If you can sing along to Dua Lipa’s “New Rules,” or The Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” you’re already a fan of Grammy winner Emily Warren.
The Manhattan-born songwriter has just released her debut album “Quiet Your Mind” after spending years behind the lyrics of more than a dozen chart-topping pop hits performed by artists like Florida Georgia Line, David Guetta and Bebe Rexha.
Warren, 26, admits her career path isn’t exactly the industry norm. She started out singing in a band while studying at the Clive Davis Institute at NYU. When her group broke up, it was the end of her professional world. Except, it was really just the beginning.
It’s what pushed her to nab (and nearly mess up) a meeting with fellow local songwriter Scott Harris, who’s worked on singles for The Chainsmokers and Shawn Mendes. And that meeting led to a deal with Dr. Luke, a record producer she’s still signed with today.
“I had a manager at the time who suggested I start writing for other people,” Warren says, initially resisting the idea of giving her words away. “I did not do a good job my first session at all but for some reason, I don’t know why, Scott called me back the next day to try again. It was such a defining moment for me because it would have been so easy to walk away and be like this isn’t for me.”
Nearly six billion total streams and one Grammy later, Warren decided to take a step back from her behind-the-scenes position and write tracks that only she’d be able to sing.
“Writing to me is very personal; it’s like my diary,” Warren says. “I realized there are certain messages and stories that are too personal to give away.”
Some of the songs on Warren’s breakout album have sat completed for nearly three years as she gathered the courage to step out behind the mic.
Below, the artist explains what it was like to transition into the role of performing artist and how she tried to define her own sound in “Quiet Your Mind.”
You mentioned your decision to break out on your own came from realizing you were the only one who could perform certain songs you’d written. What tracks on this new album inspired this change for you?
There’s two songs. One’s called, “Just Click,” which is about someone that I was with who had a girlfriend, who I was falling in love with. The lyrics are just so honest and tell the whole story in a way that every single word is personal and true and kind of uncomfortable to write. There are songs that are easier to give away because they’re more general. But, this one literally would have felt a bit not genuine. There’s another called “Not Ready to Dance,” which is one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. There was a couple of offers on that one years ago, and I always felt like if Rihanna wants to take this, I’ll consider it, but it’s too special of a song to go deep on someone else’s album.
You’ve been called a feminist songwriter, after releasing hits like “New Rules.” Do you look to be relatable or maintain a feminist message when writing?
I definitely look to be relatable but for me, I’m pretty intense about sending the right message for females, so it, in turn, translates into music. A lot of times the reason why it doesn’t translate (in other songs) is because most writers are male and writing songs for female. I think sometimes it’s not with malintent, but more about what a girl wants to say versus what a girl would actually say.
People have been listening to other artists perform your lyrics for years. How are you trying to make sure your sound is now different from what you’ve already put out there?
It’s funny you asked that. That’s a really interesting balance for me. Coming from the pop world and writing things with The Chainsmokers, who are targeting radio, my priority is more to be a creative, honest expression and not to worry so much about creating hits. It’s been a different side of the brain. That being said, it’s been interesting and a challenge for me to remember not to compare my personal stuff to the stuff I’m writing for pop. I align myself more with John Mayer types. Obviously, that’s presumptuous to say, but a little more indie.
The release of your debut album doesn’t mark the end of your career as a writer for today’s pop artists. What’s the process typically like when working with a well-known artist?
It really just depends on the song. My preferred way to work is to get in the room with the artist and have pretty much no plan going in. I always find that if I spend a lot of time asking what’s going on with them and what they’re feeling, that the lyrics just come out of that conversation. Everyone’s got something going on or something on their mind and working to get them comfortable enough to share that with me is the hurdle in the beginning. Then, of course, there are other songs where I’ve pitched artists that weren’t in the room when I wrote the song. I think when you start with the truth, it makes it easier to write the song. If you’re vulnerable and honest, the message will translate into something that other people have felt.
LISTEN: "Quiet Your Mind" is now on streaming services Spotify and Apple Music. You can buy the album on iTunes, Amazon Music and Google Play.