10 Songs You Didn’t Know Sam Hollander Wrote for Other Artists—From Ringo Starr to Carole King

Sam Hollander is a new author. The acclaimed, accomplished songwriter recently released his new book, 21 Hit Wonder, in December 2022. And subsequently, he toured the country, talking to thousands of students about his life in music.

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Writing is nothing new for Hollander, who has 22 top-40 hit singles to his credit, including 10 No. 1 songs. During his career, he’s worked with artists like Panic! At The Disco, One Direction, Katy Perry, Ringo Starr, Carole King, Weezer, Def Leppard, Blink-182, Fitz and the Tantrums, Tyga, The O’Jays, Gym Class Heroes and many more.

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Given his expansive catalog and experience working with some of the best in the world, it seemed only natural to dive into the 10 biggest songs Hollander wrote for other bands—songs you likely never knew he had a hand in, yet songs that have collectively garnered a billion views. Hear the stories behind the songs straight from Hollander’s own mouth, in his own words.

1. “Records,” Weezer

“When it comes to co-writing, I’ve been in many fast and furious sessions, like musical speed dating without the awkward goodbyes, but with Weezer’s ‘Records,’ Rivers and I had a slow-burning tune that took a whole year to bloom. By the time we completed this song, it went through so many twists and turns that it felt like a musical maze, but thankfully, it found its way to the top of the Alternative charts. I guess good things occasionally do come to those who wait!”

2. “Teach Me To Tango,” Ringo Starr

“Writing tunes with Sir Ringo is not just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it’s a chance to be a tiny part of musical history. When we wrote ‘Teach Me To Tango,’ we birthed a tune with a certain joy that only Ringo can summon up. Grant Michaels came up with the signature horns. It’s funny, for someone who’s seen and done everything in the music industry, Ringo still approaches writing with a fun, kid in a candy store enthusiasm. I feel beyond blessed to have learned so much from this legend, not just about music, but about life.”

3. “Rock Me,” One Direction

“When I first linked with Peter Svensson from the Cardigans and (producer) Kool Kojak for a writing session, I was determined to create the ultimate Cardigans comeback song. Alas, my ignorance betrayed me, and I was unaware that Peter had departed from the band (rookie mistake, I know). Not to be deterred, we pivoted to crafting a One Direction pitch, and ‘Rock Me’ was birthed in a mere thirty minutes. While I may not have achieved my Cardigans dream, the song was a 1D hit, which did earn me some serious cool points with my then-8-year-old daughter.”

4. “Fire It Up,” Def Leppard

“I wrote ‘Fire It Up’ with Def Leppard’s Phil Collen. It was such an effortless hang. We were both pretty dialed in that day. Phil dug into a killer riff and I ran with it a bit. The afternoon completely breezed by. Phil’s such a gifted writer and a lovely fella to boot. A year later, seeing 55,000 New Yorkers rocking out to our song at City Field was like watching a dream come true—but with more pyrotechnics and way less awkward drooling.”

5. “Happy Days,” Blink-182

“Collaborating with blink-182 and (producer) Tim Pagnotta was such a thrill, and the tracks we wrote together—’Blame it on My Youth’ and this little gem—are amazing souvenirs of those days. When the band released the video for ‘Happy Days’ during the pandemic, the song’s message seemed to really resonate and it ended up getting a VMA nomination. It was like the universe was giving us all a big, virtual hug. It just goes to show that even in the darkest of times, music has the power to connect and shine a little cathartic light.”

6. “High Hopes,” Panic! at the Disco

“[The band’s] Brendon Urie is undoubtedly one of my all-time favorite collaborators, and his prodigious vocal prowess is next-level brilliance. I’ve written more than a dozen tunes with him over the last decade, and the experience has been nothing short of career-altering. The process of co-writing ‘High Hopes’ was a remarkable journey that was filled with all sorts of creative alchemy. I got the call to write the verses late in the 11th hour, which made its eventual success nothing short of astonishing to me.”

7. “Loves Makes The World,” Carole King

“Working with Carole King was an experience that I’ll never forget. She’s an absolute legend, but despite all her accomplishments, she was so incredibly humble and down-to-earth. When Dave Schommer and I had the opportunity to collab with her on a tune for her first solo record in years, little did we know that our song, ‘Love Makes the World,’ would end up as the album’s title track and first single. It even landed a spot in a Gap commercial. It was a surreal moment for us as up-and-coming songwriters, especially considering we were in the company of some of the most iconic songwriters in the game, including David Foster and Babyface.”

8. “Handclap,” Fitz & The Tantrums

“Living in L.A. at the time, I’d become a big Fitz & The Tantrums fan and aggressively chased a collaboration with singer Michael ‘Fitz’ Fitzpatrick. On the day I finally landed a session with him, I barged in like a man possessed and scatted a chorus that appeared out of thin air and had refused to leave my head. Fitz loved it, sat down at the keyboard, and created the track in minutes. He has such a brilliant, melodic ear. We wrote the whole thing within an hour or so. “Handclap” completely changed my life and I made a very close friend in the process. Not bad for a day’s work, eh?”

9. “Save Me San Francisco,” Train

“This is one of those songs that just makes me want to pogo up and down and forget all my worries. When we were writing it, Pat Monahan and I were like two comedians on a roll, tossing punchlines back and forth like hot potatoes. Dave Katz’s greasy guitar riff was the icing on the cake. It’s been 13 years, but today the song’s still an unofficial anthem for one of the most amazing cities in the world. Craziness.”

10. “If You Can Afford Me,” Katy Perry

“When Dave Katz and I first crossed paths with Katy Perry, we were immediately drawn to her fire and talent. For a couple of days, we joined forces and crafted a tune that felt like it could raise its hand from the pile, but despite our hopes, her label dropped her soon after. It had to be a year or two later, when she got a new deal at Virgin and an A&R Chris Anokute stumbled upon our demo and included it on her [breakout 2008] album, One of The Boys. It’s a reminder that in this crazy industry, you never know where the next shot will come from, so you have to keep pushing and stay in the game to catch those breaks.”

Photo by Danny Clinch / Illustrated Sounds

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