In less than six months, Meghan Trainor’s off-the-rails megahit “All About That Bass” has doo-wopped its way into our workout playlists, two Grammy Award nominations, heated contention over its pseudo-feminist messaging, and more than 460 million YouTube hits. But, contrary to popular belief, the Nantucket-bred 21 year old—who only signed with Epic Records last February after reportedly playing the ditty on a ukulele for label CEO L.A. Reid, and whose debut album is out next week—didn’t handcraft the catchy earworm by herself. Instead, she enlisted the services of Kevin Kadish, a lady-whispering, 43-year-old, Grammy-nominated songwriter who has previously penned tracks for Miley Cyrus, Victoria Justice, and Stacie Orrico. When we caught up with Kadish, who lives in Nashville with his wife, Brandon Jane of the country duo Coldwater Jane, and their 2-year-old daughter, he was happy to chat about his feminine side, the cultural impact of what he calls his “water cooler” song, and all those damn haters:
You co-wrote both “All About That Bass” and its follow up, “Lips Are Movin.” How does a dude write songs that resonate so deeply with a female audience?
A lot of my successes, actually, come from writing for young girls. To be honest, I don’t understand it either! I had two fairly popular pop songs for Stacie Orrico—one called “(There’s Gotta Be) More to Life” and one called “Stuck,” which was her first single. Those were not necessarily feminist anthems, but honestly, “All About That Bass” was originally just a song for Meghan. Maybe I’m just in touch with my feminine side? I don’t really know what that means…
Did Meghan come up with the bass-treble metaphor—or was that all you?
I had the title. I had the drumbeat up and I told her the title, and she just started going, ‘Because you know I’m all about the—’” She just started riffing on that. It was sort of organic! It wasn’t over thought; we were just having fun. It was one of the most fun writing sessions I’ve ever had. And subsequently, a lot of the writing sessions with her since then have been sort of the same. “Lips Are Moving,” you know, we wrote that in eight minutes.
I read that! How does that even happen?
Well, I had the track built. She was on a conference call in the live room, and I had a bunch of lyrics written down. We were kind of going through something on the business side—and we were kind of going through it together. It was sort of a Sara Bareilles “[Not Gonna Write You a] Love Song” sort of thing, which was actually about her record label. I started writing down these lines and I turned around the computer to show her what I was writing and she said, ‘That is what we’re writing today.’ It’s a lot easier to write a song when you know what the destination is. It’s sort of like vacation. You don’t just get in the car and drive, right?
So you have to stay focused. Because when you look at these songs, the lyrics are pretty lean…
Totally, but they also achieve what so few songs about this topic have achieved: viral popularity.
That’s a result, I think, of us not overthinking it. We weren’t acting like professional songwriters. We were just writing a song to write a song. We were just being creative and, honestly, we never thought this song would be on the radio. We never thought anyone would hear the song.
I’ve heard that Beyoncé passed on the song. Is that true?
No. I think people were speculating on who could have possibly done this song because it’s about being proud of your body—or your booty—whatever you want to call it. Like, ‘Who could sing that kind of song? Oh, Beyoncé could sing that kind of song.’ That sounds to me like something a publisher could have said. That’s not something that I ever thought or said.
When you hear “All About That Bass” on the radio, do you wish you could change anything about it?
I love it the way it is. I wouldn’t change anything. Here’s the thing: People came to me and were like, ‘You need to change the track to get it cut.’ And I was like, ‘What are you talking about? You obviously don’t understand the song if you want me to change it.’
What changes were recommended?
They wanted it to be more synth-pop. But there’s no Auto-Tune on the track. There’s no synth on the track. It’s minimal production. It’s kind of like the ’50s with hip hop programming. It’s a little atypical for what you’re hearing on the radio. It’s sort of the anti-David Guetta. But now, looking at the charts, all I see is Taylor Swift, [Mark Ronson’s] “Uptown Funk,” [Hozier’s] “Take Me to Church,” and Meghan.
I didn’t either. But that song has been out for a while. It’s taken a really long time. You know what I think it is? It’s cool. And [Grammy] voting members want to be perceived as cool, like, Oh, well, I voted for ‘Take Me to Church.’ I mean, I like the song too. It’s cool. But did it have the cultural impact that “All About That Bass” had? I mean, it’s a water cooler song. People go to work and talk about it at the water cooler. A friend, who is a big manager in New York, said, ‘Look, you didn’t write the fourth single off of Demi Lovato’s album. This song changed the way 13-year-old girls look at themselves in the mirror.’ And to me, that was super heavy.
Not to ruffle feathers, but there is that line, ‘Boys like a little more booty to hold at night…’
I mean, different guys like different things. There’s gonna be a guy out there who’s gonna like that girl. When we say, ‘Boys like a little more booty to hold at night,’ it’s like, some guys do! Some guys don’t, but I mean, there’s no rule. There’s a certain point where, I think magazines and television dictate what is attractive. Like Kate Upton and Kate Moss are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum, but there’s a man for each of them, you know? There are real problems in the world. Why people are obsessing over the lyrics in a song is beyond me. Like, you have ISIS; you have terrorist threats because of a movie; there are people who are starving; and then there’s Ebola. And people are obsessing over a lyric in a song that was made for entertainment? I mean, I’m not belittling what I do for a living, but if you want something to get fired up about, get fired up about sex trafficking or something that’s important.
Your wife, Brandon, is a musician. Does she vet your songs for you?
Yes. At the end of the day, I played the song for my wife. And she was like, ‘Girls are gonna love this.’ Actually, this is funny: Miranda Lambert heard the song before Meghan even had a record deal because my sister-in-law is married to Miranda’s personal trainer. Miranda heard the song over a year ago. And then when it came to the CMA’s she was like, ‘Oh! Let’s do that song.’ So it’s kind of full circle.
“All About That Bass” is kind of having a “Call Me Maybe Moment” right now. What will happen when the hype dies down?
I don’t think it’s “Call Me Maybe.” I think it’s closer to [Amy Winehouse’s] “Rehab.” I think it’s a song that’s going to live for a long time. I think it’s like “I Like Big Butts.” I think it’s a song that’s going to come on during bar mitzvahs and people are gonna be like, ‘Aw! That’s my jam!’ It’s the kind of song will put you back in the place you were in when you heard it.