Grammy-winning songwriter Emily Warren has made her name writing hits like Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” and The Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down”. She’s also taken vocals herself, on songs like The Chainsmokers’ “Capsize”.
For 2018, Warren will be focusing on her own music. She already dropped “Poking Holes” which we’ve had on repeat. (But really, who’s not hitting the repeat on any of Emily’s songs?) Luckily for us, we had the absolute pleasure to chat with the artist herself! Keep on reading to find out how she chose this career, realizing there’s no boundaries when it comes to songwriting, and her message to women who want to work in a male dominated industry.
The Young Folks: You have an impressive resume and penned so many hit songs we all know and love! How did the career of being a songwriter come about for you? When did you know songwriting was something you wanted to commit to and eventually pursue?
Emily Warren: Thank you!! I’m really lucky, actually, in how organically it all happened. I started writing and recording music when I was in 5th grade, so at the time it was genuinely just for fun. In high school I had a band, and throughout college I was doing tons of writing sessions with all different people. I don’t think there was ever a moment where I made a conscious decision to make it my career, it all just sort of happened because I was doing what I found to be the most fun and exciting use of my time. I think obsessive passion for something often looks a lot like hard work.
The Young Folks: Did you ever have any doubts before putting your vocals on a few of the tracks you wrote like “Capsize”? Or, was this something you were ready to do?
Warren: I’m not sure that I would say I ever doubted it. I started off as someone who wrote and performed my own music, but I mostly put my own artistry on hold because I wanted to hone my skills as a writer, and I felt like putting myself on the back-burner for a second would not only help me get into rooms with other artists, but also would give me a chance to learn and find my own voice through working with other people. I have since completely fallen in love with writing with and for other people — I get a lot of pleasure out of hearing other peoples stories and helping them craft that into a song. My vocals being left on songs was another really wonderful, organic process – it started with The Chainsmokers, who left my vocal on “Until You Were Gone”, but it was really “Capsize” that gave me the confidence to put out my own music.
The Young Folks: The songs you write are relatable to anyone and everyone plus sparks conversation. When did you come to the realization like, “Hello, I can talk about this. We can talk about this right now. This isn’t taboo.”?
Warren: Thank you so much. It took me a long time to learn this, but the best writing happens only when you stop worrying about what you should do, what you’re supposed to do, and you just uninhibitedly express yourself. “New Rules” is a great example because I come from the Pop world where the rule I was taught was to never write a song that made it seem like the guy wasn’t gonna “get it’. I followed that for quite some time, but I really only started getting songs cut by artists and released when I stopped following rules (no pun intended). “New Rules” does just that, and it came about in a session with my friends Ian Kirkpatrick and Caroline Ailin, because this was something Caroline was dealing with at the time. All we wanted to do was write the truth, write her story and create something that would help her (and, in turn, many others) deal with the temptation of going back to someone who clearly doesn’t deserve you. I’m extremely proud of that song, and everything its done, because it feels like (especially given the social and cultural climate right now and everything that’s happening with female empowerment), like we’ve made something that aligns with our believes and supports our morals and it actually appears to be having a positive impact. I’m getting constant messages from friends and strangers who say this song has helped them through just this sort of situation. That’s literally ALL I aspire to do as a human, so I’m so happy!!!
The Young Folks: Now that you’re releasing your own music on your own terms, how do the songs you’re writing for yourself differentiate from what you write for others?
Warren: The only difference is that this time it’s my story. When I’m writing with and for other people, it is purely theirs, and it’s been interesting, at times uncomfortably, but undoubtedly therapeutic to have to shift the lens onto myself. There are questions that are easy to ask that are not so easy to answer. And beyond that, when I’m working with other people I am not too involved beyond the writing of the song. What’s fun about doing my own music is that I get to be creative through the finish line – whether its with artwork, videos, etc. It’s been amazing and I can’t wait for what’s coming.
The Young Folks: What kind of messages or ideas are you crafting in you’re upcoming album that we can expect to hear?
Warren: I’m definitely being honest, as honest as I know how to be, and telling stories about situations that I’ve been in that hopefully will, in their honesty, resonate with other people. We all know what it feels like to hear a song and to wonder how this stranger could have possibly written a song about EXACTLY what you’re going through. That feeling has made me feel less alone so many times, and I’m hoping to pay it forward by creating a little bit of that comfort in other people.
The Young Folks: After you finish up writing a song and bring it into the studio to cut, what is that process like for you to make sure the finished product is something you’re proud of? How do you know what you wrote is being created into exactly what you envisioned?
Warren: It’s hard to know what’s exactly right and when somethings finished. You kind of just have to trust your gut on that one – ideally, the music is fresh and original, but that means you don’t have much to compare it to. I rely first on my collaborators – Scott Harris and Britt Burton are the two writers I work with on my solo stuff, and Mac & Phil and Nick Ruth are the producers. I often feel like if we all empower ourselves to be the most creative and confident, we’ll get the best result. They’re all amazing and I trust them wholeheartedly. But at the end of the day, I have to make the final call, and it’s scary but it’s also incredibly empowering and rewarding.
The Young Folks: You’re kicking ass as a woman in the music industry which is sometimes seen as dominated by men (but not anymore!). What would you say to songwriters looking up to you aspiring to be in your shoes?
Warren: Ahh thank you so much! I always say that as a female in a male dominated industry, it’s important to never enter a room as the girl in the room. Enter as a person. I do believe that you get what you give out, and if you trust and respect yourself, other people will follow. It’s easy to be swayed and convinced of one thing or the other when you’re dealing with people (statistically in the industry, quite often men) who are more powerful than you and thinking they know what’s best for you – but only you know what’s best for you. And if you have an instinct, never ever ignore it. Be patient, and trust yourself.
The Young Folks: Lastly, this may be probably super difficult to answer but from a songwriter perspective, what is your favorite song?
Warren: My favorite song in recent years is “Jealous” by Labrinth. Those lyrics destroy me and it’s so absolutely well done. I think what I love about it as well is it reminds me a lot of the old school music I grew up on and still constantly listen to – Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker, etc.