Sia talks about Rihanna, Kanye, Adele, Katy & Beyonce writing sessions


Kanye & Rihanna: Were all the songs from This Is Acting intentionally written for other artists? There's one that I went into a session with Kanye, to write for Rihanna, so that one [Reaper] was intended for her.
They'll entice me into a session by saying, "Rihanna will definitely be there" or "Kanye will definitely be there," but it's hilarious because I turn up and, almost always, they never come. So I went into the studio to write for Rihanna with Kanye and neither of them showed up and stayed for less than an hour. They had two tracks. They told me what they had wanted. There were notes from Kanye, and I can't even remember what they were. I remember I just raced in and raced out, and I thought there was something about the chorus that seemed fun about this song, but I never thought it would see the light of day.
[Cheap Thrills] was also for Rihanna Her manager said "We want 'Diamonds.' We need soul. We want some music that has feeling. I went to Greg [Kurstin], and that's what we came up with. I realized just as soon as I was cutting it that it sounded a little bit too Brit-pop for her. It's more Icona Pop. We did actually send it to her, but they passed on it. We've been pitching on Rihanna for the last couple years because she's been looking for a couple years. Well, it feels like a couple years. It might be one year. They're always looking for that first single.

Adele: She's extremely talented, so it was really easy. It's funny because both of us are quite dominant because we are both skillful at our jobs of songwriting or singing. I think that maybe we're not dominant but confident. I think because we're both very confident in our skills, we're just naturally alpha in some way in terms of our work. It's funny that she phrased it like that because I know for a fact that I do choose to work with producers who are better at production and better at instrumentation and better at songwriting than me but who are generally beta types.
It was a very interesting process working with her because I felt insecure because I didn't want to dominate because it's clear to me that she's the dominant party.
I try to check my ego at the door and be of service to them and allow them to be the artist. But in the case of Adele, I'm not sure if I did that or if I succeeded. Maybe that's why those songs ended up on my album and not on hers because it was too much my voice and not enough hers.

Katy Perry: She's also quite dominant, and she's extremely analytical. I actually quit within the first hour of our first session. I was like, "Can we both agree this doesn't work? Like our whole songwriting dynamic?" And she was like, "I love it. It's like a puzzle to me. It's like a crossword." And I was like, "But this is boring for me. The analysis is totally boring for me. It feels like the enemy of creativity." It was so cool to be able to have that conversation on why we wrote in such entirely different ways. I'm glad I didn't give up on it because I actually did get a song out of it, and we also really had a laugh because we were able to be authentic.

Beyonce: The process is like a writing camp, essentially. She flies us all in and puts us all up. We all live in a house together — like five producers and five topline writers. She visits each room and will contribute and let us know what she's feeling and what she's not feeling. Lyrically, melodically, anything. She's very Frankenstein when she comes to songs. She'll say, "I like the verse from that. I like the pre-chorus from that. Can you try mixing it with that?" In the end, she had maybe 25 songs of mine on hold, and I was very excited to get a couple of them back. I didn't send as much to Beyoncé, though I do know she's working on something. One of them is a Shakira reject, which there's no doubt when you hear it. You'll know that it was a Shakira reject because I sound like Shakira.

i love to read about this, the sessions are so different.