Song Facts: Songwriter Interview: Ellen Shipley

By | September 11, 2019

Song Facts

Songfacts: You also wrote a song with Hanson [“Yearbook”], who typically wrote their own stuff. What happened there?

Shipley: I was called in to work with them. The record company called and they played me “MmmBop” and I said, “You want me to write with them? I don’t relate to this.” And they said, “Just meet with them. They really want to work with you.”

They came to my studio in Studio City. They were really cute, except for Zac who kept making paper airplanes and throwing them all over the place. And they brought their parents, who were interfering with the writing.

But I wanted it to come from them so I asked Taylor, since he seemed the one with the talent and the ideas, “What story in your life bothers you?” And he told me this story of this kid that disappeared, and the whole thing is real. They don’t know whether he committed suicide, they don’t know what happened, but he disappeared. And so it was a dark song, but I love it.

Songfacts: It’s certainly not what you’d expect from Hanson.

Shipley: No.

Songfacts: And it sounds like they needed you there because without you drawing it out of them it’s unlikely they would have had the confidence to write a song like that.

Shipley: Oh, they never would have written that song, no. But it was inside him and sometimes that happens if people put me with an artist to write. I believe a songwriter’s job, if you’re working with another artist, is to be a speaker for their thoughts, for their ideas. It’s about them. When I was a songwriter writing with other people, like the artist, I always felt it had to come from them because it’s not about me giving them great titles and stuff, it’s about their life.

So, the Hansons were a big surprise. It was a difficult thing to do between Zac and their parents. Oh, my god! I finally threw them all out. I told them to go to a restaurant so I could work with Taylor.

Songfacts: You got rid of Zac and Isaac and just left the middle one.

Shipley: Yeah. I said, “Take your kids out to eat or something, I can’t do this.”

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