When Taylor Swift started out in Nashville, everyone told her it was impossible to sell country music in cities like Los Angeles and New York.
But five years later in 2009, her single “Love Story” became the first country song to top the Mainstream Top 40 in the chart’s history and her Madison Square Garden concert sold out in less than a minute.
There’s nothing fly-by-night about Taylor’s appeal. To quote a phrase from the movie biz, she has legs when it comes to moving records. Combined sales of “Fearless,” released in November, as well as her eponymous debut LP, released way back in 2006, accounted for more than 3.7 million units in 2008 alone (along with 8.68 digitally downloaded songs), according to Nielsen SoundScan, while “Fearless” has spilled over into being 2009’s top-selling current release to date with another 1.68 million discs sold.
“I don’t sing about tractors and hay bales and things like that because that’s not really the way that I grew up,” says the 19-year-old sensation. But I do sing about the lessons I’ve learned.”
The ultimate staying power of Swift lies in her own fearlessness to address real life and emotions in her songs.
“When I look back on my albums when I’m 80, I hope (they) will be like diary entries,” she says.
Although Swift wanted to follow in the footsteps of Shania Twain, Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks, the Pennsylvania native has remained open to all genres.
“I’ve always noticed that rap music and country music have more in common than anyone really thinks, because (they) are both based on being prideful and being proud of where you come from.”
How Swift’s music, and her image, differs from most rappers, though, is the lack of boastfulness, and a decided avoidance of sexualization that some singers her age feel is necessary to sell albums — no bad-girl persona fetishized beyond her years here.
“I hope someday when people look back on what I’ve accomplished, the thing that comes to the forefront, the thing that sticks out is that I was a kind person.”
IN A NUTSHELL
Job title: Singer/ songwriter
Role model: Garth Brooks
Career mantra: “Be kind to people, never feel entitled to success. … Love the ones who love you, and write songs about the ones who don’t.”
Leisure pursuits: Antique shopping and writing cards to people.
Philanthropic passions: Make-a-Wish, St. Jude’s