Meghan Trainor wasn't always all about that bass. In fact, there are still days when the songwriter-turned-star struggles to feel as confident about herself and her size as she sounds in her debut hit single.
"I'm still working on self-acceptance," the 20-year-old singer tells Huffington Post Canada.
Although she's always idly dreamed of being the one behind the microphone, Trainor focused on songwriting as a teenager — she signed her first songwriting deal at 18 — because she thought she didn't have the look or the body to be a pop star in such an image-obsessed industry.
"I think every songwriter at some second in their life wants to be an artist, wants to sing it themselves, but it doesn't work for everyone," says Trainor, who has penned songs for Rascal Flatts, among others. "I kind of shot down the idea for a couple of years, especially when I got signed as a songwriter, because I was like, 'Clearly no one else is wants me as an artist. Let's just give in. Let's just put my music out there as a songwriter. I'm down. It's fine.'"
Writing "All About That Bass" with producer Kevin Kadish changed Trainor's mind in two major ways. Coming up with those celebratory pro-booty and pro-thick(er) body lyrics helped Meghan to feel more secure about herself and the song also proved she could be a singer, landing her a contract and a number one single in the process.
"Now that I'm doing it, I'm like, ‘Man! I was always a pop star!’” she laughs. “I always had it in me. I should have been confident.”
"All About That Bass," which has been at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the past eight weeks, is the longest reigning number one hit her label Epic Records has ever had. The song's popularity has mirrored its affect on her fans in terms of self-affirmation. The outpouring of love she's received for the song, though, has come as maybe even more of a surprise than the stardom.
"I figured some girls would [connect to it], but I didn't know its significance," she admits. "They send me essays of how they'd cry every day and they'd hate themselves, or they were anorexic and they're better now and they love themselves. All because of this three-minute song I wrote. It's unbelievable. I answer everyone and I'm like, 'You’re beautiful and you've got this and I'm proud.' It's epic.”
Not everyone loves the song, or finds its message entirely positive, though. Some writers have argued that lyrics like "I’m bringing booty back / Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that / No I'm just playing" and "I won't be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll" unnecessarily denigrate women with different body types in the quest for real-women-have-curves-style celebration.
Trainor believes her critics haven't listened closely enough to what she's saying.
"It's so different and significant and when there's something big they've got to find something to pick at it," she says about the "Bass" backlash. "But the label did warn me too: The skinny bitches line. You might get a little something something. I think it's all what I expected. I think some people, when they listen to it, they just cut off the song, they don't listen to the 'No, I'm just playing' part. It just depends on the person. The best part is that the majority of people can relate to it and it's helped so that's good with me."
Besides, she’s down with the skinny bitches. "My biggest, biggest fan, she's the skinniest little thing I've ever seen and she rocks it. It's just about loving your body no matter what size."
As for the charge that lines like "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night" put too much emphasis on external validation from the opposite sex and don't value self-acceptance enough, Trainor suspects that her detractors have put more thought into the lyric than she has.
"I didn’t write the song thinking 'I'm gonna say what boys want!'" she exclaims. "I was just... 'What rhymes with the word size? Oh right! Let's say 'Boys like a booty to hold at night! It’s perfect!’ It was that.”
"All About That Bass" is only the first step in what Trainor hopes is a series of songs that address self-love. There's another song on her recently released EP, "Title," that takes the pep-talk sentiments of her first hit even further called "Close Your Eyes."
"I started writing it by myself with my guitar at home and then I brought it to the songwriter who did 'All About That Bass' and I said I wanted to the same concept, but serious. I wanted to write 'Beautiful' by Christina Aguilera, one of those. And I think I did it. A lot of people have showed me videos of them listening to the song. This one guy, it showed him crying, he said it gets him every time. So, goal accomplished. I’m so happy about it."
Trainor, like her music, is a work in progress. She says she still has moments when she feels less than perfectly confident and self-possessed, much like every other person on the planet. Writing songs that can teach both herself and her fans a lesson seems to help, though.
Her new single, "Title" continues this theme with another issue that the burgeoning star would like to change about her life: relationships. With a traditional streak that's not out of line with her retro, '60s girl group-influenced sound, Trainor is looking for a man who behaves a certain way, and she lays it all out in the track with instructions like "You gotta treat me like a trophy, put me on the shelf."
"I was really bad with the boys!" the singer confesses. "I didn't get the talk from my mom like 'Be sure he takes you out on a date.' I didn't get that. I wish I did. But now, being this person and having the label ask me 'What do you want to say to the world?' I want to work on that for me. I'm like 'What do I need to work on? Boys!'
So I wrote it as if I was already super-confident, like 'All About That Bass,' and I hope girls will hear that and be like, 'Un-uh. You have to take me on a date first because that’s what the song says.'"