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Diane Warren: Achieving Focus as a Songwriter
By Jerry Flattum - 09/30/2003 - 12:17 PM EDT

Note: Information on Diane Warren is taken from third party sources. I have never interviewed Diane and any comments about her are my own. Some information was garnished from email correspondence with her publishing company, Real Songs. Her website is: Realsongs.

Odd that so many people in the music business—especially songwriters—do not know about Diane Warren. Yet, this unassuming writer has no fewer that 90 top 10 hits with 38 number one hits (give or take). She’s written songs for nearly 80 films, with many of them going on to have a life of their own.

Her first hit was Laurie Brannigan's, "Solitaire," in 1983. Since then, the artists who have recorded her songs read like a who's who in pop/rock. She's been voted ASCAP Songwriter of the Year 6 times, 4 times by Billboard Magazine, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Hits include "Rhythm of the Night" for DeBarge, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now," for Starship, "I Learned From the Best," for Whitney Houston, "If I Could Turn Back Time" for Cher, "How Do I Live Without You" for Leann Rimes and "Unbreak My Heart" for Toni Braxton. For Celine, songs include "If You Asked Me To," and "Because You Loved Me." She's equally comfortable in rock, R&B, pop and country, from Eric Clapton to Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera to Reba McIntire.

According to an ABC News report, Diane’s catalog has an estimated worth of 500 million. Without actual comparisons, it doesn’t take much imagination to see that such a figure is easily comparable to the biggest moneymakers of all time in the music industry, from Elvis to the Beatles, from Madonna to Michael Jackson. By contrast, Diane is solely a writer. It is unknown if she has ever performed live or recorded her own CD. If not, what a gem that would be.

According to Julie Horton, V.P. of Diane's publishing company, Real Songs, Diane knocks out her tunes on an old Yamaha DX7 keyboard and a MPC-60 drum machine. That's enough to send shockwaves up any musician's spine.

For film, Diane will read scripts, watch dailies, or work off cue sheets, depending on what stage the film company approaches her.

Most of Diane's movie songs are re-released and become hits in the pop world. One of Aerosmith’s biggest hits is "Don't Want to Miss a Thing," for Armageddon, which also received an Oscar nomination and re-recorded by country artist Mark Chestnut. "Can't Fight the Moonlight" performed by LeAnn Rimes for the film Coyote Ugly, became a top 10 hit. She wrote four songs for the film. She wrote the TV theme for Enterprise, the first theme song for the Star Trek series. The band, Cult, recorded "Painted On My Heart" for Gone In Sixty Seconds. "Rhythm Of The Night" was re-recorded for Moulin Rouge (originally in the film, The Last Dragon). Pearl Harbor featured a monster hit, "There You'll Be," sung by Faith Hill.

One of the tunes Warren wrote for Celine, "Because You Loved Me," was in Up Close and Personal. Diane got a Grammy for that one, as well as Oscar and Golden Globe nomininations. Another Oscar/Grammy nominated tune, "Music Of My Heart," sung by *NSYNC and Gloria Estefan, appeared in Music of the Heart. That song won the Critics' Choice Award for Best Song from a Motion Picture. To date, Diane has been nominated for four Golden Globes, six Academy Awards, and nine Grammy's.

She allegedly has no formal training in music, simply growing up in San Fernando Valley listening to Top 40 radio. Her father was always encouraging, buying Diane her first guitar around age 10 and taking her to music publishers while still in her teens. Her mother supposedly was not so supportive. In her teens, she wrote songs in a woodshed behind her parent’s house.

She claims to be a workaholic, working 16 hours a day and rarely taking a vacation. But this is not surprising considering her formidable catalog of hundreds of songs. She rarely, if ever collaborates.

Diane remains single, an ironic twist of fate for someone who spends her life writing love songs. But then, marriage or even a lover is not necessarily an endorsement of character or success. Diane is just fine the way she is, with music obviously her first love.

However, her best friend is a parrot she calls, Butt Wings. How she arrived at the name is anyone's guess. And, there are two other parrots as well, Gatso and Casper. Diane is active in charitable causes, including PETA, VH1's "Save The Music" campaign, and many others, under the umbrella of the Diane Warren Foundation.

Songwriters have a many lessons to learn from Diane. It's easy to lose site along the songwriting journey, where many writers end up playing multiple roles of performer, engineer, musician, label exec or publisher.

Performers are endlessly preoccupied with image, especially where videos are at times as critical to an artist's success as the songs they sing. For a musician, solo's, riffs, style and technical proficiency are equally as important as the songs they write. It takes hours if not years of practice.

Let's up the ante. You've mastered your instrument and written a love song. But because you are a player, you need a band. You must find the musicians, a place to rehearse, and a club to play in. Next, it's time to record. The CD is finished and now you must find the "right" person to hear it. You're joining groups like TAXI and converting your CD's into mp3's and placing them with every website that offers streaming.

Some writers take to technology as easily as they do the art/craft of songwriting. Technologists must learn hardware and software. They must be able to choose from a vast array of manufacturers. They must learn sequencing, sound programming, MIDI, and computers.

Other writers have business backgrounds or business savvy. Most artists don't. Setting up a recording studio, inde record label or even a band requires the skills and talents of an entrepreneur. It takes tremendous energy and skill to produce, record, market and distribute a CD, yet alone a business or band. Energy spent on these chores is energy not spent on songwriting. It's called the energy paradigm: Energy spent on one thing takes away energy spent on something else.

Without knowing Diane, she could very well be an expert in recording, or playing an instrument, or even be an expert on the history of ancient Egypt or the mating habits of squirrels--who knows? Who cares (unless you are her friend). What Diane has achieved, above all else, is focus. She's a songwriter.

With her DX7--a keyboard very few musicians use nowadays--and a drum machine and a DAT player, Diane pumps out hit after hit.

You might love to perform. You might love technology. You want to be a master musician. World tours and living out of hotel rooms is enticing, maybe even glamorous. You like tacky radio interviews. You don't just want to write songs.

Fine. But if being a songwriter or selling a song is the goal, Diane Warren holds a secret: Focus.

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