Meghan Trainor On 'The Love Train' EP and Her Songwriting Evolution: 'This Is What I Want My Music to Sound Like'
Love is in the air for Meghan Trainor: The singer married actor Daryl Sabara last December on her 25th birthday, and their relationship inspired several on song’s on Trainor’s new EP, The Love Train, which arrives today (Feb. 8) — just in time for Valentine’s Day next week, of course.
Trainor describes the six-song project — which also features last year’s “All the Ways” — as something of an appetizer to her upcoming full-length, Treat Myself, which was originally slated for last month. As she continued to hit the studio after sharing the LP’s first few tracks, Trainor has found herself with more unreleased songs than she knows what to do with. “My dad also said there’s way too many love songs on my album, so I tried to split it up,” she says, laughing. “I put them on a cute little EP just to let people know music is still coming — here’s a little taste of what this is going to look like and sound like.”
Below, Trainor tells Billboard about how the project came together, the real-life moments that inspired her songs and what advice she has for this year’s best new artist winner at the Grammys.
Valentine’s Day is approaching, and you’re a newlywed, so I see where these songs are coming from. But what made you decide to put them together as an EP on their own at this time?
It was very quick, it was a couple weeks ago. [My team and I] were talking about the album and putting it together, and we had too many songs, but we all loved those songs. We thought, “We can’t just put these on a shelf or throw them away, we need these songs to live!” They’re so personal to me, they’re exactly how I feel right now — I’m in love and got married and all this stuff. So my manager suggested, “Why don’t we we try to [put them out] on Valentine’s Day? I don’t know a lot of artists who have tried that before.”
How does the content of these songs line up with milestones in your own life? Like, did you write “Marry Me” as you were getting ready to get married?
Oh, it was very aggressive, it was our one-month anniversary of dating. I went on tour as soon as I met him, so I invited him on tour, and he lived with me on tour. Our first weeks and months of dating were like, “Let’s live together on the road.” So it was very, very fast. Everything was right way. I remember we said “I love you” very early, but it was meant to me.
I remember he mentioned something to me before I wrote this song, like, “I can see a future with you,” and I laughed in his face: “You wanna marry me!” [Laughs] That was on our one-month anniversary. I sat down with my ukulele in our hotel room and wrote that song. I didn’t think the world would ever hear it, but I actually walked down the aisle to it for my wedding.
At what point did you play him the song?
Oh, he was sitting there in awe. It was like the first song I wrote in front of his face.
How often do you write something in a song only for it to happen to you in real life later?
I manifest stuff all the time with my songs, it's really creepy! We were just talking about this yesterday — how I wrote a song called “Hopeless Romantic” on my second album before I got to go on a date with Daryl. [The lyrics] are like, “I bet I met you at a party before, you were sweet and I should've gotten your number.” I always thought that, like, what if I already met my soulmate and I just missed my chance? And so when we got to go on our first date, I was like, ”Oh my God, I went to a party with you like two years ago!“ And he remembered me somehow, so that was one of those moments. And I think my ”Marry Me“ song was me being like, ”You better marry me!“ [Laughs] It worked!
“All the Ways” sounds a bit like a modern-day ABBA song to me, and “After You” has this subtle ‘80s vibe to it. Were those the eras you were hoping to evoke?
Yeah, you nailed — it was ABBA. “I’m Down” and “All the Ways” have these big choruses, and I love how ABBA just have big, fun, beautiful choruses with extra harmonies. That's my jam. The hardest part of me going in was like, “How do I make this not cheesy?” I would tell [my producers], “Here’s a melody I hear in my head, should it be a guitar or a synth? What would be less cheesy?” I said, “I want it to be iconic, and I want people to play this in 30 years and be like, ‘You know what, that’s still a jam.’” And they did a great job with that. They listened, which was really nice.
They’re all from personal experiences. With “All the Ways,” I was on the couch with him one night and was like, “Do you love me?” And he said yes, and I said, “Tell me all the ways,” and he said “All the ways,” and I laughed so hard. I thought it was the funniest thing, ‘cause he’s not that funny, so it was a win for him. [Laughs] And then the next day I was like, “How do we put this cute line in the song and make everyone get it?” I think Daryl’s actually singing on the song, with my brothers and my mom.
