Top Pop Songwriter Emily Warren Talks About Her Latest Hit “Don’t Start Now” With Dua Lipa, And Her Work With The Chainsmokers and Sigrid

Emily Warren
Emily Warren
(photo credit: David O’Donohue)

Since writing her first hit in 2016, Emily Warren has become a leading pop songwriter who has co-written three highly successful, worldwide hit singles. Currently, she’s the co-writer of one of the biggest songs of the year, Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now.” This single has been near the top of the charts for almost six months, and remains in the Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Warren is also known for co-writing the big hits “New Rules” for Dua Lipa, and “Don’t Let Me Down” for The Chainsmokers featuring Daya. She has also co-written other songs that have been on the charts in the U.S. and internationally, including last year’s European hit, “Don’t Feel Like Crying” by Sigrid.

On top of this, Warren is an artist who was featured on the Top 10 hit “Paris’ by The Chainsmokers. She’s also contributed lead vocals to the chart singles “Side Effects” by The Chainsmokers and “Capsize” by Frenship. Notably, she released her own album, Quiet Your Mind, in 2018.

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Emily Warren, who tells how she co-wrote (with Caroline Ailin, Ian Kirkpatrick & Dua Lipa) Dua Lipa’s hit, “Don’t Start Now.”


Born and raised in New York City, Warren started writing songs when she was 10, and she attended the prestigious music program at the NYU Tisch School/Clive Davis Institute. After that, she moved to Los Angeles, where she signed a music publishing deal with Prescription Songs, and works closely with music exec Rhea Pasricha, who is West Coast Head of A&R.

Interestingly, Warren has purchased a house in Wyoming, and she now spends a good portion of her time there. She invites songwriters and artists to come to Wyoming to write with her, and it was there that she and co-writers Caroline Ailin and Ian Kirkpatrick wrote the hit, “Don’t Start Now.” Warren also travels to Los Angeles and other cities to collaborate, and she traveled to Norway to write the hit “Don’t Feel Like Crying” with Sigrid.

Besides the artists listed above, Warren has co-written songs for Shawn Mendes, Khalid,  5 Seconds of Summer, Fifth Harmony, Bebe Resha, Alessia Cara, David Guetta, Backstreet Boys, Charli XCX, Anne-Marie, Clean Bandit, Noah Cyrus, Rita Ora, Brett Young, Chris Lane, Jessie J, Jason Mraz, James Blunt, Little Mix, Lennon Stella and other artists.

Emily Warren and Rhea Pasricha of Prescription Songs.
Emily Warren (left) and Rhea Pasricha of Prescription Songs.

We previously did an interview with Warren for an article in September 2018, where she recalled how she co-wrote Dua Lipa’s breakthrough hit “New Rules,” and discussed her solo album, Quiet Your Mind.

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Emily Warren. She tells how she co-wrote the hit “Don’t Start Now,” and talks about her work with Sigrid. She also discusses her new projects.

DK: It’s been about 18 months since we spoke for our last interview. Besides having a new hit with Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now,” what’s your life been like, in terms of you and your music?

Emily Warren: It’s been awesome. I actually got a house in Wyoming, randomly (laughs), and I’ve been having people coming out here to write. We did “Don’t Start Now” out here. It’s a really good, peaceful, quiet, inspiring, mountain-type of situation. So it’s been great, and that’s where I spent most of last year.

DK: Two years ago, you, Ian Kirkpatrick & Caroline Ailin wrote the hit “New Rules” for Dua Lipa. So what was your writing process, to try to get another hit with Dua?

Warren: It was cool…I think Dua’s team had some trust in us because of what happened with “New Rules.” I knew they were working on an album for a long time, and when it came down to finishing it, we had just written “Don’t Start Now,” which was good timing. I think we came up with the disco-type sound and vibe, because we were in a bar (in Wyoming) called The Stagecoach, and they have Disco Night every Thursday. So we went down there, and when we came back up, we were like, “We have to write a disco song.” We were super-inspired by that, and that’s where the idea sprouted. It ended up being the right vibe for the album.

DK: You, Caroline & Ian have now written two hits for Dua Lipa. What makes the three of you such a good team to write for Dua?

Warren: I think…the beautiful coincidence, is that a lot of times Dua and Caroline’s relationship things have lined up perfectly. They’re always relating on that level. And I think we make a great team because we all bring different things to the table, and different styles of working. So we’re constantly pulling each other back into these different directions. We really trust each other, obviously because we’ve had success together. But I think the two of them are the most talented producer and writers. I love working with them, and I think we have a great, creative environment. I don’t think we’re afraid of trying anything, and nothing anyone could say is wrong or weird, so there’s a lot of mutual respect.

