LOS ANGELES – Success in the music industry isn’t all about that bass. It’s all about the songs, says Grammy winner Meghan Trainor.
Before she popped as a singer, Trainor wrote. And wrote. And wrote.
She took “All About That Bass” to a number of agents “and nobody wanted it.”
While Trainor performed at song pitches, “I didn’t believe I was an artist…I didn’t believed that I looked the part (or that I could) perform in front of millions of people and do the whole other side of this music industry.”
Epic Records execs, however, couldn’t imagine anyone else singing that signature song. They gave her a shot, the song zipped up the charts and, now, it’s one of the few Diamond-selling singles in the history of recorded music.
Songwriting, Trainor says, is key for any performer.
When mentoring contestants on “The Four: Battle for Stardom,” a new Fox singing competition that promises a record deal and airplay, Trainor says she asks about their writing ability. “Even if you don’t, just try to write songs. Try to find your sound.”
As a songwriter, the 24-year-old tried to pen songs that Rihanna and others might record. She embraced plenty of styles and, in the process, found her own voice. When it was time to record, she was ready.
Those first self-produced albums? “I buried those,” she says with a laugh. “I did those in my room” and they spanned all sorts of genres.
Now putting the finishing touches on a new album, Trainor says it’s “big and loud. I have my family members singing on every single song because I wanted a big sound. It’s in-your-face, boom, kind of ‘80s, but soulful. I’m very proud of it.”
Inspired by her relationship with actor Daryl Sabara, it celebrates that happy time in life “when you’re madly in love. I wrote about a lot of stuff – love yourself and be happy. I went through a little dark tunnel with my second (vocal) surgery and, mentally, was really depressed and sad. Even though I had him with me, I chose to be happy…and I wrote a lot about that.”
When producers of “The Four” approached her about being a judge (with Sean “Diddy” Combs, DJ Khalid and record exec Charlie Walk), she was all in. Trainor, in fact, was the one who said they needed to give the winner something more than money. Now, those judges will work with the champion to make the eventual release representative of a superstar. “I said, ‘Even if you don’t pick me, pick Ryan Tedder, a good songwriter who will help this artist blow up.”
A firm judge, Trainor isn’t afraid to point out what doesn’t work. She views herself as the toughest of the bunch – a “been-there-done-that” singer who knows what it’s like to deal with online haters and critics.
Putting up a wall to the social media noise, she says is important. “My mom helps me a lot. She goes on Twitter and tries to delete comments before I see them. I went from no one knowing me to everyone knowing me and that’s tough.”
To make sure contestants don’t feel the sting of criticism, she couches her comments with love.
“I was them four years ago, not even, and I was in front of Epic Records auditioning on my ukulele for my record deal…and I was awful. I was alone. I was terrified. I was really bad and they just loved the song so much…and that’s what worked.”
When Trainor won Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards, the moment was a life changer.
“That was like a bucket list, top goal in my life that I figured I wouldn’t get for many many years.”
Her father, who encouraged her to be the best in whatever she did, was the first to share her joy. “I said, ‘Dad, I did it.’ It was a nice father/daughter moment.”
Now, Trainor says, she’s looking for the next step in her career.
Reinvention, she says, is so vital to the music business.
“You see it everywhere – people trying really hard and it’s tough, scary and nerve-racking.”
The new album fills the bill. “I’m confident in this one. I like it. But what about the stranger who lives in Connecticut? That’s what I have to think about.”