Your last album had a song that featured your mom, and one of the new songs on the EP, “Good Morning,” features your dad. You’re putting the whole family to work!
They're so good! With my dad, I always wanted him to play on a song for me. He's doing another one for me soon for the album. This song at the time was going to be on the main album, and everyone loved it, [so we thought] “We just gotta put it out earlier on the EP!” And my dad's playing organ on it, and he's killing it.
Is it just your immediate family? Do you have cousins on your list next?
Yeah, they're excited! My little cousin's actually a dancer, and he's all over my Instagram. He's like, “I'm ready for an awards show,” and I'm like, “Okay! He's ready!”
You mentioned that the lyrics for “All the Ways” came directly out of a conversation you were having. Does that happen often?
Oh yeah, I'm that obnoxious person. I'm always like, “There's a song in that!” I write down everything. In the beginning of dating him, he would just say romantic things to me, and I would just turn over and be like, “I need my phone, get my phone!” And now he knows — when I'm freaking out, he'll throw a phone at me and go, “Here you go, record it.” So we did that all the time. “I'm Down” was us in the first six days of dating. We were too scared to say “I love you,” so we would always say like, “I'm down,” like, “I'm down to date you and be your girlfriend, I'm down.” And then before we said “I wanna marry you,” we're like, “I'm down for life.”
How has your songwriting process changed since your first album? Do you approach writing sessions differently than you used to?
I've always been told that I'm very fast when writing a song — like, I want it done by dinner time. I'm pretty aggressive. I know what I want, and I'll be like, “Play it like this!” Or “I'll play it for you!” Or “Record me!” I'll just run and be like, “You want the vocal down? Okay, let's go!” And I definitely still do that. But a lot of times I’ll get so inspired nowadays with concepts, which used to be my weakest link, and now it’s one of my favorite parts: How can I say something important in this three-minute song? I’ll come prepared. Or if I’m really nervous, like if I’m writing with John Legend, I’ll come in with a song really prepared and play it for him like, “What do you think? Let’s change it or keep it?” Usually they like it.
From the outside, it seems like you’ve really found your groove with your sound in the past year: The songs you’ve put out these past few months — “No Excuses,” “Let You Be Right,” “Can’t Dance,” “All the Ways” — has been your strongest body of work to date, I think. Have you felt that yourself?
Dude, that's my favorite thing anyone has ever told me in the last four years. No one's ever told me that, and now you're my favorite human being of all time. 'Cause all I've been doing with this album is what I truly believe in my gut: This is what I want my music to sound like and these are the songs I love. I don't care what's playing on the radio or what they don't accept. I love this, and I'm proud to perform these songs. All these people on your team, they’re just more focused on charts and sometimes make you second-guess yourself. They'll say, “Well, I don't know if they'll play it on radio” or “I don't know if it'll be successful.” And in my heart, I'm like, “But it's a jam!” So for you to say that, it confirms in my head like, “Oh, I'm doing it right, this is what my project’s supposed to sound like.”
I’m happy to hear it! What’s the status of the proper studio album you mentioned earlier? Is it still called Treat Myself, are you still recording for it?
Yeah, I'm keeping the name and the song. I have a lot of other songs that I'm just sitting on and love so much. I think if I'm doing anymore sessions, it's just one more. I recently wrote these two big songs that I finally am like, “Okay, I can't beat this, this is perfection in my book, and the world could use this song right now to dance to.” So I have a couple of those. After this EP, we're just going to see how well it does and then follow-up with an album and then tour.
The Grammy Awards are this weekend, and you won best new artist in 2016. What advice do you have for whoever takes home that award on Sunday?
Oh, I don’t know! [Laughs] When you get a Grammy, there’s a part of you that’s like, “I can breathe now, it’s going to be so easy from here on out.” But you shouldn’t have that mentality. You should go, “Okay, I want eight more, and I’m going to work harder.” It’s not like all the doors are open. You’ve still got to right for your dreams and keep working your hardest. So enjoy every moment, soak it in, love it, and then just take that and be inspired to go twice as hard.