Here’s the video of Dua Lipa’s hit “Don’t Start Now,” which was
co-written by Emily Warren.

DK: Last year, I liked the four songs you wrote with Norwegian hit artist, Sigrid, especially “Don’t Feel Like Crying” and “Sucker Punch.” How did you connect with Sigrid and write those songs with her?

Warren: I remember hearing Sigrid’s “Don’t Kill My Vibe” when it came out, and I was obsessed with that song and her voice and vibe. So we reached out to her team, and she and I did a bunch of stuff together. She’s another one that I have so much respect for, and her style of writing. She pushes me and I push her. It’s a beautiful, creative relationship, because it’s really fun and I feel challenged. I went to Norway for a while, and worked with Sigrid at this beautiful studio in her hometown, called Ocean Sound. And now we’re working on her next album, and I’m executive producing the album with her. So we’ve started working on that, and it’s gonna be great…her sound has evolved and matured. I’m excited to be working with her.

DK: I listened to your single “Side Effects” with The Chainsmokers, and your single with Sigrid, “Don’t Feel Like Crying.” Both songs have a little rap section that works really well. Is that part of your writing style, to add rap to a song?

Warren: Yeah definitely. I used to do more rapping stuff when I writing. Funny enough, in “Side Effects” we have a rappy bridge. Then when I went with Sigrid after that song was out, she was like, “I want to do a rap bridge like that” (laughs). That’s always a fun thing, because especially when it’s coming from a pop person, you don’t expect it. So it’s cool to show it.

DK: Besides collaborating with Dua and Sigrid, what are some of your other favorite projects that you’ve worked on in the past year?

Warren: Definitely The Chainsmokers. We went to Hawaii for two weeks to write their next album. I’m obsessed with it…I can’t wait for it to come out. It’s a new sound for them, and they’re fun. Also, Drew (Taggart, lead singer) has really locked into his voice in a way that I’ve never heard him before. He’s fully using it as an instrument with vocal effects and all different things. Also, I worked with (pop artist) Lennon Stella. I have a song with her, and her album is super special. She’s a close friend, but I’m really starstruck and wowed by her, because I think she has a special, unique talent that only comes by every once in a while.

Here’s the video of Sigrid’s hit “Don’t Feel Like Crying,” which
was co-written by Emily Warren.

DK: When you’re starting a new writing session, what’s your songwriting process? Do you bring titles or ideas into the session, or do you just start writing from scratch?

Warren: Nine times out of ten, I’ll start from scratch, because I usually start by asking whomever I’m working with, what’s going on with them and try to make it about something real. In the past, I used to have lists of title ideas and I’d try to make a song work around that. Now that’s hard for me to try, unless there’s a phrase or something that inspired me which I’ll bring to sessions, and bring up if it fits with what we’re already talking about. But mostly, I love to see what’s going on with the person and write from a real place.

DK: Currently, you’re living in Wyoming, and there’s a national shutdown due to the coronavirus. What has it been like for you, and for other songwriters? Are there a lot of online writing sessions going on? Or are most writers taking a break during this period?

Warren: That’s a good question. I think plenty of people are doing Zoom sessions. Right when we were getting shut down, I was getting asked about doing a lot of that. For me, I find it kind of hard to write virtually…there’s obviously something about really being in a room with someone. There’s less pressure, because you’re not working over a screen, and you have to come up with a line quickly because the person’s just waiting (laughs). So I haven’t been doing that. I think my approach has been…I’m absorbing and working through my own feelings, and writing things down and playing piano. I think it’s a good time for people who have the luxury to do so, to take a pause, because these are not normal circumstances. So it’s good to take some time to think, and be inspired by what you’re reading or watching or seeing, without the goal we normally have of turning it into something right away. At least, that’s what I’m doing right now.

DK: Thank you Emily for doing this interview, Is there anything that we haven’t talked about yet, that you’d like to mention for this article?

Warren: Yes. During this quiet time, I’m trying to help and trying to donate, and motivate people to help each other and see who needs help. If anyone wants to DM me or message me, I’m here and I’m looking to help out. I can be reached on my Instagram, which also has a phone number that’s through community, where people can text me. So that’s another way for people to reach me directly.

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