an individual thing. I just show up, that’s what I do. I have to work, and I work hard.


What motivates you?

I love to write songs. I love to come up with ideas. I love to come up with new ways of something that has been said a million times.


So is there a method to the process, or is it about magic dust?

All of the above. There’s a method and there’s a craft, but there’s also inspiration which you can’t really figure out.


What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve been working with Akon. I did a great song for him, and a great song on the new Sean Kingston record. And I’ve worked recently with Jennifer Hudson. I’ve just done a great song for Kylie Minogue. I think it’s going to a No. 1 record. It’s a really great title but I’m not telling you yet. She sounds amazing singing it. I love Kylie Minogue. I’m so happy to be working with her.  I don’t know when the record is coming, but she’s coming here on concert and I’ll meet with her. She’s cool, I really like her. I was really happy she did my song. I’ve also worked with Nadine Coyle from Girls Aloud. And an amazing new artist from Sweden called Agnes.


Do you have any goals you haven’t yet achieved?

I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and doing it better.


What will be on the cards for your trip Down Under?

I don’t know what my plans are. I’m looking forward to going there. I’d like to go to Sydney. I’ve heard some good things about it. I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’ll think about it all when I’m there. I’ve never actually been before.