True Rags-To-Riches Story: How Greg Lawson Co-Wrote The #1 Hit, “Love Don’t Cost A Thing”

Greg Lawson
Greg Lawson

Note: This article was written in 2002. It remains a terrific article on how a songwriter can rise to the top.

During the past six months, Greg Lawson has become one of hottest new R&B/Pop songwriters in the business. He co-wrote the smash hit, “Love Don’t Cost A Thing,” for Jennifer Lopez. He also has four new singles due out soon on four different artists. In addition, Lawson works closely with top producer Ric Wake, and he will be writing cuts for the platinum artist projects that Wake will be producing.

Lawson appears on his way to establishing a lucrative career for himself as a major songwriter and producer. However, the road to success was hardly easy for this talented songwriter. Lawson has spent the past decade paying his dues, working various nine-to-five jobs in order to make a living while pursuing his songwriting career. In fact, just six months ago, he struggled to pay his rent while in the midst of writing and recording the demo for “Love Don’t Cost A Thing.”

Lawson grew up as an “Army brat,” having been raised in New York, Wisconsin and Colorado. He learned how to play keyboards, guitars and drums, and began writing songs when he was only 12-years-old. Lawson became particularly proficient at writing and programming hip-hop tracks. While he was living in New York, he started to get work as a musician, and began networking in the music industry.

In 1991, Lawson moved to Los Angeles to work with Tito Jackson on some production projects. The projects were not fruitful, but he did settle in Los Angeles, where he tried to land a publishing deal and get session and production work.

“I knocked on doors trying to get a publishing deal,” recalled Lawson. “But I couldn’t get a deal then, because I probably didn’t have the best material at the time. So I struggled for awhile. I worked at some nine-to-five jobs to pay the bills, such as being a runner and a shipping clerk.”

Greg Lawson with Anastacia and Damon Sharpe.
Greg Lawson (right) with Anastacia and Damon Sharpe.

Eventually, Lawson hooked up with Warner Bros. artist/writer Gina Gomez, and began collaborating with her. Gomez subsequently introduced him to executives with SDM Music (the publishing division of Shankman/DeBlasio/Melina management), which had a joint publishing venture with Warner/Chappell Music. Lawson signed a deal with SDM, and became a staff writer for three years. He enjoyed moderate success, including co-writing a single called “40 Dog” for hip-hop group, Sweet N’ Low.

However in 1995, when Lawson was let go from his publishing deal, he ended up struggling again, taking jobs outside of the music business. “To make ends meet, I worked regular jobs for a couple of years,” said Lawson. “I had several jobs, including telemarketing, working for Ticketmaster, and at a Big 5 Sporting Goods store. Fortunately, I was able to keep in the music business also, doing programming and session work for producer Richard Wolf and for other projects.”

It was during one of these music projects that Lawson met artist/writer Damon Sharpe, and he collaborated with Sharpe on material for his artist presentation. When producer Ric Wake later wanted to sign Sharpe as an artist, it provided an opportunity for both Sharpe and Lawson to build a creative relationship with Wake. As a result, Sharpe and Lawson knew that they could pitch their songs to Wake for his production projects.

Then in July of 2000, Lawson became excited about a new song idea that he thought might be ideal for Jennifer Lopez. “I wrote and recorded a track which eventually turned out to be ‘Love Don’t Cost A Thing,'” explained Lawson. “I called Damon up, and I played the track and sang the melody to him over the phone. We ended up collaborating on the song, with both of us writing parts of the melody and the lyric. I came up with the title, and he came up with the key line, ‘Even if you were broke,’ in the chorus. Three other writers, Georgette Franklin, Jeremy Munroe and Amil Harris, also contributed parts to the song.”

In August, after the demo for “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” had been recorded, Sharpe sent a CD of the song to Wake at his studio in New York. Wake loved the song, and when he played it for Lopez, she also loved it. It wasn’t long before the master recording of “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” was cut at Sony Studios in New York. Wake then called up Lawson to tell him the record was coming out great, and to offer Lawson a co-publishing deal with his company, Notation Music. Lawson subsequently signed with Wake’s publishing company.

Writing “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” for Lopez and signing a new publishing deal couldn’t have come at a better time for Lawson. “I was really struggling financially around the time I was writing this song,” said Lawson. “I was unemployed, I had lost my apartment, and I wound up sleeping on my buddy Sean Porter’s couch during this time.”

By November, Lawson had received even more good news. “Ric (Wake) called me to say that “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” would be the first single from Jennifer’s new album,” said Lawson. “After I got off the phone, I was so happy that I started screaming! Still, it was kind of surreal and strange, to finally be hearing such great news after working and struggling for so many years.”

Lawson was also very pleased when he heard Lopez’s master version. “I thought, wow, this could be a big hit,” said Lawson. “I was impressed with the recording, and thought Jennifer had really grown as a vocalist.”

With “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” recently becoming a major hit worldwide, Lawson could be taking time off to enjoy his success. But instead, he has been working practically non-stop, writing and producing as many cuts as he can to capitalize on his new “hit writer” status. Lawson co-wrote and co-produced “Just Because,” which will be the next single by hit Sony artist, Ginuwine. He also has singles coming out by platinum Epic artist Anastacia (called “Why’d You Lie To Me”), new Def Jam artist Christina Milian, and new Arista artist Sam Salter. Lawson also co-wrote a song, “Girl Like Me,” which will be on Mandy Moore’s next album.

Remarkably, all of these cuts could just be the beginning of a new era of songwriting success for Lawson. He is also slated to write songs for the major artists Ric Wake will be producing, including Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, Monica and Enrique Iglesias.

Lawson is working hard to sustain the success he achieved with “Love Don’t Cost A Thing.” “I’m taking it all in stride, trying to write and produce the best songs that I can,” said Lawson. “The past six months have really been a ‘rags-to-riches’ story for me. I feel blessed; I really do. I want to keep working to become a better writer, and also try to help other people along the way.”

Dale Kawashima is on Google+