Diane Warren: The Cave Sessions, Vol. 1

Diane Warren

Diane Warren: The Cave Sessions, Vol. 1

“You know what Mark Ronson, or DJ Khaled, or any of these DJ/producers do, where they curate a record of their songs?” Diane Warren tells Apple Music. “I thought, ‘I haven’t seen a songwriter do that. Why can’t that be me?’” The Cave Sessions, Vol. 1 is Warren’s answer to that question, as well as her long overdue debut album. The prolific and revered songwriter has penned some of the most beloved power ballads and straight-up hits of the last four decades, from DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night” to Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time,” from Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break My Heart” to Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” and many, many more. The Cave Sessions is a batch of her latest offerings, and she’s obsessed with every single one of the collection’s 15 tracks. “I think this album is a greatest-hits that haven’t been hits yet,” she says.
Given the talent she’s assembled to perform them, it’s easy to see why: Céline Dion, Carlos Santana, Luis Fonsi, Maren Morris, Darius Rucker, G-Eazy, Ty Dolla $ign, Lauren Jauregui, Jon Batiste, Pentatonix, and John Legend are just a few of the artists who step up to the mic to breathe new life into Warren’s songs, and she relished the opportunity to work with several of them for the first time—and in unexpected ways, too. “I’ve never worked with Ty Dolla $ign,” she says. “I’ve worked with Céline, of course, but let’s give Céline something that’s not normal for her. Let’s throw together Jon Batiste and Pentatonix; let’s throw together G-Eazy and Santana and see what happens.”
The Cave Sessions, as a result, manages to be wildly eclectic yet cohesive. There’s a little bit of everything, but the stellar performances—and Warren herself—are the unifying forces. “The idea was to have it be like a microcosm of my career,” she says. “Most songwriters work in one genre of music, and I’ve always been in a lot of them, so I just wanted the album to reflect that. I wanted to be what ties it together, even though the songs are all over the place. Why not be DJ Diane for a record?” Below, Warren talks through the ideas and inspirations behind her debut album.
“She’s Fire” (Diane Warren, G-Eazy, and Santana) “I wrote that little guitar riff at the end of the chorus, and in my mind, I heard Santana playing that. I’m a huge fan of his, and we’d never worked together. The idea was to have G-Eazy do a rap, but have him sing, too. I reached out to him, and it’s the first time anyone’s ever said yes before hearing the song. I don’t think that was because of me; I’m sure that was because of Carlos. I’ve got to hand it to him—he went right in the studio and just started singing, and he wanted to work with a vocal coach. I mean, he really worked hard on it, and I think it’s great.”
“Seaside” (Diane Warren, Rita Ora, Sofía Reyes, and Reik) “Everybody wants to be by the seaside, on the sand in the tropics somewhere. I wrote this during the pandemic, when we couldn’t even do anything like that. None of us could get on a plane and really do that unless you lived there. I thought of Rita, and I didn’t know much about Sofía Reyes, but I listened to her, and I loved her voice. If you can’t get to the seaside, we’ll bring it to you, you know?”
“Sweet” (Diane Warren, Jon Batiste, and Pentatonix) “I wrote that right before the Oscars this year. I was up for an Oscar, and so was Jon Batiste. I thought, ‘His whole vibe is so up and positive, and that’s what the song is.’ Pentatonix, they were recommended by my dentist, who knows one of the guys and set up a Zoom for us.”
“When We Dance Slow” (Diane Warren and Luis Fonsi) “Luis is just one of the best singers, not just in Latin music. When I wrote ‘When We Dance Slow,’ I immediately thought of him first—he has that kind of soaring voice that could really be great for that song. I would love it to be as big as ‘Despacito.’”
“I Save Me” (Diane Warren and Maren Morris) “I reached out to Maren on Twitter. I told her about the record and asked if she’d be interested in doing a song for it. I just said, ‘I have two songs that I think are both great for you. I’m going to send you both and see which one that you choose—if you choose any at all, because you might hate them both.’ But she loved ‘I Save Me.’ I didn’t have a demo; it was just a shitty guitar vocal of me singing it, and she took that and made this great record out of it.”
