Meghan Trainor is running on barely any sleep, but she doesn’t mind. In the middle of getting her hair and makeup ready for the kick-off of her new tour on Thursday in Vancouver, British Columbia, the “All About That Bass” singer tells EW it was excitement, not nerves, that kept her up all night. “I was going over the dance moves in my head,” she says. “We ran the show last night for all my crew and everyone who has been working night and day to put it together. They loved it, I loved it, so I can’t wait.”
Not waiting around is kind of Trainor’s thing these days. The Untouchable Tour marks her third headlining tour in two years (though her last one was cut short by a vocal cord hemorrhage that required surgery). Her second album, this year’s Thank You, came out only 16 months after her debut — and it blew her retro-pop sound open with songs including “No” and “Me Too.” Trainer says her team is encouraging her to take a break after this tour, but she admits she has a hard time slowing down. “We have an extra ukulele on the road so I can always be writing,” she says. “Every time I take the day off I’m writing.”
Below, Trainor tells EW what to expect from her new live show, how she put together her setlist, and what she won’t leave home without.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Choreography has been a much bigger part of your live show with this album. How has it been incorporating that into your performances?
Meghan Trainor: It’s cool because my whole life I wanted to be a dancer, but I never took lessons. I was too self conscious about my dance moves. Having a professional choreographer teach me how to move on stage and how to still be comfortable and not get so winded has been really fun. It’s all my pop star dreams come true. I always watched Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and was like, “I want to dance and sing like them!” And now I get to.
Were you one of those kids who would watch MTV and push the furniture out of the way to dance when your favorite video came on?
Yeah! When I was really young. And then middle school came, the awkward phase in your life. That’s when I stopped. But when Backstreet Boys and ‘NSYNC were on, my brothers and I were always up dancing, just trying to be like them.
Do you have a squad of dancers with you on stage?
We’ve got four girls, and they’re actually some of my best friends in L.A., which is nice. One of them has been with me for every show since “All About That Bass.” Two of them were in the video. I wanted to tour with people I knew and were comfortable with. You worry [your team] will be like, “We need to clean house and get all new people.” But when you speak up and say, “Well, I really want my friends,” they’re like, “Okay, whatever you want!”
How did you go about putting your setlist together?
We had two weeks to put together this show. I was in Germany doing radio shows and was nervous about getting everything ready. I had a long ride to my show and was like, “You know what? I’m going to make my setlist right now!” I emailed it to everyone like, “This is my dream setlist, let’s try to make this real.” Obviously it’s different when you get there and hear it and see the set, but we really only changed a few things. We kept all the songs I picked, but we changed the arrangements and where they should go. It’s pretty cool to see it come to life.
Are you remixing or rearranging your older material for the show?
Yeah, Baz [Halpin], who’s an amazing creative director, brought in his whole team. I met a guy named Johnny “Natural” [Najera], who’s a big musical director, and I told him, “You can go in there and do your own thing, but I’m going to come in there and change it all up if I have to.” I told him the one thing I don’t like that [musical directors] do is when they try and re-produce the song. Don’t reproduce it, but add some love to it! He did exactly that. What I loved about Natural was that he took old songs like “Lips Are Movin” and made it sound so different, but you still get to the chorus and come back [to the original sound].
Does that make you more excited about performing your older material? I’d imagine at this point that you get to “All About That Bass” and are like, “Not this song again!”
Yeah! It’s so funny you said that. I always joke with them about “Lips Are Movin” and “All About That Bass”: “You guys made me like this song again!” They thought that was the best compliment.
Tell me about the costumes — what will you be wearing?
Right now I’m wearing a robe! The outfits are the hardest parts for me. I got the music down, I got two new horn players, whom I love. Visually, they killed it — I finally have a real screen we’re working with. But outfits came last. We’re still building them in fact. I’m pretty positive my boots don’t fit, and we’re trying to make them work. But I love that everyone heard me out when I said I’ve got to be comfortable. I’m not wearing a corset. I’ll put some Spanx on, but I ain’t gonna break my ribs. And if I’m wearing a skirt, I’m wearing shorts underneath because I don’t want any pictures of what’s going on down there. Nobody needs to be seeing that. When I met my stylist, I warned him: “Hey man, I’m not like other pop stars. I don’t want to wear a bikini on stage. I want long sleeves. I know it’s summer, but I just have to be comfortable.”
You had plans to play several instruments on this tour, including the trumpet. What’s it like juggling all that?
I wanted to, man, I tried. There was one week to realistically get the band ready with me. I told them, “I’m going to play the piano on ‘Kindly Calm Me Down,’ and then I’m going to play the drums.” I had this whole visual planned. But I really belt on that song and can’t bang on the drums while I’m doing that, so the dancers are going to play the drums. And then I was like, “Let me play the piano then.” And they’re like, “Well, the piano player can’t escape because he has eight [keyboards] surrounding him in a circle, so if you want to play, you’re going to have to crawl under there.” There were just too many technical things, but at least I have my ukulele. On another tour when we have more time to prepare, I’m going to whip out my guitar and my piano. I have my trumpet on the road, so I told them I’m going to start practicing. But I want to make sure the band sounds good and my vocals are all there before we start adding challenges.
What can you not leave home without for this tour?
My older brother! He almost didn’t come on this tour because I’ve been working him to death. He’s been filming my life and making all my Instagram videos. He didn’t go to school for that, he didn’t know how to do that, I just got him the equipment and he learned, poor kid. He’s up all night working his butt off. I was like, “You don’t have to tour if you don’t want to.” And he was like, “No, I do!” I said, “Good, because if you weren’t there, I’d probably cry every day.” He’s also my DJ. [The venues] ask you to put a playlist together for when fans walk into the venue up until you play. I was like, “Ryan, that’s all you, bro, hook it up!” He was up till 3 a.m. making it for me.
What’s on it?
I wanted a mix of everything, because I know my fans range from 4-year-olds to 70-year-olds. I told him [to] give ‘em some old, give ‘em some new, give ‘em some reggae and pop. You’ll hear T-Pain, and then you’ll hear “Get Down on It” [by Kool & the Gang].
You cut your last tour short after a vocal cord hemorrhage. Are you doing anything special to take care of your voice?
Oh yeah. I don’t know how much I believe in all that stuff, but I’m doing it just in case. I’ve got two humidifiers next to my bed. I do 40 minutes of vocal warm-ups. We try not to talk for the first two hours of the day. We’ve been working out every day, which is a blessing because nothing else makes me motivated to work out. We have all our throat sprays on the stage. And I drink a lot of water.
What are your plans for your downtime?
We have an extra ukulele on the road so I can always be writing just in case. That’s where I wrote my song for The Peanuts Movie, “Better When I’m Dancin’” — in the back of my tour bus. Usually I have a studio set-up, but there’s no time. I’ve got to make time. I talked to Ryan Tedder about that. He was like, “You’ve got to make time.”
You put out Thank You within a year and a half of Title — I think people would forgive you for taking a break.
My team has been reminding me every day, “We’re going to take a break, and it’s going to be a real break.” And I’m like, “We should write, shouldn’t we?” They’re like, “No, no, no, you’re going to stop working.” I’m like, “Okay…maybe.” Every time I take the day off I’m writing.
What are your pre-show rituals?
We’ll do meet-and-greets, which I can’t wait for because I told my team I’m wearing onesies and they all said, “Sure.” I’m going to be comfy! And then I tell my team how much I appreciate how hard they work for me and how amazing they are. I always like to give my fist-pound to everyone around me in that moment. Everything’s crazy, fans are screaming, so all we can do is smile and look at each other and give a nice fist bump.