by jim sullivan | November 19, 2014 | People
Singer and musical whiz kid Meghan Trainor trades Nantucket for the big time as an overnight pop sensation who was anything but overnight.
Meghan Trainor has been writing songs since she was 11 years old, and her debut single, “All About That Bass,” has hit No. 1 in 11 countries.
Monday, June 2, 2014, may be the most fabulous and important day in all 20 years of the life of Meghan Trainor. That morning, she released a song to the world called “All About That Bass.” She had written it, and she sang her brains out (as always). By September, the song had become that song. It peaked at number one on the Billboard 100 and rocketed up the charts in Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Views of her YouTube music video for the song topped 166 million.
Not bad for a freckle-faced kid from Nantucket. Then again, she started singing when she was 6. She was penning catchy tunes by 11. Her father, Gary Trainor, a former musician and music teacher, would hand her a guitar. “I’d say, ‘I’ll show you a three-chord song—E, A, and B chords,” he recalls. “She came back less than an hour later and played it. I went, ‘Oh my! Gracious me!’ She had a real knack for it. Same thing with piano. I’d give her theory on how to build a chord and taught her scales. She’s got an extraordinary ear for music. She hears things other people don’t hear.”
Meghan Trainor performing at the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas.
By high school, she could play guitar, ukulele, keyboards, trumpet, and percussion. Her family had moved to Cape Cod part-time, and Trainor got to work with the Cape-based Spampinato Brothers, Johnny and Joey, both former members of the band NRBQ.
“She had such a mature head for chord changes,” says Johnny. “She would write a pop song every day of the week like pouring water.” Computer-savvy, Trainor made her first home-produced album, Meghan Trainor, at 15. She followed it the next year with another disc, an acoustic album called I’ll Sing for You, and then one more, Only 17. All in all, she had recorded 42 songs before turning 18 and written more than 100.
When she was 15, Trainor took a songwriting class at Berklee College of Music. “I didn’t get it,” she says. “I didn’t write like that. They had a girl [professor] who was talking about how she wrote songs, and she said, ‘Any emotions I have, I put in this journal, and then I put melodies to the lyric,’ and I said, ‘I don’t do that. Am I doing it wrong?’ I felt bad about it, but then I left and said, ‘I know how to write a song.’ I skipped that class.
Trainor singing with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots on The Tonight Show in September.
“That’s what I didn’t get,” she adds. “I was like, ‘Lyrics first? Nuh-uh.’ I do, like, the rhythm and the groove and what I want [with them], and then you know if it’s an upbeat, positive song or a ballad, and you go, ‘All right, I’m gonna talk about this.’
“I’m trying to get all my genres into one, and it’s hard,” Trainor continues. “I got soca [soul-calypso] in me since I was 7 years old.” Her uncle Burton Toney is a singer from Trinidad. “And I’ve been studying that like we hear Top 40 music. Soca’s one of my favorite kinds of music. I do all these different sounds. It’s hard to pick one, ’cause I grew up listening to doo-wop and all this stuff.”
Trainor moved to Nashville with the goal of becoming a songwriter. She quickly scored with two country hits she cowrote for Rascal Flatts, “DJ Tonight” and “I Like the Sound of That.” “It was kind of unbelievable,” she says. “My dad always told me, ‘I want you to write for every genre,’ and I called him up one day and went, ‘Yo! You know those country cuts? We did it.’”
Although Trainor imagined herself with a singing career of her own someday, she didn’t expect it to happen so soon. “When I’m older,” she thought, “when I’m 25, I’ll kill it ’cause I’ll know my sound.” But last February, Epic Records heard her and signed her as a recording artist.
Smart decision. With “All About That Bass,” Trainor expresses both teen-girl angst and power. “I’m bringing booty back!” She raps, “You know I won’t be no stick-figure silicone Barbie doll/So if that’s what you’re into, then go ahead and move along.” While J.Lo’s recent single “Booty” covers the same (backyard) territory in its lyrics, Trainor’s doo-wop sound was unlike anything else on the airwaves last summer. And her sweet-but-knowing demeanor in the song’s candy-colored video makes Trainor stand out from the Top 40 “pop tarts” who are more famous for their scanty costumes than their musical chops.
“Everyone from [CEO] L.A. Reid on down fell in love with her,” says Scott Carter, Epic’s senior vice president of marketing. “Her personality, her music, that song—we thought it was a hit from the get-go. She seemed like a great package, and she’s a spectacular songwriter.”
Trainor’s major-label debut album, Title, is slated for release in January 2015, with a tour to follow. As far as she’s concerned, “Bass” is the first of many anthems she’ll write for teens. “They’re girl empowerment songs,” she says, “like, ‘I love myself, I’m beautiful.’ They’re the songs that I wish I had before I went into high school.” Meghan Trainor performs December 14 at TD Garden for the Kiss 108 Jingle Ball and March 17 at the Paradise Rock Club.
photography by Leanne MuLLer; KEVIN WINTER/GETTY IMAGES FOR IHEARTMEDIA (PERFORMING); DOUGLAS GORENSTEIN/NBC/NBCU PHOTO BANK (FALLON)
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