In a recent interview with Rolling Stone Music Now podcast, Diane Warren looked back at the stories behind some of her biggest songs.
“I Was Here,” Beyoncé (2011)
“That’s one of the best experiences ever. I wrote it on my guitar, ’cause a friend of mine was three hours late. I had my acoustic guitar there. I started with the line, ‘I want to leave my footprints on the sands of time,’ and the song kind of just started writing itself. And I thought, this could be a really great song for Beyoncé. And it could also be a song for Leona Lewis or Susan Boyle, both Simon Cowell’s artists. So I did a little acoustic guitar version of it. and I sent it to Simon.”
“And then I called Jay Z. And he called me back and I played it on the guitar. I said, ‘I thought this could be great for Beyoncé. It’s different for her.’ And he loved it. He said, stay by your phone. She’s gonna land. You know, as soon as she lands, she’s calling you.. She goes, ‘Okay, this is Monday, my album is supposed to come out Friday. She said I’m going in Wednesday. I’m recording that song. I’m stopping my album.'”
So I went in the studio with her and I was blown away by that vocal. And then she goes, ‘Well, I’m gonna let’s take a dinner break now. And I’m going to go back and do it again. I’m like, What do you mean do it again? It’s perfect.” She goes, ‘Now I’m going to get it better.’ And that’s a difference, by the way, between a great artist and a not-great artist. I mean, that’s why she’s gonna be around forever.”
“I couldn’t even sleep all night, ’cause I was so excited about about how that song was coming out. I wake up in the morning, and remember, I’d given it to Simon Cowell. I wake up to an email from his head of A&R going, ‘the song, it’s nice, but it just doesn’t go all the way for us, but feel free to send more stuff.’ And so I wrote back, ‘Funnily enough, I was in the studio last night with probably the biggest artist on the planet. And it went all the way for her.” With a smiley face. So that was a fun email to write.