Kara DioGuardi, a songwriter with dozens of top 10 hits, is now nearly a year removed from her last appearance on “American Idol.”
She was thrust into a thankless role on that show, meaning a role nobody quite knew. She didn’t either, based on her book “A Helluva High Note.”
So when she sensed that “Idol” producers last year weren’t 100% committed to her, she decided to beat them to the punch and resigned first. That also opened up doors for her, including a Bravo reality show that fits better in her lane: a competition among songwriters.
“I love that it’s a show that brings songwriters to light,” she said in a phone interview earlier this month. “A lot of people don’t even know it’s a job. There’s an army of people who do this on a daily basis and make a great living out of it.”
Here are her takes on various topics:
- Gone Country: DioGuardi has recently had great success in the country music realm, including the recent Carrie Underwood hit “Mama’s Song” and the No. 1 Darius Rucker hit “This.” She is now working with Georgia’s Billy Currington, Little Big Town and the Band Perry. At age 40, “I don’t have to be someone going to clubs partying it up,” he said. In country music, “I can be a woman who’s about to get married or write a song about their mother… it allows you to really live in your truth.”
- Mentoring: On “Idol,” DioGuardi was frustrated she couldn’t really mentor the contestants. On ‘Platinum Hit,” she did. “I felt like it was my job to give them that tough love. You better make sure your hooks are catchy and melodies make sense. Many young writers think they’re way better than they are. We have to break them down to build them up.”
- What she learned from “Idol”: “I got comfortable in my own skin on camera. That was a real learning curve. It was really tough. They didn’t explain my role. Was I taking on Paula’s role? But everyone loves Paula! It was bad. It was a bad place. Peopel didn’t even know how to pronounce my name!”
- Working with Jewel as co-host/judge: “It was great. She’s smart. She’s funny. She’s coming more from an artist perspective. I’m coming from a songwriters’ perspective. There were times we disagreed. It was always very respectful.”
- Don’t imitate: During the opening episode, one songwriter gets reamed for aping Elton John. “I call them on it” when they copy artists. One woman Sonyae Elise had a great riff “Love It or Hate It.” “That b**** has something going on,” she said she thought immediately. “She had fire and she came from a truthful place.”
- On co-writing songs: “Platinum Hit” features team writing because that’s common for successful songwriters. “One of the biggest things with cowriting, you have to be able to really edit yourself,” she said. “You have to know when your idea is not as good as the person next to you. It’s not about who came up with the lines, it’s about getting the best ones whether it’s yours or somebody else’s.”
- And sometimes, even a hit song isn’t “perfect”: Kara had co-written Kelly Clarkson’s “Walk Away.” She wishes the line “I’m looking for attention/ Not another question” to “I’m looking for intention.” Woman, she said, already get plenty of attention.
- Noting how succinct her book was (which was less than 190 pages, not counting the index):”I really wrote this book like I would a song.” Each chapter is based on a song she wrote. “I didn’t have to take anything out. I wrote exactly what I wanted to write. I only went back in my history as far as the history related to that song. So it’s not a full autobiography.
I could have talked with her for another half hour. I had plenty more questions. But my 15 minutes were up.
Just this week, Bravo also announced a possible reality show following Kara around titled “Kara.”
“Platinum Hit,” Monday, 10 p.m., starting May 30, 2011