Singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor speaks out about the crippling panic attacks and anxiety that overwhelmed her following two operations on her vocal cords, and shining an authentic and endearing light on how mental illness can affect anyone, no matter their situation...
It’s a weekday afternoon in December, in the corner of a low-lit bar at London’s Langham Hotel, and against a background hubbub of festive celebrations, Meghan Trainor is pouring hot water on to a bag of herbal tea, while revealing that her new husband might just be the world’s most perfect man.
“I am way too lucky. I got the best guy in the world and more,” she says, an ear-to-ear grin spreading across her face.
“I didn’t know men could be so emotionally intelligent, and know how you’re feeling at all times.”
Today, actor Daryl Sabara, known best for his role in the Spy Kids film series, has come up trumps. He’s accompanied Massachusetts-born singer Meghan on a three-day trip to London from Los Angeles to promote her new album, Treat Myself, and The Voice UK, her new TV gig alongside fellow mentors Olly Murs, will.i.am, and Sir Tom Jones. While he’s not here during our chat, he’s arranged for Throat Coat tea bags to be delivered to our table. It’s sweet, thoughtful and, from the look of Meghan, who is huddled up in an oversized coat, exactly what she needs.
“I’m so tired, my body’s kind of crashing because of jet lag and exhaustion,” she confirms, leaning forward to inhale the fragrant steam from the tea, a blend favoured by singers for vocal TLC. “He knows I need to drink this.”
I offer that being so cared for, especially in the midst of a relentless work schedule – today Meghan’s completed a photoshoot, another interview, is dashing to Radio 1 after we wrap before finishing the day in the Happiful studio – must make her feel safe.
“I feel safe, protected, and loved super hard,” says Meghan of the man she wed in December 2018, on her 25th birthday, one year after he proposed. The couple met in July 2016 on a blind date set up by their mutual friend, actress Chloë Grace Moretz, and are, Meghan insists, “soulmates”. Is there a secret to the strength of their bond?
“There is something that Daryl and I do that I’ve never done with other people, and that’s complete 100% honesty – talking to each other, communication – and that transparency is everything. We really care about each other as humans,” says Meghan, who has previously revealed she “never really felt sexy with guys before” meeting Daryl, who is “obsessed” with “every inch” of her body. And every day her new husband persuades her to feel her best.
“He makes me go to the mirror and say, ‘My name’s Meghan Trainor and I’m beautiful, and I deserve to be loved’,” says Meghan, stifling a giggle. “He’ll catch me when I’m running out the door and be like ‘Hey! Look in the mirror!’ But it helps because I’m like: ‘That’s right, I’m awesome! Let’s go!’”
From the moment Meghan burst into public consciousness five years ago with ‘All About That Bass’, encouraging women to shake their butts and feel good while doing it, she became a global poster girl for body confidence and acceptance. The track shot to number one in 58 countries, and challenged stereotypes by celebrating men and women with fuller figures.
Since then, she has left nothing of herself in the wings with her soul-baring lyrics, which commonly promote healthy self-confidence in her fans. So it’s intriguing to discover, from this mirror mantra story, that her self-esteem is still a work in progress.
I write my songs very much to myself. They’re to remind myself to take care of myself, to love myself, and to be kind to myself
“That’s who I want to be,” she says. “I write my songs very much to myself. I hope I’m helping strangers too, but they’re to remind myself to take care of myself, to love myself, and to be kind to myself. Sometimes I’m feeling really hot, sometimes – once a month – I’m not. When I play those songs, I’m like ‘For these three minutes, I am a queen’, and I’m loving myself and it’s awesome.”
The songs she references are from Treat Myself, which dropped in January 2020, almost four years after the release of her last album, and it’s some of her best work – raw and honest, yet still trademark Trainor fun. During the three-year writing process she “adopted two dogs, got married [and] had time for myself”, the latter being shorthand for a deeply personal journey of recovery after a second emergency vocal cord operation in December 2016, 10 months after she won a Grammy for Best New Artist, left her so anxious about the future of her music career she sought therapy.
“I thought, ‘It’s over, I’m not going to sing ever again,’” explains Meghan. “I went full dive into the dark zone of deep thoughts.”
Shortly before the second procedure – 17 months after the first – she endured her first anxiety attack, backstage at America’s CBS This Morning show before appearing live to announce the 2017 Grammy nominations.
“I was so tired and had vocal issues. I looked at my schedule and thought, ‘I’m not going to make it, I’m going to lose my voice.’ I started hyperventilating, crying hard, and shaking. I kept saying: ‘What’s happening?’ It rocked me,” she recalls.
A friend in Meghan’s dressing room, familiar with panic attacks, encouraged her to focus on surrounding objects and name them one-by-one. “It calmed me down,” she recalls. “When it finally settled after 20 minutes, I was like ‘So that’s what it is?’”
Initially, Meghan struggled to deal with her reality. Even researching “anxiety attack” on the internet had the power to trigger an episode.
“One night I looked up ‘explain what an anxiety attack is’ on TED Talks, and within four seconds I fell over and was like, ‘Oh God, shut it off!’ I couldn’t hear about it for a long time.”
Meghan became a prisoner of her own thoughts, a problem worsened by weeks of enforced silence – firstly to heal her haemorrhaging vocal cords to avoid permanent damage and proceed with surgery, then for weeks during recovery. The isolation was crippling.
“Imagine not being able to speak, or hum, or cough, or laugh – it numbs you,” explains Meghan. “You can’t get excited, you can’t get mad, and you can’t tell your favourite person in the world that you love them.”
To read more of Meghan's exclusive chat with us, where she shares how she discovered self-love, pick up the February issue of Happiful in our shop now, or in supermarkets from Thursday 23 January, or subscribe to read for free online.
Meghan’s album ‘Treat Myself’ is out 31 January. Follow her on Instagram
@meghan_trainor, and watch her as a judge on ITV’s ‘The Voice’.