The Songwriters: Hillary Lindsey, Kid Harpoon, and Starrah

The Songwriters: Hillary Lindsey, Kid Harpoon, and Starrah

Meet the masters at work behind music's most well-known hits.

Meet the masters at work behind music's most well-known hits.

Text: Ian David Monroe

This article originally appeared in V109, on newsstands now. Order your copy here.

HILLARY LINDSEY

PHOTO BY BECKY FLUKE

KNOWN FOR: "MILLION REASONS" BY LADY GAGA, "WHEN I LOOK AT YOU" BY MILEY CYRUS, AND "SMOKE BREAK" BY CARRIE UNDERWOOD

"I was at the Grammys last year because I wrote a song called 'Girl Crush' with my two friends in Little Big Town. They had performed, and Gaga walked right past me. I was on the mail floor because we were also nominated for Song of the Year. My dad was my date and he was like, 'That's Lady Gaga. You need to stop her and say hey.' I'm like, 'Gaga doesn't know who the hell I am.' So, she walked on by. Later, there I was talking to her on the phone. She's like, 'I'd love for you to come over [to my house]. I've got a pool we can sit by.' I was more nervous on the drive over than anything, but once I actually walked into the house and sat down with her, it was just like an instant old friends [connection]. It was the strangest thing. And that's where 'Million Reasons' came from, just from a conversation that we were having. It was just two songwriters sitting down: she was on the piano and I was on the guitar. I had just had my baby like seven months [earlier], so I was out there [writing] with my breast pump. I mean, I would literally be pumping in front of her with a guitar in a big black shawl. It was hilarious. It really was like one of the most honest, really real cowrites I've had in a long time. It was such a rush—it took me a couple of days to come down from it."

KID HARPOON

PHOTO BY GUY LOWNDES

KNOWN FOR: "CAROLINA" BY HARRY STYLES, "ROSES" BY SHAWN MENDES, AND "SHAKE IT OUT" BY FLORENCE + THE MACHINE

"I started playing guitar when I was nine and was totally obsessed. It was all I did, and I think I wrote my first songs when I was 12 or 13. I'm constantly trying to better myself, to the point where I give myself a really hard time. One of the worst things I do [when writing] is that when something isn't working, I obsess about it and try harder to fix it. But with Harry Styles's 'Sweet Creature,' I started playing a riff, he started singing, and, honestly, I can't remember much after that because it happened so quickly. We wrote and recorded the whole thing in about two hours. Somehow the whole demo made it through his whole album process virtually untouched to the end—vocals, everything. It's a real achievement for me, but also a testament to Harry's conviction on this record. For me, the goal isn't to survive by writing something that fits with what's on radio; it's to create something really special and unique. If that ends up being a big song, that's great, but it's not the be-all and end-all. You have to be prepared to fail and be in an environment that lets you do that without worrying about it."

STARRAH

PHOTO BY @BAWWSE

KNOWN FOR: "NEEDED ME" BY RIHANNA, "NO FRAUDS" BY NICKI MINAJ, AND "SWISH SWISH" BY KATY PERRY

"I have been writing poetry since I was 13, and I graduated from poetry to songs shortly after. My first big songwriting moment came with Rihanna's 'Needed Me.' I wrote more than 100 songs for her—not during the creation of the Anti album, but before I even knew that I'd have the opportunity to write for her. So, to see what it became was something really special to me. I would love for the behind-the-scenes heroes to get their proper credit. Especially in the urban community, writers are almost shunned for their contributions to music. The reality is if one part of a machine stops working, the whole thing stops. Engineers, producers, writers, artists, managers, et cetera. We're a team."

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