Interview With Top Songwriter Ali Tamposi, Co-Writer Of The Big Hit Songs “Senorita,” “Youngblood” And “Havana”

Ali Tamposi
Ali Tamposi

During the past seven years, Ali Tamposi has emerged as one of the most successful pop songwriters in the music business. Starting in 2012, when she co-wrote the number one hit “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” for Kelly Clarkson, Tamposi has co-written six singles that have reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with three of the songs reaching number one. She has also co-written several other chart hits.

Impressively, Tamposi has had such great success, that earlier this year (May 2019) she was named BMI’s Pop Songwriter of the Year (along with her frequent co-writer, Andrew Watt). This recognition confirms Tamposi’s status as one of the top songwriters in her field.

In the past two years, Tamposi has co-written two #1 hits: “Havana” (by Camila Cabello), and the current hit “Senorita” (Shawn Mendes & Cabello). In addition, she co-wrote the Top 10 hit “Youngblood” (5 Seconds of Summer) and the Top 20 hit “Wolves” (Selena Gomez & Marshmello).

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Ali Tamposi, who tells how she co-wrote Camila Cabello’s #1 hit, “Havana.”


Other Top 10 hits co-written by Tamposi are “Let Me Love You” (DJ Snake feat. Justin Bieber) and ‘It Ain’t Me (Kygo & Selena Gomez). She’s also had other chart singles including “Liar” and “Shameless” (Camila Cabello), “Easier” (5 Seconds of Summer), “Call You Mine” (The Chainsmokers feat. Bebe Rexha), “Thru Your Phone” (Cardi B) and “I Really Wish I Hated You” (Blink-182).

Originally from Florida and now based in Los Angeles, Tamposi (who plays guitar & piano, and often sings on demos) is known as a “topline writer” who specializes in writing melodies and lyrics. She regularly contributes to writing sessions in Los Angeles, Nashville, New York and internationally.

Tamposi has signed a music publishing deal with Reservoir. In addition, she is launching a foundation called Making Waves with her mother, Candy Tamposi. Making Waves is a foundation that will provide music scholarships and music lessons for talented and gifted young kids.

Ali Tamposi Interview
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Ali Tamposi. She discusses her songwriting process, and tells the stories behind the recent hits “Senorita,” “Havana” and “Youngblood.”

DK: Congratulations on being named BMI’s Pop Songwriter of the Year, along with your co-writer, Andrew Watt. How did it feel to receive this honor?

Here’s the video of Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello’s hit
“Senorita,” which was co-written by Ali Tamposi.

Ali Tamposi: It was really exciting, and it feels surreal, to be honest. Andrew and I won together. [Receiving this honor] feels so validating. It was an incredible honor, especially because when I first moved to L.A., BMI was the first awards show that I snuck into (laughs). And it was great to receive this honor with Andrew. He’s sort of been my rocket fuel over the past five years, and he’s also been my confidant.

DK: In the past two years, you’ve co-written several hit songs, including “Havana” for Camila Cabello. Can you tell the story behind that song?

Tamposi: It was in the middle of the writing process for Camila’s first album. The initial sessions were with Frank Dukes, Camila, Andrew Watt and me. Frank had that piano loop—he had previously written and recorded that part. He played it for us, but at first we couldn’t think of anything [to fit that loop]. We worked on some other ideas the first couple days, and then on the last day we brought that piano idea back up, and that’s when the hook (for “Havana”) was crafted.

It was strange, because [it suddenly] felt like it flowed out of us. It was happening so fast, and we were throwing ideas at the wall so quickly, and it was like a perfect puzzle that became easy to solve. We were short for time that day…we were happy that we had the hook.

Frank Dukes was executive producing the album, so he and Camila had continued to do other sessions. Then I believe she got into the studio with (hit writer/producer) Pharrell, and they put some ideas together for some verses. And then we all got back together and worked out a pre-chorus with (hit songwriter) Brian Lee, and (hit songwriter) Starrah was also involved in it. And [bringing in rapper] Young Thug, that idea was brought up on the day we wrote it, because of the East Atlanta reference in the song. And so Young Thug, being from Atlanta, made sense to have him involved, and it ended up being a sonic masterpiece of Camila & Young Thug together.

At that point, Camila had released two songs at the same time: “Havana” and “Oh My God.” She let her fans decide, and “Havana” just took off. And then she put so much time into the music video, and she worked really hard to promote the record. And I feel so proud and lucky and grateful to be a part of that song.