“Where Is Your Heart” (Diane Warren and John Legend) “The album started because of this song. Some years ago, John came to my office. I played him a couple of things that he wasn’t into. I said, ‘Well, I just wrote this song. I’m not sure it’s right for you.’ I played him that, and he loved it. And then we went in and he recorded the next day. He was going to use the song, and then he didn’t; I gave it to another artist, who was going to have it be their single, and I told John, because I’d given it to him first. And he said, ‘No, get it back. I’m going to put it out.’ Everybody that I know that ever hears it, they’re sobbing at the end. And so, that kind of started it, like, ‘I’m going to get the song heard. The only person that can do the song is John Legend.’”
“Drink You Away” (Diane Warren and Ty Dolla $ign) “It’s kind of like a hip-hop country song, and I thought, ‘Who’s the perfect cast?’ This is so cool for Ty, because he can sing, but he doesn’t do this kind of song. I want Ty Dolla $ign to have a number one country song.”
“You Go First” (Diane Warren and James Arthur) “I love heartbreak songs, and ‘You Go First’ is just such a stunning vocal performance. When I was writing it, I was hearing this voice, which sounded infinitely better than my voice singing it. I’m drawn to singers that have pain in their voice, and he has a lot of pain in his voice.”
“Not Prepared for You” (Diane Warren and Lauren Jauregui) “Lauren has such a great, soulful voice, and she hasn’t had that one song yet. I love those Phil Spector girl-group songs, and that’s what ‘Not Prepared for You’ was: It’s sonically and lyrically modern, but it has that retro chord progression. Lauren sang the shit out of that song. When she goes up the octave at the end, I think that’ll be her career song. I’ve had a lot of them with people. I really feel this is one of those.”
“You Kind of Beautiful” (Diane Warren and Jimmie Allen) “I met Jimmie at the Academy of Country Music Awards. We stayed in touch, and when I wrote ‘You Kind of Beautiful,’ I thought that was a really great song for him, and he sounds awesome on it.”
“Domino” (Diane Warren and LP) “It’s the weirdest song on the album, but I think it’s going to be a lot of people’s favorite. It’s like a spaghetti Western with those kinds of guitars. The cool thing is a lot of these people write their own songs, so it’s always really cool when they sing mine. When you hear the marriage of that voice and song, it’s just—there’s nothing like it.”
“Superwoman” (Diane Warren and Céline Dion) “It’s like that other side of ‘I Save Me’: It’s more like, ‘I’m human, I can’t be Superwoman.’ I wanted to have Céline on the album, and I thought the perfect song would be ‘Superwoman,’ which is not the typical Céline Dion song, at all. It’s almost like a Lauryn Hill vibe; it has more of a soul kind of thing to it. I always thought Céline has a soul singer in her that isn’t utilized as much as I’d like.”
“Times Like This” (Diane Warren and Darius Rucker) “One time about five years ago, I was in Nashville and I saw someone with a sign saying, ‘I’m not going to lie. I need money for beer.’ And I thought to myself, ‘That’s going to end up in a song someday.’ And it did. It’s the first line in this song. I just wanted a hopeful song for whatever we’re going through—whether it’s a pandemic or whatever hard time you’re going through—and in times like this, we could all use an angel.”
“Grow Old With Me” (Diane Warren, Leona Lewis, and James Morrison) “I love Leona Lewis. She’s a fellow animal-activist person, like me. She just has a great voice. I wanted this song to be a duet, and I love James Morrison. I think he’s a very underrated singer. I think it lends itself to a lot of sync uses, too. I could just see it used everywhere. It’s a great wedding song.”
“Blessings” (Diane Warren and Paloma Faith) “I thought that this is a great song to end with—that all this shit you go through, they’re all blessings anyways, if you can learn from them. You don’t know it when you’re going through it, but yet they’re lessons and blessings. I just love the idea.”

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