Q&A with Songwriter Ester Dean

The name, Ester Dean, may not sound as recognizable as Katy Perry or Rihanna, but as the writer behind some of their biggest songs, she’s a songwriter in high demand. Ester wrote Katy Perry’s “Firework,” Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been” and David Guetta’s “Turn Me On” and has written for Beyoncé, Britney, and Christina. Labeling Ester as only a songwriter would be an insult to her talents. Any job requiring a microphone is a title on her lengthy resume: singer, music producer, actor, and voiceover actor. Recent projects she has worked on include: Pitch Perfect, Ice Age: Continental Drift, and she produced a song for Leona.

In an interview, earlier in the year, I talked to Ester about her music and new ventures. To find out what turns her on, her real opinion on celebrities she’s worked with, and is hip hop ready for an out artist, click on the video.

Victor Yates: What can our readers expect from you in 2013?

Ester Dean: Last year happened to be a slow time, because I decided to take some time out to do acting. [From that] I experienced growth and strength within myself and realized I could do whatever I want. I’ve added more under my umbrella. I started my own production company. I’ve taken control of everything that is Ester Dean and I am the master of me now. I’m flying on my own, knowing that I’ve been taught well by Jimmy Iovine, Polow da Don, and [others who] taught me how this industry works.

Victor Yates: How do you know when you write a song if it’s for you to record or for someone else to record?

Ester Dean: It’s easy because I have to record it anyway. They’re all mine. I call it schizophrenic writing. I did a song for Lloyd called, “Lay It Down.” I played Lloyd and Patti LaBelle. I sung back and forth to myself. Then I recorded one being Lloyd and R. Kelly then R. Kelly and a girl. It’s creating multiple personalities that allow the writing. When I look at a song, I ask myself is that the personality you want to portray.

Victor Yates: You’ve released two singles, “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” and “Baby Making Love,” when is the album’s release date?

Ester Dean: I’m giving away free music. I’m not looking for my fans to buy a song. I just want to give it to them and it doesn’t matter if I don’t put out an album.

Victor Yates: You sing, you write music, you produce, you act, and you do voiceovers. Do you enjoy doing one over the others?

Ester Dean: I love to do it all. I’m a fan of microphones. Anytime I sing into the microphone, there is no pressure. I’m there and [my voice] comes back in a way, that I can hear myself. When you do voiceovers, that’s you in the booth again. When you’re writing songs, you’re in a booth. When you’re singing, you’re in a booth. I want to stay in the studio. I hate Sundays and Saturdays, because people aren’t working.

Victor Yates: What does your average workday look like?

Ester Dean: If I could work all day I would, but I take a break. I get on the phone, have some meetings, and do the whole political part of the industry. I stay in the studio until five in the morning. I’ve been doing this same routine since I was fifteen.

Victor Yates: The people who you have written songs for is impressive: Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, and Britney Spears. Who was the easiest to work with?

Ester Dean: Robin Thicke and Chris Brown. Chris and I would go to the microphone and scream. And Rihanna because she was never there. She’s not a hoverer. She knows how to stay out of creative people’s space, just as much as people stay out of her creative space. A lot of artists will hover over you and if they don’t, their A&R will.

Victor Yates: Who was the most difficult to work with?

Ester Dean: I think anyone who has ever been difficult, that I’ve worked with, is not famous anymore. I say that to say people who are difficult tend to not last. They don’t understand that this is a business.

Victor Yates: What artist have you not worked with, that you would like to?

Ester Dean: Pink, Celine Dion, Lil Wayne, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Lady Antebellum.

Victor Yates: 2012 had some huge music stories, one being Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj joining American Idol and not getting along. You co-wrote Super Bass and have worked on about nine projects with Nicki. What is it like working with her?

Ester Dean: I call her all the time. I think she’s awesome. I haven’t worked with Mariah, but I hear she’s awesome. I think a story is a story. You never know what it transpired out of.

Victor Yates: Another big story was Frank Ocean’s coming out. How did you feel about that?

Ester Dean: I love him. I think his music is awesome. Him coming out has nothing to do with his music. The music is amazing. I think more people should be as free as he was.

Victor Yates: Do you think that the R&B/Hip-Hop community is ready to embrace an out and proud artist?

I think they should. Let’s not go back a hundred years or ten years ago. Let people live their life, but that has nothing to do with Hip-Hop or R&B. [Frank] writes great songs. You can relate to them. If you’re talking about same-sex or something else, you’re talking about love. Love is love. If you can’t relate because you think he’s talking about [a man], then f#ck it.

Victor Yates

Writer and blogger Victor Yates’ work has appeared in the anthology, ‘For Colored Boys’ and in Windy City Times, GBM News, SGL Weekly, The Voice, The Catalyst, and Prism. His first novel is set to be released by Addison Craft Publishing.

2 thoughts on “Q&A with Songwriter Ester Dean

  • April 17, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    What does the Q in LGBTQ stand for?

    • April 18, 2013 at 9:10 am

      Thanks for the question. The Q stands for questioning. For members of the community who are questioning their sexual identity or it can represent queer-identified people.


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