Bonnie McKee Dishes on Dealing With Divas + Crushing on Austin Mahone
While Bonnie McKee‘s name isn’t instantly familiar to you, it should be and it soon will be. McKee, 29, is pop music’s songwriting stealth bomber and secret weapon, penning No. 1s with Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Taio Cruz.
Now she’s stepping out on her own with her single ‘American Girl.’ While she continues to pen with Perry — they co-wrote the hotter-than-lava ‘ROAR’– it’s time for McKee to take center stage.
In this exclusive interview with PopCrush, the uber-likable McKee talked about how she and Perry approach the process, admitting it’s not always pretty, and why she became a writer of other people’s song out of necessity. Since her stock in trade is dealing with the biggest divas, she revealed how she handles it and shared her celeb crush.
After 20 minutes of chatting with her, our feelings for McKee evolved from “like” to a hardcore crush. She’s the awesomest.
You worked with huge names, like Katy and Britney. How do you decide when to keep your best stuff for yourself?
Those were all collaborations. I didn’t write anything by myself. It was a team effort. So when I am in a room with Katy or whoever, I am there for them. It’s like a therapy session. I go over what they are going through and they explain what they want to say, and I try and turn it into something beautiful for them.
When I write for myself, I think about myself and draw from my own experience.
So it’s not like you are coming up with ideas, phrases or melodies and then hoarding them and parsing them out to pop divas!
I have a notebook of concepts. There are titles everywhere if you are looking for them. I pull from them. There is a secret list that I keep for myself, about what I want to sing about and those are the ones I know I am not going to give up for someone else.
What’s the process and experience like with Katy?
It’s fun and also terrible, [Laughs] since we fight a lot. We’re both perfectionists and we don’t let the other settle. Every line is a battle until we get it right. We hug it out at the end and have a good cry. She’s my friend so it’s always fun. We have similar themes and styles. She is an excellent writer on her own, too. I think she is a real talent. She’s a pleasure to work with.
What made you want to step out from behind the songwriting curtain, so to speak?
You know, I started out as an artist. It was my first love. I saw Tina Turner do ‘Proud Mary’ on TV and it was so electrifying and such a unique experience. I remember crying out of excitement and I knew that I wanted to be a performer, and make people feel excited and moved, and that’s why I gravitated towards it. It was always my plan to be an artist.
I signed a record deal at 16 and it didn’t work out. So I began writing songs [for others] out of necessity. But I always knew I wanted on stage again.
You’ve also worked with Christina Aguilera and Kesha — so you get “divas.” How do you deal with diva? And by “diva” we don’t mean diva behavior. We just mean alpha females and queen bees!
There are some artists that don’t like working with other females, which is fine. They have their own thing. I personally love being surrounded by other females. It’s about the presentation or the look. If I know I will be working with someone and they are not keen with writing with a girl, I like to be non-threatening and cool so they will trust me. It’s a thought process of who work and how I want to present myself.
Who or what is the quintessential ‘American Girl?’
I think what it means to be an ‘American Girl,’ and what I wrote the song about, is our freedoms. The idea that we as Americans can be what we want to be and say what we want to say and that we take it for granted. It is a celebration and it’s also satirical, talking about being raised by a television, but it celebrates things, too. We’re privileged enough to have those problems.
Watch the ‘American Girl’ Video
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When is your album coming out?
Not officially, the top of the year.
Any non-music skills, hobbies or talents? Besides an eBay habit?
Ha! I am a collector, yes. I am passionate about interior design and architecture. I am remodeling my house, and I am obsessed with furniture. I look at home decor sites all day. I love fashion and food. I am a lover of creative things. With fashion, you wear something for a while and then get rid of it. Furniture you live with for years.
What’s your worst habit?
My worst habit? Oh man, I do get into this binge mode with food, where I eat one thing for three weeks and nothing else. Like, I love kale. I want to eat kale and rice, then it’ll be like I only want Taco Bell! Or I only want French toast. I get in these weird binges with food. I make up for it at the gym, so hopefully it works out okay.
What is your favorite item of clothing?
I love shoes. I am a shoe fanatic. I love my Giuseppe Zanottis — he is my favorite. I have them in every color. Other than shoes, it’s important to have a great black leather jacket. Black leather and studs are the new neutrals. They are go with everything. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer wore one with her prom dress, which is an awesome look. Or you can wear with a t-shirt for a Ramones-style statement.
Do you have a celeb crush?
I have a celeb crush [Whispers]. My No. 1 is Johnny Depp, every since ‘Cry Baby.’ He had my heart. My new crush is Austin Mahone. I hope he calls me when he turns 18! I love his songs. I love that we are at the point where ’90s Backstreet Boys is considered “throwback” or “vintage,” but I love it. But as for Austin, I love his dance moves and pouty lips.
Answer this: Bonnie McKee is the pop singer who…
…never wears pants and writes colorful summer bangers!