Who’s the biggest new female artist of 2007? In at least one sense, and possibly a couple of others, it would have to be country upstart Taylor Swift. Literally, for starters: At 5’11”, she’s hard for anyone to measure up to — even Amy Winehouse on a full towering-beehive day. And at age 17, she’s sold more than a million copies of her self-titled and largely self-penned debut album, which was released when she was 16. (With sales consistently averaging between 30-40K a week, double platinum is a foregone conclusion by the end of the year.) Her two singles have gone like gangbusters, too, with ”Tim McGraw” selling more than 625,000 as a digital download and ”Teardrops on My Guitar,” the follow-up, selling 457,000 so far. Only Miley Cyrus, a.k.a. Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana, can match that, but Swift has done it without the benefit of massive TV exposure.
She’s currently on tour in amphitheaters, opening for Brad Paisley. ”Taylor Swift was one that I called my manager when I heard her album and said, ‘We have to get her out on tour,”’ says Paisley. ”And for her to have written that record at 16, it’s crazy how good it is. I figured I’d hear it and think, ‘Well, it’s good for 16’ — but it’s just flat-out good for any age.”
EW sat down with Swift recently for a piece in our Spotlight pages; here’s some more of that chat.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tim McGraw told me the only thing he was worried about when he heard about your song was that it might be taking a shot at him.
TAYLOR SWIFT: That would probably be the only thing I would worry about too, if [there were] a song called ”Taylor Swift,” that they weren’t making fun of me, like that ''Go Away Paris Hilton'' song. ”Go Away Taylor” — as long as it wasn’t that, it would be fine.
You’ll probably be a multiple nominee at the CMAs this fall.
I have all these countdowns on my phone for the CMAs and all the awards shows. I get so excited about these things because I love to dress up. But I wear cowboy boots so that when I walk down the stairs I won’t fall. I have this fear of falling in front of large groups of people. That’s why I tend not to wear heels.
I was going to ask if you wear heels often, since that might make you a pretty towering presence.
Exactly. I’m 5’11”, so when I wear heels, it’s definitely a really good view that I have. I’m like 6’2 when I wear heels, so I tend to wear cowboy boots a lot.
Going back a few years, since you’re such a veteran in many aspects of this, even at 17: You had your first songwriting deal at 14, and you had an RCA development deal before that at 13?
You did your research! That’s exciting. Yeah, I did.
So does that mean everyone was thinking you were going to make a record at 13?
I was hoping for it. A development deal is where they’re giving you recording time and money to record, but not promising that they’ll put an album out. And they can kind of shelve you, in some circumstances. After a year of development, we just decided that we wanted to look around, so we walked. And it’s not a really popular thing to do in Nashville, to walk away from a major record deal. But that’s what I did, because I wanted to find some place that would really put a lot of time and care into this. And it ended up being a record label that wasn’t even in existence yet: Big Machine Records happened, and then got major-label distribution with Universal, and things have gone pretty well since then.
Walking away from that first label, was that because of the material you thought you would be asked to record? You were so new to songwriting, I’m assuming that, at age 13, you weren’t necessarily thinking you had to do all your own songs.
Actually, I’ve been writing since I was 12, so I had so many songs I wanted people to hear. It was a combination of things, why I left, [but mostly] just because I did not want to be on a record label that wanted me to cut other people’s stuff. That wasn’t where I wanted to be.
And you knew that at 13 or 14?
I did, and it was something that I wanted to be addressed. I didn’t want to just be another girl singer. I wanted there to be something that set me apart. And I knew that had to be my writing. Also, it was a big, big record label with big superstars, and I felt like I needed my own direction and the kind of attention that a little label will give you. I just did not want it to happen with the method of ”Let’s throw this up against the wall and see if it sticks, and if it doesn’t, we’ll just walk away.” I wanted a record label that needed me, that absolutely was counting on me to succeed. I love that pressure.
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