During the past five years, Ali Tamposi has emerged as a successful pop songwriter who has co-written three hit singles. In 2012, she co-wrote a number one hit, “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” for Kelly Clarkson. Then in the past six months, she’s co-written two more hits: “Let Me Love You” for DJ Snake featuring Justin Bieber, and “It Ain’t Me” for Kygo & Selena Gomez.
Originally from Florida but now based in Los Angeles, Tamposi (who plays guitar and piano) specializes in writing lyrics and melodies. She is particularly focused on writing meaningul lyrics that add depth and substance to contemporary pop songs.
This is the second article we’ve done with Tamposi. In the first article in 2013, following the hit success of “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” Tamposi talked about how she got started as a songwriter, and the personal events in her life that led to her co-writing “Stronger.”
In the past two years, Tamposi has teamed up with songwriters Andrew Watt and Brian Lee to write both “Let Me Love You” and “It Ain’t Me.” They are hitting their stride as a writing team—they’ve also collaborated on new songs for Kelly Clarkson, Martin Garrix, Rita Ora and Marshmello.
In addition to her cuts with Watt and Lee, Tamposi has co-written songs for One Direction, Beyonce, Demi Lovato, Christina Aguilera, Ciara, Gary Clark Jr., Alex & Sierra and Lea Michele. Also, she was the featured vocalist on a single by Cedric Gervais called “Love Again,” which she wrote.
Besides her work as a songwriter, Tamposi was a consultant for Simon Cowell on the TV show America’s Got Talent, and she was an A&R consultant for Columbia Records.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Ali Tamposi. At the time of this interview, she had just returned to Los Angeles from Nashville, where she co-wrote new songs with Watt and Lee for Kelly Clarkson.
DK: How was your writing session in Nashville for Kelly Clarkson?
Ali Tamposi: It was awesome. I’d met Kelly a few times before when “Stronger” [was a hit], but this was the first time I actually got to know her and spend some time with her. She’s awesome—she’s the most down-to-earth artist that I’ve had the chance to work with. She’s really great at allowing the writers to do their thing…she really respects songwriters. [Also] she will make tweaks to a record and won’t take any credit for it.
DK: Tell me about how you work with Andrew Watt and Brian Lee. Are you now a writing team?
Here’s the video of DJ Snake & Justin Bieber’s hit “Let Me Love You,”
which was co-written by Ali Tamposi.
Tamposi: We’ve become a team. The first session that I had with Andrew and Brian was two years ago, and we wrote “Let Me Love You.” So there’s just this kind of undeniable connection that the three of us had together. I think [writing with Andrew and Brian] is everything I’d been looking for, for my career. Because after “Stronger” (was a hit), I was able to get into the rooms with the songwriters and producers who were on my dream list. I didn’t realize how much pressure comes along with going into a new session every day with different writers and different producers. You find yourself trying to prove your ability in the room to the writers and producers to make sure that they’re excited about your work, and you kind of lose sight of the song. And that started to become a trend for me. I didn’t enjoy the process as much anymore, just because it was always so nerve-wracking.
So once I teamed up with Andrew and Brian and started to build this chemistry, the pressure just started to fade off. We know each other’s strengths, and there’s some days when I’m not on so they’ll take the weight. We just really support each other and love each other. We all contribute different elements to the songs and it’s never the same. It’s fun—it’s honestly really surreal going into sessions. After a session, I’ll look back at it, and it’s just crazy how it feels like I’m just in school hanging out with my friends or my brothers, writing a song and it turns into something special.
DK: Is your strong point as a writer, writing topline and lyrics?
Tamposi: Yeah, I’d say lyrics is what I’m really particular about. The older I get, I’m starting to realize the position songwriters are in—we have this 3 minute & 30 second platform to spread a message, whether that message is something motivational, or is something that evokes a message that can translate to someone who’s going through a hard time, and can help them realize they’re not alone.
[With lyrics], there’s a lot of times I’ll hear (songs) on the radio and there’s just empty words—just filler words that kind of go with the groove and vibe. And that’s cool, but for me there’s something that’s really special about having this ability to combine lyrics and melody. It just has so much more of an impact when you’re spreading a message where there’s melody involved, that I really take the time to make sure every lyric is right. Honestly, there are times when I drive people crazy, and I have to go back into the studio when everybody (already) loves the song and fix a couple lyrics, because it doesn’t flow right for me or it doesn’t translate.
DK: For your hit “Let Me Love You” (DJ Snake & Justin Bieber), how did this song come together?
Here’s the audio of Kygo & Selena Gomez’s hit “It Ain’t Me,”
which was co-written by Ali Tamposi.
Tamposi: “Let Me Love You” came from the first writing session that Andrew, Brian and I had together. It started on acoustic guitar with the three of us writing. We recorded a demo, and then DJ Snake got ahold of the demo we did, and he did a new version, although he didn’t take the original verses. So the three of us got back together and we wrote the verses for this new version. At that point, we didn’t know where it was going—we just knew that Snake wanted new verses. So from that point, it took awhile to find the artist who would sing it. Andrew had a friendship and relationship with Justin Bieber, so he sent Justin the demo, and Justin loved it and he cut it.
DK: You also have a current hit with “It Ain’t Me” for Kygo & Selena Gomez. How did you co-write this song?
Tamposi: We were in a session with Kygo, and honestly, that process seemed pretty flawless. Andrew, Brian and I [were writing] again—that one just flew out of us. We were sitting in the studio with guitars, and we just started singing that one, and that one came out within an hour. I recorded the demo, and then Kygo produced it up with Andrew, and then it was sent to Selena (Gomez) and she loved it. Then she cut the vocal. And that was basically it.
DK: A couple years ago, you were the featured artist on a single called “Love Again” with Cedric Gervais. Are you also interested in being an artist?
Tamposi: No…I’ll leave my voice on songs if there’s a DJ and they want to feature me. I’m open to featuring. But I’m best just sitting in the passenger seat and navigating the artist where to go. I just feel this is my place (as a songwriter). I’ve spent a lot of time going back and forth with that idea, and honestly, I’m able to put my artistry in the songs I write (for other people) and that’s more than enough for me. I’m completely content right now where I’m at, and I wake up every day extremely happy and excited to write a song…well most days (laughs).
DK: Besides “It Ain’t Me” and your current work with Kelly Clarkson, are there other projects that you’re excited about now?
Tamposi: Andrew, Brian and I were working a lot with Rita Ora. We’re also working with (DJs) Martin Garrix and Marshmello. Next week we have a session with Charlie Puth. We’re just kind of going for it.
DK: When you write with Andrew and Brian, does one of them create the tracks, or are you all topliners?
Here’s an acoustic video of Cedric Gervais’ single “Love Again,” which
was written by Ali Tamposi and features her on vocals.
Tamposi: We’re all topliners, but Andrew’s more involved with producing as well. He’s an exceptional producer and guitar player.
DK: How does it feel, to have two hits on the charts now that you co-wrote?
Tamposi: I feel extremely lucky to be in this position I just want to continue to make people feel something…to express this message. [I want to] give someone who’s driving in their car who might be having a rough day or doesn’t understand something…I just hope to speak out to that person and give them some sort of feeling of not being alone, and understanding that we’re all humans that feel the same things that we go through. You know (as a songwriter), I’m in this position where I don’t have to mask what I’m feeling—I’m able to project it through this song.
I feel like so many people go through their lives, [being] afraid to express their vulnerabilities. You know, men who are afraid to be sensitive, and I just think that’s a huge problem in our society. I just hope that through my music, it can give people the ability to sing about something that they wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable talking about. I hope I can continue to express these messages and make people feel something