Interviews | July , 9th 2017
Emily Warren is an artist that the world may just be starting to hear from, but one who is poised to do some truly incredible things in the coming months and years. After initially getting her start as a songwriter for some viral hits, Warren met The Chainsmokers at just the right time, and in a relatively short period of time, both of their careers had changed forever. Warren helped them out on one or two songs before they struck gold with “Don’t Let Me Down,” which went on to become one of the biggest hits of last year and earned the production duo and featured singer Daya a Grammy.
Now, Emily Warren is working on establishing herself as not just a talented songwriter, but an artist in her own right. She just recently released her debut single under her own name, “Hurt By You,” and she has plenty of music coming up. I spoke with the singer-songwriter about how she found success and what it means to her to now be going solo in an attempt to find the spotlight.
Hugh McIntyre: How did you originally get into music and decide this was something that you wanted to pursue?
Emily Warren: I started off writing because I had a piano teacher who was a songwriter and she taught me super early about writing songs. I was in fifth grade at the time. Then, my dad encouraged me to get some stuff recorded. I started a band and it wasn't until my band split up in college that I started collaborating with other people on the writing. That's when it really became a serious thing. I fell in love with writing and now, only in the past year, have I turned back to doing my own stuff and putting my voice on things.
Hugh McIntyre: When you started writing professionally and it started to go well, did you immediately say, "Hey, this could one day work out and I could be the front of this,” or did that just sort of fall into place?
Emily Warren: I had started doing my own thing so that was what was in the back of my head. Friendship kept my voice on their single "Capsize" and when that took off, it was like suddenly seeing again when I'd been working with all these artists who had the whole package, all their outfits, the vision, the artistry. I only just wanted to write songs. It seemed kind of daunting to also try and put it all together, but once “Capsize” took off and I realized that Spotify had an amazing platform to put songs out that can go directly to fans, that's when I started getting the confidence to do it myself again.
Hugh McIntyre: What was the first song you wrote for another act that garnered some attention and you thought, "Oh, I could do this?"
Emily Warren: You mean that I wrote for another artist?
Hugh McIntyre: Yeah. The first one that got a lot of listens or charted somewhere? The first one where you really took notice of it.
Emily Warren: I think the first big deal one for me was a Jessie J single that I got. I had been getting a lot of album tracks and songs that no one really knew about. Then, when I got the Jessie J thing, that was a huge, huge, huge deal. I remember I met her after the album came out. That was the first time I was doing something that was that big.
Hugh McIntyre: What would you say was your big break as a songwriter where the offers started coming in after a song came out?
Emily Warren: From publishing you mean? I met the woman who signed me to publishing because she was an intern at Atlantic Records while I was still in my band and she was coming to my shows When my band split up, I was trying to figure out what my next move was. I literally typed 'records' into my email to see if I knew anyone who worked at a label and her email came up. I hit her up and I was like, "I've started writing songs now that I'm not in the band anymore. Is there any way I could come in a and meet with you?"
She was like, "Actually, I'm not in New York anymore and I'm not at Atlantic Records. I'm moving today to Prescription Songs.” That's how that relationship started. It was super serendipitous. I sent a few songs to her. One of them actually ended up being the first one I did with the Chainsmokers, “Until You Were Gone.” She helped me early on and I ended up going out to L.A. for a little bit and working with some of the people signed to Prescription, which is where I'm signed now. That's how it originally started.
Hugh McIntyre: Is there a song that you consider your big break as a songwriter?
Emily Warren: “Don't Let Me Down” by The Chainsmokers. That was a big deal for me because that song really took off and having a song like that go, where then artists are kind of hearing something that they want to try to do something like, it just opened a lot of doors for me. People were reaching out to us instead of vice versa.
Hugh McIntyre: How did you first get together with The Chainsmokers?
Emily Warren: I wrote a song called “Until You Were Gone” really early on. It was actually about my band splitting up and it was one of the first songs that I wrote in the session with other people as a writer. It got pitched to them and they ended up reproducing it. I met them at a show and performed it with them. Our first session ever was when we wrote “Don't Let Me Down.” That's how our relationship started. Since then, we've been doing a bunch of stuff together. It's a really fun relationship because we've been there together for a long time, since the beginning of it for both of us.
Hugh McIntyre: You did a number of the songs on their number one album that just came out, right?
Emily Warren: Yes.
Hugh McIntyre: I don't know if you have insight into this, but you're featured on their song “Paris,” but not credited as a featured act. What's going on there?
Emily Warren: That song was basically done and coming out maybe a week later when Drew called me and was like, "We're about to put this song out but it needs something. Can you just come jump on it?" I happened to be a few blocks away and so I came to the studio and added what's on it now. Because it was sort of treated as a background thing and not originally any kind of duet thing, and also, because it was their first single off the album and they just wanted to be The Chainsmokers not featuring anyone, that's sort of how it ended up happening that way.
But, it's cool because I've done so much stuff with them and my voice is on a couple other things on the album that I'm not credited as a feature for, which is more than anything a testament to our collaborative relationship and how I don't need to be featured. We're writing a bunch of songs together and it's just a cool, collaborative relationship that way.
Hugh McIntyre: Do you have anything that you've written for somebody that you are particularly proud of?
Emily Warren: Yes, actually, I have a song called “I Don't Want To Know” with Astrid S. that I wrote maybe a year and a half ago. It wasn't a single or anything but it was just really fun writing it and super emotional process. It's a really sad story about someone that you are with finding someone else and how you don't even want to her about it, you don't even want to hear their name come up or anything.
I wrote it with Astrid S. and Nick Ruth, who I did my new single with actually. He's one of my favorite people. It was such a fun process and so fun hearing the produced version come back. Because it's such a personal and emotional song to everyone, I'm very proud of that one. It's funny because it's not necessarily the highest charting or selling one, but in terms of storytelling, I think it's really special.
Hugh McIntyre: Tell me about your single that just out under your own name.
Emily Warren: “Hurt by You.” I wrote it with Nick Ruth and Scott Harris. I ended up putting together a week or two with them when I decided to focus on my own stuff because they're people I collaborate with a lot and, and now, close friends.
It's a true story about how I was feeling at the beginning of my relationship and my reservations about making myself vulnerable enough to fall in love with someone. Stylistically, we chose it to be the first song because it's kind of a nod all the music I've grown up listening to. It's not particularly pop or particularly Motown influenced. It felt like a good opening song because it's kind of a nod to everything instead of too specifically one genre or another.
Hugh McIntyre: Now that you have your first single out, what's the plan moving forward?
Emily Warren: Pretty soon, in the next couple of weeks hopefully, we're going to put a video out for that. Then, we're going to do two or maybe three more songs, one at a time and then, an album, which we're just finishing up now, which I'm really excited about. Just kind of getting everything finished! It's been fun because there's not a lot of pressure. We're just putting things out as they're ready and when we feel like it. It's been really fun and exciting to be on this side now and calling the shots instead of hoping that an artist uses my song.