Originally published in the December 3, 2007 issue of Country Weekly magazine.
Taylor Swift has a platinum album, award nominations and another hit song, all before she turns 18—and she’s ready for more!
It’s not so unusual—an artist has just written a new song, and wants to try it out on a captive audience. A positive reaction means it might just have hit potential.
Except that when Taylor Swift performed “Our Song” in public for the first time, she was a ninth-grader taking part in her freshman talent show. Nonetheless, she got the reaction she was hoping for.
“Months later, people would still be coming up to me and singing it,” remembers Taylor, calling from a tour stop in Alberta, Canada. “I thought, ‘You know what? They’ve only heard this once, so there must be something to this song.’”
Those kids who got “Our Song” stuck in their heads aren’t alone anymore—three years later, the tune has become the third hit from her platinum self-titled debut. A song penned when Taylor was just entering her teenage years (inspired by the same then-boyfriend about whom she wrote her debut single, “Tim McGraw”) is now a hit just as she’s about to turn 18 on Dec. 13. She’s not terribly concerned about convincing the public to begin thinking of her as an adult.
“I’m not gonna go, ‘I want you to see me as a woman now!’” she says with a chuckle. “People can think about me any way they want to—as long as they do think of me.”
Taylor is planning an 18th-birthday bash at a Nashville nightclub. “Oh my gosh, I’m so excited!” she confides. “I can’t wait. I’ve never really had a big birthday party before. I’m going to have all my friends there, and everybody that’s been so good to me in the business, and we’ll all just hang out.”
December is also an important month because that’s when Taylor will begin recording her second album. “I have 30 songs that I want to put on it, which is a little bit difficult because I can only put on 12,” she says. “I’m real excited for people to hear the new stuff.”
Even though Taylor’s life has changed completely since the release of her first album, she has no worries about fans being able to relate to her new songs just as they did to the tunes on Taylor Swift—songs she wrote when she was just another average high-schooler, albeit an exceptionally talented, ambitious and driven one.
“Once you’ve felt the emotion of being lied to or breaking up with somebody or falling in love, you can always go back and revisit those emotions and write songs about them,” figures Taylor, who’s far too busy these days for dating. “You never stop feeling those things. You just layer them with other feelings.”
While waiting for Taylor’s second album, fans can check out Sounds of the Season: The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection, a holiday EP available only at Target stores. Among the six tracks are two new songs—one written when Taylor was 12, and one penned recently—and four versions of seasonal classics. “My favorite is ‘Silent Night,’ which I reworked completely,” she notes. “I took the lyrics and created an entirely new melody. It’s like you’ve heard it before, but you haven’t.”
Also in stores now is The Taylor Swift Limited Deluxe Edition, which combines an expanded version of her first album with a DVD including videos, live performances and home video footage edited by Taylor herself on her home computer. The CD includes three new songs (“I’m Only Me When I’m With You,” “Invisible” and “A Perfectly Good Heart”), plus a recording of Taylor’s first-ever phone conversation with the namesake of her debut hit, Tim McGraw.
“The first time I talked to him, I jokingly asked if I could go out on tour with him,” she recalls with a chuckle. “I didn’t think that would be a possibility at all. I thought he’d just be like, ‘Oh, yeah, whatever.’” But a couple of weeks later, she was indeed invited to open several shows on Tim’s 2007 summer tour with wife Faith Hill.
That’s how things have been going for Taylor lately—her fondest wishes have been coming true at an alarming rate. She recently won the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s prestigious Songwriter/Artist of the Year Award, and earned nominations at the American Music Awards and the recent Country Music Association Awards. (Turn to our CMA Awards coverage on pages 36-40 to discover how she fared there.)
“The reason I’m so excited about all this is because I never expected it to actually happen,” she says. “When I was 10 years old, I’d lie awake at night and think about the roaring crowd and walking out onstage and that light hitting me for the first time. But I was always very calculated about it. I would think about exactly how I was going to get there, not just how it would feel to be there.”
Now that she’s there, she intends to stay—and she doesn’t mind working hard to make sure that happens. She just finished up several months opening for Brad Paisley’s hit Bonfires & Amplifiers Tour while playing shows of her own on her nights off. After working on her sophomore album throughout December, she’ll spend the first three months of 2008 touring colleges nationwide. “I don’t really feel the desire to rest right now,” she says. “I’m lucky enough to have all this going well, so I want to go out there and play for people. Give me a couple of days off a month and I’m good. More than that, and I just feel like I’m being lazy.”
All the effort, she admits, is well worth it to maintain and tighten the connection she shares with her ever-growing audience. “There are times when everybody in the arena is just screaming,” she says, “and I’m thinking, ‘This is exactly why I wanted to do this.’”
photos by Chris Hollo/Hollo Photographics