Kara DioGuardi admits she never quite fit in on “American Idol.”
“People thought I was there to take over Paula’s job,” she says. “Why was I breaking up the chemistry? It was frustrating to me that people were like ‘Who is that girl? Why is she so opinionated? What the hell does she know?”
Kara – a top songwriter whose recent hits include “Rich Girl” (Gwen Stefani) and “Pieces of Me” (Ashlee Simpson) – says she now feels right at home judging the new Bravo songwriting competition “Platinum Hit,” premiering May 30.
This is Kara’s third turn at the judges table. Her first series, “The One,” was cancelled in 2007, shortly after premiering on ABC.
“I love nurturing young talent,” she tells us. “It is rewarding. Nothing excited me more than watching somebody improve and fulfill their potential as an artist. And that is why, even on “Idol,” when I would give criticism, I always gave it as constructive criticism.
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We caught up with DioGuardi last week for a preview of the new show, her revealing autobiography, and some tips on how to write a million-selling song.
In your new book you reveal once having an eating disorder and being molested by a top music industry executive. Why share such personal experiences?
DioGuardi: When I decided to write the book, it was at the end of “American Idol” Season 9. I had been starting to do these shows where I would go out and sing songs I had co-written. And doing that, I kind of realized that all of these songs are kind of like my autobiography. My whole life is in these songs. I can’t speak about my music without speaking about my history. Because my history is what I write from.
I had an eating disorder, which is what I pulled from when I co-wrote “Sober” with Pink. My feelings of what I went through when I struggled with food. Or when I talk about not so great relationships in Kelly Clarkson’s “Walk Away” or “Undo It” by Carrie Underwood.
Since I was molested, my relationship with men has been troublesome to me. So I didn’t really see how I could talk about those things without talking about my history. I wanted to inspire other people who had faced similar situations. And I am just not ashamed of my past. I don’t feel there is anything to be ashamed of if you have been molested or if you have had issues with eating. I more want to show people that you can work through them. If you are not vulnerable when you write a book, why do it.
Is your advice to up-and-coming songwriters to draw from personal experience?
DioGuardi: Always. That is my number one piece of advice. I must have said it on the show a thousand times. That is the only thing I can tell you. If you do not know yourself and you cannot live your life and love and get your heart broken and all these things, and really face it and live in it, you are going to have trouble writing great songs.
Songwriting seems like it could be a very difficult and boring process to watch on television.
DioGuardi: I think that is where the drama comes in. Bravo does drama so well. And by making the contestants live with each other – and at times they are forced to pair up when they really didn’t get along – you see what happens when you are actually writing in studio with somebody that you don’t vibe with. And you have to figure out how to get through it.
Is songwriting a talent that you can learn or is it something you are born with?
DioGuardi: I think it is a talent you can learn. I think that you need to have some natural aptitude for music. I was terrible in the beginning. My first song was the worst piece of crap I ever heard. I just kind of willed myself into it. I just worked and worked and worked and got the craft up to the place where my inspiration was.
What happened to “The One”?
DioGuardi: It was pulled off in the first week. I think the worst thing about it is the show was just mixed so poorly. If you listen to that first show, it was very strange. I had never heard a TV show like that. I don’t know if they knew how to mix the music. It just didn’t work. I think honestly they got themselves in way over their heads.
Doesn’t all this being around up-and-coming singers make you want to get into a recording studio and put some of this down on your own?
DioGuardi: God, no! Not at all. Any time I ever do shows it is because my manager is forcing me to do them. I really love behind the scenes. I like moving from one person’s career to the next. I find it really inspiring that one day I can be with Carrie Underwood doing a country song and the next day I can be doing a Jason Derulo song.
“Platinum Hit” premieres Monday, May 30, at 10/9c on Bravo.