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exclusive, cover story Features June 16, 2019

Australian songwriters behind Katy Perry’s new bop are living a teenage dream [exclusive]

Former Executive Editor
Australian songwriters behind Katy Perry’s new bop are living a teenage dream [exclusive]

There are three Australian songwriters walking on air thanks to the good ears of Katy Perry.

Former Australian Idol favourite Hayley Warner, with established hitmaking team Leah Haywood and Daniel James, are credited as cowriters on Perry’s new hit ‘Never Really Over’.

After a fairly fruitless stint as a solo artist, Warner packed her rucksack and relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a songwriter.

One decade later, she’s finally landed on the go-to list of A&R executives and music’s big stars.

“The fact that we got the opportunity to collaborate with Katy was just wild, to be honest, it’s all a bit surreal,” Warner tells TMN exclusively.

‘Never Really Over’ was an instant hit with fans and radio programmers.

Perry’s celebrated return to the now decade-old sound that cemented her position as one of the most influential voices in pop music, has once again secured the singer Top 40 status on music charts in over 25 countries.

The track debuted at #18 on the TMN Hot 100 and roared to #3 in its second week at commercial radio – with the Nova Network responsible for over 38% of total weekly spins.

The making of ‘Never Really Over’

Exactly one year ago, Warner entered another routine writing session with Haywood and James, and a fourth collaborator, Gino Barletta. They knew Perry was looking for songs and open to hearing ideas from new and established songwriters.

After firing off a demo to Perry’s team, the four writers proceeded to “dance” and make “silly videos” in the studio.

Warner, Haywood, James and Barletta knew they had something special.

They swiftly got word that Team Perry – and the superstar herself – wanted to work on the track.

Haywood and James, an Australian husband and wife team based in LA who operate under the moniker Dreamlab, are no strangers to the record business. They’ve had cuts with Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus and Kygo.

“It’s so 50/50,” James tells TMN. “We’re always gambling in this business, so you never know. We didn’t say anything until we heard that single on the radio.”

“Everyone’s got the first single until they don’t, you know,” adds Haywood from their home studio in LA. “It really is crazy how the whole thing came about, it really is.”

Aussie Songwriters

‘Cause baby you’re a firework

Perhaps the hardest part of the process for all three has been keeping the secret and waiting for receipts to confirm their song would become the first single from a forthcoming Perry album.

And in true 21st-century Hollywood-style, unofficial word came through social media.

“We knew that it was going ahead when we saw on Instagram that Zedd had uploaded a video of Katy in the studio,” recalls Warner, “and if you pressed pause in one second of that video, you could see that it was our song.”

And just like that, an unforgettable firework moment happened.

Warner realised her career was about to explode: A much-needed breakthrough that follows years of blood, sweat and tears that included a slow build of songwriting credits in Australia with Reece Mastin, Tina Arena and Dami Im.

“There are so many amazing artists, it’s hard to cut through the grain. There are people in LA that have way more infrastructure than we have, way more support, a team.

“So yes, it’s a beautiful moment to celebrate.”

As happenstance would have it, Perry recorded the vocals for ‘Never Really Over’ at Studios 301 in Sydney while on her Prismatic World Tour with longtime collaborator Zedd, who co-produced the 100 BPM bop.

Studios 301 Sydney
Image: Zedd at Studios 301 Sydney. (Source:

The best of Warner has yet come

As is often the case on big pop hits, the song acquired additional writer credits as it did the rounds among trusted confidants of Perry and her label.

Michelle Buzz and Jason Gill were credited for its uncanny similarities to ‘Love You Like That’, a prior cowrite with singer-songwriter Dangy that Universal Music Norway released in 2017.

All up there are seven writers and two producers (Zedd & Dreamlab) scored credits for their contribution on ‘Never Really Over’. But only one of those writers will have to work twice as hard to repeat the success she’s been afforded by Perry.

“It’s an amazing song, but the best is yet to come. We’re excited for whatever happens next,” promises Warner.

After a short return trip home to sort a new visa and visit family (serendipity ensured Warner’s visa expired on the day the record was released), it’s straight back into the studio. This time in Palm Springs.

Warner also has plans to release new music of her own later this year.

“I have a record coming out, maybe in about four or five months called ‘LA’, which goes back to the dark times and how hard it is [in LA].

“I just want to be happy and make music I believe in.”


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