“I’m a busy girl! I’m getting my wig put on right now,” international superstar Meghan Trainor shares on the phone. In between a judge panel slot on Fox’s new music competition The Four and hard at work preparing for the release of her third major album Treat Myself, which is expected to release early 2019, Meghan Trainor takes time to talk to us about what fans can expect in the new year.
We dive deep into the album, which Trainor says “would be Oprah” if it were a living person. “It would be someone who knows how to treat themselves and is constantly trying to better themselves and find ways to improve their health and happiness, which is what I’m trying to be now and I watch a lot of Oprah now.”
“For me, it symbolizes a moment in my life that I had after my second surgery, where I kind of crumbled emotionally and physically,” Trainor explains. “My body just kinda gave up on me and I had to remind myself that I can say ‘no’ and that I have to focus on myself and treat myself. It took therapy and doctors and help – I had to really ask for help, because I was going through some dark anxiety while being on vocal rest for so long, cause you’re just alone with your thoughts which is a terrible place to be (laughs)… but with a lot of help, support and love from my family and my lover boy Daryl [Sabara], I climbed out of it and my therapist was like ‘don’t forget to treat yourself for how great of a job you did from all of this post-surgery stuff’ – so I did; I treated myself, and I continue to focus on myself and want to spread that message with the world with this album. My message throughout my entire career has always been ‘love yourself, focus on yourself, don’t forget about you’ and even I forgot about myself– and especially nowadays, it’s a crazy world and you gotta go back to you sometimes.”
As Trainor says, her message has first and foremost been one of self-love and realizing self-worth. One of Trainor’s biggest appeals is her natural ability to craft pop gems that appeal to a wide generation, and there’s no denying that Trainor is one of the most viable songwriters today.
Mumbling some lyrics and melodies to an upcoming song from Treat Myself, which soon enough the world will surely be mumbling too, Trainor reveals: “I have a song on my album called ‘Evil Twin’ and it’s about the person inside you that you are most insecure about… Like if you take all your insecurities and put them into a person, you could say ‘that’s my twin! That wasn’t me, that was her last night!’ So the whole song is like, she’s crazy and she talks a lot and she gives me anxiety and she screams, but I’m quiet and sweet and innocent. I think it will relate to everyone out there in the world if you have different personalities and you’re very aware of it.”
Treat Myself also marks a departure from Trainor’s previous records Title and Thank You in multiple aspects, which we discuss in great detail. Lyrically, Trainor challenged herself to say something different this time: “I didn’t wanna rewrite what I’ve already written about– love your body, love yourself– so I tried different ways of self-empowerment.
Musically, Treat Myself will hear Trainor dabbling in fresh new sounds to mirror the star’s happiness. “I did a lot of upbeat! I love dancing, I love upbeat dance songs that you can play at my wedding. I wanna play my whole album at my wedding and that’s what I’m focusing on now. I’ve dipped into my love for ABBA with extra harmonies and big big choruses and I mixed that with disco feels, and my ‘90s NSYNC, Destiny’s Child, and then with my doo-wopy background just smothering each song and every song. I wanted it to sound like ear candy, just easy to listen to and sing back.”
Excitingly, Trainor then divulges about an untitled bop from the album which she believes could be a potential big hit: “I’m finna have it as my single but like, everyone’s gotta agree you know… it’s a team effort.” The song in question “is housey,” Trainor reveals: “I am a sucker for house beats. And I couldn’t find anyone to produce it like that until I met The Futuristics and it was awesome and it’s my new favorite song.”
When it comes to Treat Myself’s creative process, Trainor mentions that she’s had “so much freedom. I get to write as long as I want, and I get to just keep creating and no one’s telling me ‘you have to put it out right now… Or else’ which is such a blessing from my label and my team.” According to Trainor, Treat Myself is very much a family affair too, much more so than her previous works.
“I also got to put my family on the backgrounds of my songs, which just happened randomly; I was like ‘hey I need a choir and I don’t have time to go get one, can you sing for me?’ and they were so good that I was like ‘alright, every song, you have to sing backgrounds on’ and so now this album is like, extra important to me because I want the whole world to hear my family singing and my husband singing cause he’s got a voiiiiice” she says while laughing.
The album is a personally significant release for the multi-platinum artist, as it follows her successful vocal chord surgery which almost threatened her reign as one of the world’s leading pop stars. “It was kinda weird making this album because I was so happy and in love and all I could take from my experiences was ‘after surgery,’” she shares.
I put a scenario forward: if that surgery hadn’t been successful and she couldn’t sing anymore, would she have considered a career solely as a songwriter for other artists? “Oh yeah, absolutely!” she begins. “That’s always in the back of my head because songwriting was first for me, and my dad always reminds me if I’m having a tough day on the job, he’s like ‘just remember, you can always stop being the pop star and go back to writing songs for everyone, like, people definitely know your name now so you’ll be successful!’
It is terrifying to go under surgery and you’re signing a paper that says ‘if I never have a voice again, it’s not your fault.’ And then after the surgery, you can’t speak for four weeks, so there’s a whole month of not knowing if you’re gonna sing again, and I remember the first day they asked me to sing– I cried in fear because I couldn’t do it. I was like ‘oh God, I don’t know what I’m gonna sound like!”
