Written By: Robert Cocuzzo | Photography By: Brian Sager
How Gary Trainor went from living on the rock to living like a rock star.
A year ago, Gary Trainor put his home on the market and closed up his successful jewelry store on Straight Wharf after twenty-nine years in business. He and his wife, Kelli, then moved their lives to Hollywood at the behest of their daughter, the international pop sensation Meghan Trainor. Ever since joining her on the red carpet at the Grammys in 2015, Gary Trainor has become something of a celebrity in his own right—appearing in music videos and shoe commercials, and dancing on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans. It’s a life the sixty-nine-year-old never could have imagined. But sitting outside his old jewelry store during a recent visit to the island, Gary Trainor is the same affable guy with the megawatt smile who played the organ every Sunday for nearly thirty years at Nantucket United Methodist Church.
“We’ve seen three or four parents that have taken an active role in managing their child,” Gary says. “I haven’t seen a great deal of success with that.” Instead, Gary has left his daughter’s business in the hands of professionals while he and his family enjoy the extraordinary ride of her catapulting career. Meghan Trainor literally set a Guinness World Record for the speed of her ascent to stardom when her breakout single “All About That Bass” topped the charts in London before it was even available for purchase. “They put that song out in June,” Gary says. “By September, she was an international pop star.”
As Meghan’s fame took off into the stratosphere, she pulled her family in tighter and tighter. Her brothers moved into her mansion in Hollywood, with the eldest, Ryan, managing her social media and behind-the-scenes video production. She spent over a year trying to convince her parents to join them in California, but Gary was reluctant to close the business he’d spent decades creating on Nantucket. When he was approached by two of his longtime employees, sisters Katie Denny and Megan Pearson, to take over the business under a new name, Jewel in the Sea, Gary finally agreed to head west. Today, he still owns the building of his former jewelry store as well as his home on the island, which he took off the market and now rents to the store’s new owners.
Now living a short drive from their children in Hollywood, the Trainors see each other four days a week, with Sundays devoted entirely to family time. “Meghan embraces her family,” Gary says. “Even in her professional life, she tries to involve her parents.” For Gary, this has meant cameos in Skechers sneaker commercials and Meghan’s music videos. When she toured her Thank You album, Gary made surprise appearances on stage to the delight of the audiences while she sang her hit “Dance Like Your Daddy.”
But of all the memories Gary cherishes, none will top the Grammys, at which he was his daughter’s date two years in a row. Last year, Meghan took home the Grammy for Best New Artist. “I leaned over to her and said, ‘Baby, you made it,’” Gary remembers. “I tear up just thinking about it.” From then on, his daughter would be introduced as Meghan Trainor, the Grammy Award winner.
Gary and Kelli never could have predicted Meghan’s extraordinary path to stardom when they were raising her on Nantucket. “She grew up with the boys,” Gary says. “You put her in the room with forty guys and she was very, very comfortable. You put her in a room with six girls she went to high school with and she’d be a nervous wreck.” Meghan was a talented athlete growing up and never shied away from mixing it up with the boys. “She played football until the eighth grade at the Boys and Girls Club,” he says. “She hiked the ball and her brother Ryan was the quarterback—it was the cutest thing I ever saw.”
Beyond her transformation from tomboy to pop icon, Gary didn’t anticipate how Meghan would break through the insurmountable rigors of making it to the big time. He knew those rigors personally. “I traveled on the road for seven years as an entertainer but I didn’t have stars in my eyes,” Gary says. “I knew my limitations as a musician and as a performer and never saw myself as a superstar.” Instead, Gary taught music on the island for seven years until a bad motorcycle accident prompted him to switch to a profession that allowed him to sit. He studied watch repair and then jewelry making, which ultimately led to Jewel of the Isle on Straight Wharf. “I really enjoyed it,” he says. “I’d probably still be in business, but Meghan really wanted us out there.”
Gary beams with unmistakable pride when talking about not only his daughter’s accomplishments, but the manner in which she’s achieved them. Beyond earning her chops as a musician and businessperson, Meghan has also emerged as an outspoken role model for millions of young girls and women. When producers photo-shopped one of her music videos to make her look thinner, Meghan demanded that the video be taken down and returned to the original. (The story went viral and inadvertently multiplied the music video’s number of views.)
Awash in flashbulbs and with millions of fans around the globe, Meghan seems to have stayed grounded by keeping her family close. And it comes through in her music. “You look out into the audience and it was packed with families,” Gary says. “Whether you’re two years old or ninety-four, parents, kids, adults — her audience crosses over generations. That’s the sweetest thing.” As for his future on stage, Gary Trainor doesn’t look to be getting off the M Train any time soon. He’s ready and eager for his next cue, playing the greatest role of his life: Dad.
Special thanks to Tony Sharrio of Baubles Fine Jewelry for coordinating this story with Gary Trainor.