Diane Warren Talks Writing Empowerment Anthems for 'RBG,' 'The Hunting Ground'
The nine-time Oscar-nominated songwriter also opens up about her difficulties with school and label resistance to her song for 'The Hunting Ground,' and talks writing her latest song "I'll Fight" for 'RBG.'
"My magic hour is the mornings," Diane Warren told The Hollywood Reporter for the series' second episode. "It's just starting fresh. I like waking with the sun. I'm a morning person."
The Grammy Award-winning songwriter grew up in Van Nuys, California. "I hated school, I got in a lot of trouble. I got kicked out of a couple schools, just normal things like that. All I cared about was music. All I cared about was writing songs. There was no plan B for me, this is what I was doing," she said.
Warren wrote hits like "Un-Break My Heart" for Toni Braxton, "Because You Loved Me" for Celine Dion and "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" for Aerosmith. "You don't have to be in love to write a good love song. I'm proof of that. I just have a good imagination," she said.
"A lot of things have to come into play to make a hit song," she added, explaining that she'd rather not walk through the minutiae of her writing process. "I think I know when I've written one, but someone has to believe in it. You have to get through the politics; you have to convince somebody to do the song."
Sometimes an artist doesn't want to do the song, and other times the label does not want the song to come out, she added.
When it came to Warren's song "Till It Happens to You," performed and co-written by Lady Gaga, she remembered, "The label didn't want to put that song out." It was written for the 2015 documentary The Hunting Ground, which focused on sexual assault across American college campuses, and it ended up earning an Oscar nomination.
Warren helped personally finance the song's music video due to the label's resistance, saying, "It was kind of all under the radar." When it finally came out, "they made us call it a PSA. It's not a PSA. They didn't want it to come out."
The tune wasn't her last empowerment song for a cause: Others include "Stand Up for Something," performed by Andra Day and Common, which has since become the song for Stand Up to Cancer, and "I'll Fight," performed by Jennifer Hudson for RBG, the 2018 documentary on Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
"I'm really proud of these new songs," Warren said, referring to them as her trilogy. "It's really cool to see your songs be able to empower."
When it comes to what's next for Warren, nothing makes her happier than writing songs. "Quincy [Jones] has a great quote, it's about three things in music business: the song, the song and the song. It'll always be that way. Whatever you do, it's going to always come back to the song."
Magic Hour, "Diane Warren"
Directed by Jennifer Laski
Featuring Diane Warren
Executive Producers: Jennifer Laski, Matthew Belloni
Producer: Victoria McKillop
Co-Producer: Stephanie Fischette
Director of Photography: Vince Patrick
Camera Operators: Erin Hughes, Michael Palmesino
Editor: Victor Klaus