As she releases her debut album The Cave Sessions Vol. 1, songwriting legend Diane Warren looks back on the making of one of her biggest hits

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Cher & Diane Warren

Diane Warren is sharing the story behind one of her biggest songs.

The songwriting legend, 64, has written nine No. 1 hits, including pop classics like Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," Toni Braxton's "Un-Break My Heart" and Céline Dion's "Because You Loved Me." She has formidable lyrical skills, but it took nerve and tenacity to get some of her biggest songs on the radio.

One near-nonstarter was Cher's 1989 single "If I Could Turn Back Time," written by Warren and almost rejected by the legend.

"She hated it," Warren says in the new issue of PEOPLE. "I went to the studio and literally got on my knees and said, 'I'll pay for it. If you don't like it, don't use it.' She agreed. I remember looking at her in the booth and the look on her face when she sang the opening line, like, 'You bitch, you were right.'"

diane warren
Diane Warren
| Credit: Josh Komitzky & Malachi Barnes

Similarly, Braxton had no interest in "Un-Break My Heart."

"She didn't want to do the song. I told her, 'You're going to win a Grammy for this vocal,' and she did," Warren says. "People should listen. I know what I'm talking about!"

After nearly 40 years in the industry, Warren surely had less push-back when it came time to enlisting talent for her debut album, out Friday. The Cave Session Vol. 1 is a genre-spanning collection of songs she wrote, then recruited a slew of A-list talent (from Dion and Darius Rucker to John Legend and Maren Morris) to record.

"It's me being DJ Diane," Warren says of the LP. "I'm curating this record, kind of like what Mark Ronson and DJ Khaled do. I thought, 'Why can't I do that?' It's a microcosm of my career — such a variety of genres."

cave sessions volume 1
Diane Warren, The Cave Sessions Vol. 1

As for how the hitmaker would define a Diane Warren song?

"I hope it's a great song. Hopefully the quality is that it's quality, because I write all kinds of different kinds of songs, as you can hear from this album. I mean, all these songs that are so different. It doesn't really sound like one person wrote them," says Warren.

And Warren already has plans for another record.

"I already have volume 2, because I couldn't put all my songs I wanted to put on this one," she adds. "I love all the songs we've done."