A Q&A With Emily Warren
Meet Emily Warren, Grammy-winning, multi-platinum singer/songwriter, the mastermind behind songs made popular by artists such as The Chainsmokers, David Guetta, Melanie Martinez and Shawn Mendes. Her song New Rules, sung by Dua Lipa, remained at #1 on Billboard's Top 100 list for an impressive 5 weeks in a row in US Pop Radio. The Manhattan-born, 25 year old has already released four singles in the past two years and it doesn't seem like she is slowing down any time soon.
Flaunt: What first inspired your interest in songwriting? Do you remember the first song you wrote?
EW: A lot of different factors lead to my interest in songwriting, but a big turning point came when a piano teacher I had, named Jen Bloom, who was also a songwriter, started playing me songs she had written. I remember when it clicked - people write songs - and the next afternoon after school I came home and started writing. There was a lot of trial and error, lots of bits and pieces and failures, but eventually I wrote one called "Facing Confusion" which was, in my mind, good enough to play for other people.
Is there any piece of literature, an author, or musician who stands out to you that has influenced your song writing? What inspires you that might surprise people?
EW: Wow, that's a great question but a tough one to answer. Song-wise, The Beatles, John Mayer and Gavin DeGraw are probably the main ones, but there are so many others. But a lot of literature has influenced me - the book "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" is something I draw from constantly and actually made me really fall in love with reading several years ago.
What is your song writing process like? Do you start with music, lyrics, or something more intuitive?
EW: I like to start with lyrics whenever possible. I find that when I know what we're talking, about the song sort of comes together more easily. Nothing is worse than getting all the music and great melodies and then getting stuck on lyrics. It helps to start with a conversation when I'm collaborating- just to catch up and see what's going on with the artist or the other people in the room. Not only so that everybody feels comfortable and creative, but also because inspiration is often right in front of you in peoples' real life experiences.
You’ve worked with artists like Dua Lipa and The Chainsmokers. Does writing process work differently then when you're writing on your own? How do you decide when to save a song for yourself or give it away?
EW: The process is the same in principle, but essentially I have to take what I usually direct at the artist and flip it on myself, which can be a challenge. When I'm working with an artist I feel like I know what questions to ask, just because I'm following what's interesting to me, but when I'm writing about myself I have to be a bit more vulnerable. There are only two songs I've written that I'm keeping that I didn't specifically sit down to write for the album. The two are pretty old songs and I wrote them both with my friend Scott Harris, and I realized I had to keep them because not only are they super personal, but also whenever there was the prospect of someone else cutting them I got to be very hesitant and reluctant, and that's when I knew.
Has releasing your own music always been the end goal?
EW: I think deep down, yes, but I really put it aside when I started writing for others and convinced myself that's the way I wanted it. I think part of the reason is it made it way easier to get my foot in the door as a writer, because there's no sense of competition whatsoever, but I soon realized that other artists are generally really supportive, everyone kind of takes care of each other. The other main reason was I really didn't think I was ready yet - I've only just recently felt like I've honed in on how to properly write a song, and that took a few years, and beyond that I hadn't yet found my voice/what I wanted to say. As soon as I felt like I had something to talk about, I started writing for this album.
Your latest music video for “Paranoid” sees you exploring Film Noir tropes wherein the femme fatale character was originated, Is this a thread that we will see explored in your upcoming album? What influences did you draw from for this video?
EW: Perhaps - although I like the idea of all the videos being very different from one another. I worked on this video (and a previous one for "Poking Holes") with my friend Matt Porter who is brilliant. He had the idea of playing off of the paranoia aspect of the song and so we knew we wanted to do something with horror film influence. Both of us being fans of Hitchcock, the black-and-white noir felt like the most fun angle, and besides, I've never gotten to dress up in that style so it was really fun to do that. :)
Femme Fatales are often considered masters and possessors of their sexuality identity, how do feel these characters relate to yourself and other women of today?
EW: I think this past year has been a historical turning point for women and has been an absolute pleasure to watch. It's been so amazing noticing the content changing in the lyrics of female's songs - certain things just don't fly anymore and there is a certain degree of responsibility for there to be a female in the room when writing for a female artist. I'm really proud of "New Rules" for that reason - I was always told not to write songs like that. Songs that made it seem like the guy wasn't gonna "get it". So when that song made it to the finish line I knew something was really shifting. And it's happening all over the place "Be Careful" Cardi B is another great example.
If you were to create a girl power anthem - who would be your dream collaborators?
EW: Would have to be Sigrid, Lennon, Britt Burton and Alex Hope.
You have a full length release due late August, are there any other spoilers you can share?
EW: I'm TOO excited!!!! There's a song on it called "Not Ready to Dance" that's one of my favorites I've ever written ;)
Check out her new single down below!
Photos by David O'Donohue