It seems that threat to her career was a contributing factor behind the development of her anxiety and depression and consequently the driving force behind wanting her album to be all about positivity and “treats.“ When asked what she hopes to achieve by openly speaking about her battle with these struggles, Trainor explains that it’s to help educate people about mental health and to be a guiding light to her fans.
“When I was deep in my anxiety, I went online and tried to do some research because I was uneducated. Carson Daly did a video that explained exactly how I felt for months, and Icouldn’t explain it to my own parents– like, they didn’t understand when I was like ‘my head’s on fire, my back feels like someone has a flame to it’ or ‘I have nausea and I don’t know why’ and it was just because my adrenals were all messed up. Hearing Carson Daly explain exactly how I felt was better than a doctor; it was like ‘Oh, a regular human being who is in the industry feels like I do’ and I told him ‘you don’t know how much that saved me and made me feel relieved and calmed me down.’ So, while I’m writing my album I wanted to do that for my fans, cause they talk all the time on Instagram about how they are depressed this week or they’ve lost an aunt and it’s been really tough on them and I just hope that some of my songs and me talking about it can help them with their issues.”
There’s also a specific quote from Trainor’s dad which gets her through dark days: “My dad always says, ‘well life will get better if you let it.’ And it’s so true! Because it could be the worst day of your life but if you try to stay positive, you can change how your whole body feels and anything going on, you can make it better with your mental state just by staying positive.”
With that in mind, Treat Myself also has quite a literal meaning– Trainor has “so many” top treats for herself which elevates her health and wellbeing, she says. “I have been trying to workout and eat really well for my mental health and my physical health. But you know, you should get a cheat day every once in a while,” Trainor explains with a giggle. “When we do, our big favorite thing is acai bowls because they’re like ice cream mixed with berries, which is like sugary and granola, and it’s bomb. Also a massage from Daryl– he’s literally rubbing my feet right now, so cute! Oh and getting my nails done, I always feel like that’s my spa day.”
We chat about the feminist, anti-sexist message behind the album’s lead single “No Excuses,” released earlier this year. “I wanna say something important that actually helps people and has a positive message and a strong message,” Trainor declares.
“I had personal experiences with this message and I wrote it in this song in a half hour and knew it was important, in that it would relate to a lot of women and men around the world. I knew that’s what I wanted to come out with first; a big, sassy anthem about empowering myself and respect! We need more respect!”
This leads into some commentary from Trainor about the representation of women in music at the moment. “I feel like all women in music right now are slaying but there just needs to be more of us. I would love to see more songwriters. I’m so used to– and I hate that I can say I’m used to– like, when they set me up with a producer: it’s a man, it’s always a man. I recently wrote with a woman and she was a producer, and I just hugged her and I was like ‘you’re the first female producer I’ve ever gotten to work with and I need more of you,’ like, this is so sad. And so I just want to see more of us all over, even in the entertainment industry in general: more directors, more executives.”
In a moment of further female solidarity, Trainor expresses gratitude towards three of her pop star peers Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, and Selena Gomez, who are similarly just as vocal about their personal battles as Trainor is. “Those three particular girls have been through so much and I just really look up to all of them and how strong they are and how they can continue their careers and still do this,” Trainor explains.
“There are some days in this position when you’re like ‘is this all worth it? Should I like, go take care of myself for a minute and all the hard work I’ve done– just throw it all away?’ and they just keep pushing, and that really keeps me pushing, and I hear them in interviews say they surround themselves with good people and that’s what I try to do.”
Trainor also hints at an upcoming world tour, something she hasn’t embarked on since 2015. “We haven’t started the plan but I know when this album comes out, I think we’re gonna jump right into a big tour, and hopefully start overseas first and then go to America.” In a charming British accent, Trainor states she’d “like to go to London” first. “Those fans are the loudest and have been very supportive, and some of my main fans that I have remained friends with over the years are both British, both in London and yeah, they’re extra loud, I like that, I feel safe” she shares.
It’s extremely clear that Trainor respects and loves her Megatrons as much as they do her. When asked which aspect of the music industry she finds the most exciting, Trainor instantaneously declares “the fans. Seeing the fans at every show freaking out. I’ve recently done shows where these young girls, I would reach out for them and they would just start bawling, and I was like oh my God, I didn’t know I was that impactful in their lives and that made it so special and showed me ‘oh, I have to keep doing this for them.’ Thanks for encouraging me to keep going. Thanks for always helping me out on Instagram whenever I’m negative. Thanks for reminding me of all the positives and how cool my life is, and it’s because of them, so a big fat thank you to all the Megatrons and I just love you so much,” Trainor enthuses.
Despite building up such a solid and loyal fanbase during her five years as an international pop star, it’s intriguing to hear that Trainor still feels that she has a lot to learn about her career and that she’s “constantly learning and working harder and harder at every performance. My father always told me, ‘after five years you’ll finally figure it out’ and I keep telling him that in these last months I’m like ‘hey I don’t have anything figured out. Give me five more years.’” It’s an honest insight and a reminder of Trainor’s relatability, which is what helped catapult her to superstardom in the first place.
“I’m coming back– aggressively,” Trainor concludes about what the next year looks like for her. “I’m coming back to promote and touring the world and the album will finally be released – isn’t that right, manager?! Yup. Thumbs up from my manager.” All aboard the M Train!
Article initially published in print, December 2018