'The Song That Made Me': 5 Hitmakers on Tunes that Changed Their Lives

7:00 AM PST 04/16/2013 by Shirley Halperin
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Ne-Yo

Ne-Yo and other scheduled speakers at ASCAP's "I Create Music" Expo conference share the tunes that helped define their careers.

This story first appeared in the April 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

On April 18, songwriters, producers, music business executives and tastemakers will gather in L.A. for three days of dialogue on all things creative. The aim of ASCAP's "I Create Music" Expo: to impart professionals' hard-earned wisdom to the future stars.

"You have to be elbow-to-elbow with your peers," says Paul Williams, president and board chairman of the performance rights organization. "Expo is an excellent opportunity to step into the process of making music."

Indeed, Hollywood's Loews Hotel (formerly the Renaissance) will be ground zero for what he calls a "smorgasbord" of experts, including Lionel Richie and Katy Perry. Among the 185 panelists and speakers featured, these five shared with THR their thoughts about the song -- their own or another artist's -- that's informed the music they create.

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NE-YO

Artist, producer, songwriter (Beyonce, Rihanna, Leona Lewis)

SONG: His “So Sick”

“It was the song that started it all for me.On top of being the epitome of my style of writing, it was real emotion and thought-out lyrics delivered freely — like I was being controlled by the song itself. It was a conscious, unconscious moment. I’ve been trying to recapture the magic of that song my entire career.”

PAUL WILLIAMS

Songwriter (Barbra Streisand, The Carpenters)

SONG: “We’ve only Just Begun” by The Carpenters

Roger Nichols and I wrote it for a one-minute bank commercial. I never thought it would become a hit, but when Karen Carpenter sang it, the world seemed to resonate with the emotion. Now, it’s played at every wedding. It’s one of the most stunning musical experiences of my life.”

LEDISI

Singer, songwriter

SONG: “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks

“This song [recorded by Fleetwood Mac in 1975] has so much honesty, simplicity and raw truth. ‘Landslide’ reminds me of looking outside the window in New Orleans when the storms would come. It reminds me of life. And it reminds me to write songs like lullabies so everyone can understand them, and to stay honest in the lyrics.”

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SAVAN KOTECHA

Songwriter (One Direction, Demi Lovato)

SONG: “Hello” by Lionel Richie

“It’s my favorite love song. I heard it as a kid but really learned to appreciate it as a teenager. When I started writing songs, that was the standard. ... That’s what I aspired to do. I always say, if I was 17 and trying to get on a show like American Idol or X Factor, I would audition with ‘Hello.’ ”

NO I.D.

Executive vp at Island Def Jam, producer, songwriter (Kanye West, Rihanna)

SONG: “I Used to Love H.e.R.” by Common

“I produced it with Common. We were childhood friends, and the song is a play on hip-hop as if it were a girl. It’s using the perspective of a woman to say how he feels about the changes the genre had gone through, the good and the bad. It helped us define our purpose and direction in music and set the bar.”

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