Bravo's latest reality competition series "Platinum Hit" may look like another variation of "American Idol" and "The Voice" but the key difference here is that songwriting - not singing and performing - is the focal point. In the quest for $100,000, a publishing deal and a recording deal, twelve aspiring musicians must battle head-to-head to write the best songs they can for judges Jewel (who also serves as host), Kara DioGuardi, Keith Naftaly (SVP of A&R for RCA/Jive Label Group at Sony) and guest judges like Natasha Bedingfield, Donna Summer, Ryan Tedder, Leona Lewis and Jermaine Dupri. Our Jim Halterman jumped on the phone with the busy DioGuardi last week (prior to the announcement yesterday that there is also a new Bravo docu-series about her life in development) to talk about what makes for a good songwriter, how the different personalities on the show react to competitions like having to write a song as a team and her thoughts on this just-completed season of her last TV gig, "American Idol."
Jim Halterman: How did you come to be involved with 'Platinum Hit?'
Kara DioGuardi: I got to be a part of this because I knew Evan Bogart and he's a songwriter like me and he approached me about doing it. I thought that it would be a very cool experience because people don't really know about songwriters. They really don't think it's a job, they're not quite sure how you make a living doing it and they think the artists are the ones who write the songs. I thought it would be a really good look into that world and I liked that Bravo was on board because I think they do these shows really well and they'd create enough drama to make it interesting.
JH: In terms of songwriting, like all creative arts, do you think it's more talent than luck that leads to success?
KD: You know, my Dad has this great saying, 'Luck is where opportunity meets preparation' and that's very much it!
JH: Do you agree with that in terms of how your career has gone?
KD: Completely! I wrote hundreds of songs before I had one that went anywhere and I was always taking the gig. I was the person that if you had a gig for me, I took it. I was in so many places. I was hitting it everywhere so I knew something was going to pan out because I worked so incredibly hard!
JH: With the twelve contestants on 'Platinum Hit,' what surprised you the most about working with them?
KD: How quickly they learned and how quickly they got better.
JH: Was it a must for you to make sure the contestants also were taught about the ins and outs of the business side of things?
KD: Yeah and that's what was so rewarding for me because that's what I love. I do that every day in my own company, Arthouse, that I co-own. We publish songs like Bruno Mars' 'Grenade' or 'Just the Way You Are' and Cee-Lo's 'Forget You.' Working with creative talent everyday, listening to the songs, giving them feedback, pointing them in the right direction, setting up the right collaboration with them. That's what I do everyday. I also worked at Billboard magazine so when I entered into the music business I had so much knowledge. I was able to really understand how I got paid and the mechanics of the publishing world and I would recommend that to anyone coming up.
JH: As far as the judging goes, a lot of these artists are working in different genres but is a good hook in a song a good hook regardless?
KD: Yes, I do say that. A good hook is a good hook. Sometimes the lyrics won't lend themselves to pop songs or urban songs but I think great pop melodies can be done in country. I've seen that a lot even with Reba McEntire's 'If I Were A Boy.' It was done in country and in pop [by Beyonce].
JH: Out of all the contestants, you have some earthy/innocent types and others who are more cocky. How do we see the different contestants unfold over the course of the show?
KD: You have to see. You can't judge first impressions because they may seem cocky and then you realize it's just because they're insecure. That's what makes the show interesting. It's really about these people and their lives and what they've gone through and how it's going to go into their music and make it relatable. That's the problem with the first show. It's so much about the process and you have to get through all the business stuff.
JH: In the first episode, we see a lot of the contestants are thrown when they have to work with other writers.
KD: Oh yeah, but you know what? In life, many times I'm asked to write with people I don't know. The label asks me to co-write with somebody that they really like for a project. So it might be me, some guy I don't know and an artist. That's very true to life so a lot of these things are true to life and the time constraints are very true to life.
JH: How was it working with Jewel? Had you worked together before?
KD: Oh yeah! We worked on a song called "Good Day" for one of her records and I loved her! I loved writing with her and I loved working with her on this show. She's really smart and insightful and pretty and hot.
JH: Do you feel like you're in competition with 'Idol' or 'The Voice?'
KD: No, because this is not a performance-based show. This is about songs. It's completely different. It's like finding the music that those shows eventually judge talent on. Imagine that you have those shows with no songs. We write those songs.
JH: Have you watched 'Idol' this season?
KD: I haven't watched it that much. I've seen bits and pieces of it and it looks like they're doing a great job. I'm really glad that everyone is loving Steven Tyler. I actually had something to do with that.
JH: What's the best advice to someone wanting to break into the songwriting business?
KD: If you want to be a great songwriter, always come from your truth and be ready to work harder than you've ever worked in your life. If you don't have that dedication, if it's not 24/7 for you from the beginning, it probably won't happen.
"Platinum Hit" premieres this Monday, May 30 at 10:00/9:00c on Bravo.