Meghan Trainor’s debut hit “All About That Bass” is more than a pop song with an infectious beat. Its message of self-acceptance is also helping it soar. “I’m here to tell you that every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top!,” Trainor sings in “Bass,” which mixes its moral with a satisfyingly complex tropical and retro-R&B/Motown blend.
The recipe is clearly working: “Bass” ranks at No. 54 on the Aug. 2 Billboard Hot 100, up from its No. 84 debut the week before, fueled by a 63 percent rise to 64,000 downloads sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It also enters the Aug. 9 Pop Songs airplay chart at No. 37.
Further proof of (and an extra catalyst for) its popularity: “Obsessed with Meghan Trainor’s ‘all about that bass’!!!!,” Colbie Caillat Tweeted on July 19. “(That booty booty, that booty booty) ;)”
The 20-year-old Trainor chatted with Billboard by phone from Los Angeles. Now based in Nashville, she’s originally from the island of Nantucket, off the Massachusetts coast. She beamed about how thankful she is that “Bass,” co-written with and produced by Kevin Kadish, is not only quickly scaling multiple charts, but also making those entranced by it feel even better about themselves.
Billboard: In a rarity among musical artists, you’re from Nantucket. You must have fond memories of growing up in such a picturesque place.
Trainor: I love it. I was born and raised there. I went to school there up until high school, when we moved to the Cape [Cod], although we kept our house [on Nantucket], so we would go back and forth.
Radio was my life growing up. Then, I started in our family band with my uncle, my father, my aunt and my little brother. We would go to The Chicken Box and all the bars and play. Those are the main places there for music.
My uncle is from Trinidad, so, ever since I was 7, I grew up listening to Soca, the genre that’s from there. It’s my favorite sound. So, we put a band together and we would play Soca … and then I would go up and play my little pop songs (laughs). It was fun!
What got you to Nashville, especially at a fairly young age?
My parents would take me to songwriting conventions all over, [to] Colorado and Los Angeles … In Colorado – it was random – a country music publisher was there and she heard me. She decided to sign me right out of high school.
I was living with my parents until I was 19 and then I said, “Guys, it’s too hard to travel to LA from this island. It’s an all-day process and I’m getting tired!” So, I said, “Let’s move closer.” They liked Nashville, and my publisher was in Nashville, so I already had a base there. I love Nashville.
How has it been going from tranquil Nantucket to bustling Nashville? The opportunities to co-write must be amazing.
I’ve written two songs for Rascal Flatts’ Rewind album with Jesse Fraser and Shay Mooney [of Dan + Shay], “DJ Tonight” and “I Like the Sound of That.” It was our biggest dream come true.
Is it a stretch for you, as largely a pop artist, to write for a country act?
Since my father is a musician, as well, he taught me growing up that if you can play jazz, you can learn all instruments and write on them. He wanted me to be a songwriter that can do anything in any genre. I’m all about doing every genre.
So, at one point he said, “Girl, give me some country cuts!” I said, “All right, Dad, I’ll get you those country cuts, not a problem!” When I found out that Rascal Flatts was going to record those two songs, I called him up and said, “Dad, I got those country cuts you wanted. I did it!” (laughs) He was like, “Yes!”
So that helps explain how “All About That Bass” is a bit hard to categorize, sonically. Please give us the origins of the song, especially the chorus, which has a bit of a ’50s/’60s doo-wop feel and really doesn’t sound like anything else that’s on pop radio right now.
That’s the best part. I remember when we pitched it as songwriters, everyone was like, “The chorus isn’t a big chorus.” You know how every pop song has that huge chorus? We were like, “No, that’s the catchiest part of the song! That’s our chorus and we don’t want to change it.”
So we kept it, and that’s everyone’s favorite part.
The title, and its imagery, is pretty fun, too. How’d you come up with it?
You know how the bass guitar in a song is like its “thickness,” the “bottom”? I kind of related a body to that. My producer [Kadish] had the title and said that none of his prior co-writers could figure out what to relate that to. So, I said, “What about a booty? Let’s talk about that!” (laughs)
From there, it turned into, let’s do a song about loving your body … and your booty.
You’ve caused a bit of stir with one of the song’s lyrics: “I’m bringing booty back. Go ahead and tell them skinny b—-es!”
Even with some of the “hate” comments I’ve seen, they’ve gotten a conversation going. But, I’m not bashing skinny girls. Some girls have commented, “I’m a size zero, so you must hate me.” But that’s not it at all!
There have been battles on my YouTube page, like, “You don’t know what she’s talking about. She’s actually saying, ‘I know even you skinny girls struggle’.” And that’s exactly how I feel.
Overall, the song’s message seems to be resonating so positively. Colbie Caillat has even Tweeted how much she likes it.
I cried when she Tweeted that, because I’m the biggest Colbie Caillat fan evah!
I wrote it for me, as well, because I’ve struggled with [body image] since I was very young. And, my best friend is a beautiful goddess, but she’ll pick on herself in the mirror. “My forehead’s too big,” or, “My shoulders go out too far …”
So, if other girls can relate to the song, it makes me feel even better. It’s unreal that I’m kind of helping people.
Promoting positive body image in songs is a bit of a trend now, with your song, Caillat’s new single “Try” and John Legend’s new “You & I (Nobody in the World)” all having videos praising natural beauty.
I saw a feature on The Ellen DeGeneres Show about that model who was Photoshopped to have extra-long arms. I was like, this is getting out of control. Someone needs to say something!
So, when I got my record deal, and with this song, I was like, perfect, I have the opportunity to say something to the world. I’ll take it. This is the best message I could say.