Here’s a video of 5 Seconds of Summer’s hit “Youngblood,”
which was co-written by Ali Tamposi.

DK: Also in 2017, you co-wrote the hit “Wolves” for Selena Gomez & Marshmello. How did this song come together?

Tamposi: We had written “Wolves” a year prior to it being released. There were a couple years that Brian Lee, Andrew Watt and I were writing together pretty consistently, and that was one of the records that fell into that group. I enjoyed that time so much, because we were getting our feet wet, and going off of our gut instincts on how to write records, and what felt natural to us. That song came together in one day. I think we wrote “Wolves” in the front yard of Andrew’s old bungalow, just with a guitar. Then Selena heard it and she connected with it, and she made some of her changes and put her stamp on it.

DK: Last year (in 2018), you collaborated on several songs with the band 5 Seconds of Summer, including their hit “Youngblood.” How did you connect with them and write this hit?

Tamposi: “Youngblood” was on their last album. I think we wrote it at Westlake Studio in West Hollywood. We had done a few sessions together. We were just getting to know each other at that stage, and “Youngblood” was the second or third session we did together. Ashton (Irwin) had a guitar riff [to start the song]. All of the guys are incredibly talented writers. I think the first day, we wrote that verse melody, the pre-chorus and chorus, and then we came back the next day and finished the lyrics. And we had a great feeling about it…I found myself wanting to hear the song over and over again. And I’m happy that the song was able to make its way and was able to shine through.

DK: Currently, you have another big hit, co-writing “Senorita” for Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello. How did you and the other writers create this song?

Tamposi: With “Senorita,” we started that song about two years ago. It was Andrew, Charli XCX, Jack Patterson from Clean Bandit, and I. Andrew started out with that guitar riff, and Charli and I had been writing a lot together during that time. So we were really on the same page. I love writing with Charli…she’s so talented and we have a great chemistry.

Here’s the video of Camila Cabello’s hit “Havana,” which
was co-written by Ali Tamposi.

Just like the way “Havana” was created, where that chorus just flew out of us, “Senorita” also came out quickly. And when Shawn (Mendes) and Camila decided to do it, they had written their own story within [the song] and made it their own. And that’s always the most fun, and it’s extremely important to us—Shawn and Camila are extremely talented songwriters, and we wanted them to make it their own, to feel that connection to it.

It always felt like this song was going to be something special. You take two of the most talented pop stars, they come together on a record, and they improve the record with their writing. And it clicks.

DK: For Camila, you also co-wrote her recent dual singles: “Shameless” and “Liar.” Have you been working with Camila on songs for her new album?

Tamposi: Yeah, I’ve been writing as much as she would have me, as much as we could be. We have a great chemistry in the studio. I’ve been with her from the beginning to the end of the writing process, in and out of the sessions. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done together.

DK: These days, when I look at the writing credits of hit songs on the pop chart, I noticed that some songs have many co-writers. Do you feel that this is now the trend, with five or even 10 writers on a song?

Tamposi: For me, I’m comfortable with it. If it takes 10 people to put the pieces together, then so be it. Maybe there are more songwriters now, and that more people are getting credit where credit is deserved. It’s a work of art, and I think that there are so many moving elements that people don’t really see. Sometimes, I’ll see names credited on a song that I was part of, and I don’t even know the person. But when I dig deeper and realize what they contributed…how many hours they spent and what they did, it’s like…Of Course. It actually brings me joy to see that there are many people that are able to do what we’re doing, and there’s more opportunity and our industry is expanding.

DK: Thank you Ali for doing this interview. Is there anything else that you’d like to mention for this article?

Here’s the video of Selena Gomez & Marshmello’s hit “Wolves,”
which was co-written by Ali Tamposi.

Tamposi: Yes, there are some other things that I’m focusing on. I’m starting a foundation with my mom, called Making Waves. It’s a foundation that’s going towards scholarships for talented and gifted kids, and also for music lessons. Basically, we’re taking submissions from young kids who just need lessons, or for middle school students who will be going to a performing arts high school that need scholarships.

It’s something that I’m really passionate about, and I have some influential, exciting people on board helping me with it. And it’s just so much fun to do it with my mom, Candy Tamposi. She’s been a leading school principal in South Florida, and she’s turned many failing schools into blue ribbon schools. She fundraises and she’s helped put recording studios in schools. She’s been a huge, influential part of my creative journey. So I’m excited to learn from her, and it’s been exciting to see how many people that I work with, who would love to help.

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima