Taylor Alison Swift (born December 13, 1989) is an American country pop singer-songwriter, guitarist and actress. In 2006, she released her debut single "Tim McGraw", which peaked at number six on the Billboard country charts. Later in October 2006, she released her self-titled debut album, which produced five hit singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts and was certified 3? Multi-Platinum by the RIAA. The New York Times described Swift as "one of pop's finest songwriters, country?s foremost pragmatist and more in touch with her inner life than most adults".
According to Nielsen SoundScan, Swift was the biggest selling artist of 2008 in the United States with combined sales of more than four million albums. Swift's Fearless and her self-titled album finished 2008 at number three and number six respectively, with sales of 2.1 and 1.5 million. She was the first artist in the history of Nielsen SoundScan to have two different albums in the Top 10 on the year end album chart. Fearless has topped the Billboard 200 in 11 non-consecutive weeks. No album has spent more time at number one since 1999-2000. It also was the first album by a female artist in country music history to log eight weeks at #1 on The Billboard 200. In mid-January 2009, Swift became the first country artist to top the 2 million mark in paid downloads with three different songs. As of the week ending February 8, 2009, Swift's single "Love Story" became the country song with most paid downloads in history and the first country song to top the Mainstream Top 40 chart. Swift then subsequently went onto replicate the feat, reaching #1 again on the Mainstream Top 40 in September 2009 with "You Belong With Me", making it just the second country song in the chart's history to reach the top. According to the 2009 issue of Forbes, Swift is ranked as the 69th most powerful celebrity with over $18 million in earnings this year.
Swift was born in the borough of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. She is the daughter of Scott Swift, a stock broker, and his wife Andrea, a homemaker. She has a younger brother, Austin. When she was in fourth grade, Swift won a national poetry contest with a three page poem entitled "Monster In My Closet". At ten, Swift began writing songs and singing at karaoke contests, festivals, and fairs around her hometown. During one summer, Swift devoted herself to writing a 350 page (unpublished) novel. She was a member of Kirk Cremer's SNL-inspired kid's sketch comedy group, TheatreKids Live!, where she was a natural comedic talent. After seeing her karaoke performance at one of the cast parties, it was Cremer's mother who first suggested that Swift seemed more of a natural to pursue a career in country music, rather than theatrical performing. Cremer soon leased space at a local mall and began to showcase his young prot?g?e in weeknight performances of country songs with karaoke backing tracks. Emboldened by her performances and growing audiences, she began to perform in other local open mike and karaoke nights. Her first major show was a well-received performance at the Bloomsburg Fair, arranged by local performer Pat Garrett.
Swift first learned to play guitar from a computer repairman who showed her how to play three chords. After learning those three chords, she wrote her first song, "Lucky You". She began writing songs regularly and used it as outlet to help her with her pain from not fitting in at school. Other kids would react badly to her so she wrote songs about them.
Swift's greatest musical influence is Shania Twain. Her other influences include her grandmother, LeAnn Rimes, Tina Turner and Dolly Parton. Although her grandmother was a professional opera singer, Taylor's tastes always ran more toward country and she developed a love for Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton at an early age. She also credits the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain for demonstrating how much impact can be made by "stretching boundaries". At age 11, Swift made her first trip to Nashville hoping to obtain a record deal by distributing a demo tape of her singing with karaoke songs. She gave a copy to every label in town. Swift faced rejection, not just from record labels, but also from her peers. After Swift returned to Pennsylvania, she was asked to sing at the U.S. Open tennis tournament; her rendition of the national anthem received a lot of attention. Swift started writing songs and playing 12-string guitar when she was 12. Swift began to regularly visit Nashville and wrote songs with local songwriters. By the time she was 14, her family decided to move to an outlying Nashville suburb. When Swift was fifteen, she rejected RCA Records because the company wanted to keep her on a development deal. Swift then performed at Nashville's songwriters' venue, The Bluebird Caf?, catching the attention of Scott Borchetta who signed her to his newly-formed record label, Big Machine Records. She also became the youngest staff songwriter ever hired by the Sony/ATV Tree publishing house at 14.
2006?2008: Taylor Swift
Swift performing at a caf? with a koa wood guitar in June 2006
Swift's first single, "Tim McGraw", was released to radio in mid-2006 and reached number 6 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart during the week of January 27, 2007. Swift said, "I wrote the song in my freshman year of high school. I was dating a guy who was about to go off to college. I knew we were going to break up so I started thinking of all the things that I knew would remind him of me. Surprisingly, the first thing that came to mind was that my favorite country artist is Tim McGraw." Her self-titled debut album Taylor Swift was released on October 24, 2006. Swift wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on the album, which debuted at number 19 on the Billboard 200 and sold 39,000 copies during its first week. It later peaked at number one at Billboard Top Country Albums and number five on the Billboard 200. It also spent eight consecutive weeks at the top of the Top Country Albums charts and remained at the top for 24 out of 91 weeks. The only other country artists this decade to achieve the number-one sales position for 20 weeks or more are The Dixie Chicks and Carrie Underwood. As of November 2008, Taylor Swift has sold over three million copies and 7.5 million single downloads.
Swift has surpassed the 200 million mark for music streams on MySpace. She is currently ranked in the Top 10 for the most MySpace visits for all genres of music, and is MySpace's current top-ranking Country artist. Swift is the most searched musical artist on MySpace in 2008. The music video for "Tim McGraw" set a record by appearing for 30 consecutive weeks on GAC's fan-voted weekly Top 20 music countdown show, and reached number one on CMT's video charts. The video also won Swift an award for Breakthrough Video of the Year at the 2007 CMT Music Awards. Her pursuit of country music stardom was the subject of "GAC Short Cuts", a part-documentary, part-music-video series airing since the summer of 2006 on the country music channel. On May 15, 2007, Swift performed "Tim McGraw" at the Academy of Country Music Awards. She sang the song to Tim McGraw in the audience, and introduced herself for the first time to him. Swift has been an opening act for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill on their Soul2Soul 2007 tour. She has opened in the past for George Strait, Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts as well.
On August 21, 2007, Swift performed live on the season finale of America's Got Talent. The second single from the Taylor Swift album, "Teardrops on My Guitar", was released February 24, 2007. The song originally made its peak positions in mid-2007, peaking at #2 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart and #33 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was re-released to the Hot 100 and Pop 100 in late 2007 with a pop remix that brought "Teardrops on My Guitar" to #13 on the Hot 100 and #11 on the Pop 100. In October 2007, Swift's songwriting peers at the Nashville Songwriters Association International honored her with their Songwriter/Artist of the Year Award, making her the youngest artist ever to win the award.
On November 7, 2007, Swift won the 2007 CMA Horizon Award and also performed "Our Song," the third single from her album, which would go on to become her first #1 song the week of December 22, 2007, where it leaped up from the #6 spot. This was the biggest jump to Number One since January 1998, when Tim McGraw's "Just to See You Smile", also jumped from #6 to #1. "Our Song" spent six weeks at #1 on the Country charts and also peaked at #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #24 on the Billboard Pop 100. Swift also recorded a holiday album, Sounds of the Season: The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection, which was released October 16, 2007, exclusively available at Target stores. The album, which was not as successful as her self-titled debut, featured both holiday classics such as "Last Christmas" and original songs written by Swift. Swift was nominated for a 2008 Grammy Award in the category of Best New Artist, but lost to Amy Winehouse. Swift's successful single, "Picture to Burn" was the fourth single from her debut album. The song debuted early in 2008 and peaked at #3 on the Billboard Country Chart in the spring of 2008.
Swift performing at Yahoo HQ in 2007
Big Machine Records announced the release of "Should've Said No" on Monday, May 19. The song is the fifth and final single from Swift's debut album. She performed it on the 43rd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards. The performance started off with her dressed in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans, but soon after a short black halter dress was revealed. In the last minute of the song, she went backstage to perform the final verse under a cascading waterfall. Swift had wanted to do that performance on stage with the water and the change of clothes since she was ten years old. "Should've Said No" became her second Number One single for the chart dated August 23, 2008. In June 2008, at the CMA Music Festival held in Nashville, Swift signed autographs for nearly eight straight hours. It was the longest autograph-signing session since Garth Brooks' 23-hour marathon in 1996. In Summer 2008, Swift released Beautiful Eyes, an EP sold exclusively at Wal-Mart. In its first week of release, the album sold 45,000 copies, debuting at #1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart and #9 on the Billboard 200. With her self-titled debut album at #2 the same week, Swift became the first artist to hold the Top 2 positions of the Top Country Albums chart since LeAnn Rimes did so in 1997. Swift plays a custom-made Taylor acoustic guitar made of koa wood.
Swift's latest studio album, Fearless, was released in the United States on November 11, 2008. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart. Its sales of 592,304 were the highest debut of any country artists in 2008. This is also the largest opening U.S. sales week in 2008 by a female artist in all genres of music, and the fourth biggest overall behind Lil Wayne, AC/DC and Coldplay. Its lead single "Love Story" became a hit on both the country and pop charts. During the first week of release, more than 129,000 of Swift's sales were sold digitally. This gives Swift the best online start for any country album in history. It also makes Swift the fourth biggest week for a digital album since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking them in 2004. Through its eighth week of release, Fearless has sold more than 338,467 paid downloads, making it the bestselling country album in digital history. In second place is Swift's debut Taylor Swift with sales of 236,046 downloads as of April 18, 2009.
In its debut week, seven songs in total on Fearless were charted on Billboard Hot 100, tying Swift with Hannah Montana for the most by a female artist in a single week. With "White Horse" charted at #13, this gave Swift her sixth top 20 debut of 2008, a calendar year record for any artist in the history of the Billboard Hot 100. Of the 13 tracks on Fearless, 11 have already spent time on the Hot 100. "Change", a song from the album, was selected as part of a soundtrack supporting Team USA's efforts in the 2008 Summer Olympics. The song was also featured as part of the soundtrack of NBC's broadcast package of the Olympics. She also released the lead single from the album, "Love Story", on September 12, 2008. The song is accompanied by a music video that is based on Romeo and Juliet. The song has reached number 2 on iTunes Store Top Downloaded Songs and number four on the Billboard Hot 100. It is also called as Taylor Swift's signature song. Fifteen weeks after being added to pop radio, "Love Story" also became the first country crossover recording to hit number one on the Nielsen BDS CHR/Top 40 chart in the 16-year-history of list, as well as number one on the Mediabase Top 40 Chart. The second single from Fearless, "White Horse", was released on December 8, 2008. The music video for the song premiered on CMT on February 7, 2009. Though it missed the #1 spot on Billboard's Hot Country Songs as of the week April 11, 2009, "White Horse" claimed the #1 spot atop the USA Today/Country Aircheck chart (powered by Mediabase) in that week. "Forever & Always", another song from the album, was based on Swift's relationship with singer Joe Jonas.
Swift performing during her Fearless tour in August, 2009.
Swift is Billboard's Top Country Artist and Hot Country Songwriter of 2008; she is also country music's best-selling artist of 2008. Swift ranked seventh on Nielsen SoundScan Canada's top-10 selling artists across all genres in 2008. Fearless and Taylor Swift took the #1 and #2 slots on 2008 Year-End Canadian Country Albums Chart. Swift sang the Star-Spangled Banner at game three of the World Series in Philadelphia on October 25, 2008. On January 10, 2009, Swift made her first musical guest appearance on Saturday Night Live, making her the youngest country singer to appear as a musical guest on the show in its 33-year run. Swift's show achieved SNL?s highest adult 18-49 rating and overall viewer total since the November election (in 2008). It was tied for the #7 rating of that week among all broadcast and cable entertainment programs on all networks and outscored all its telecasts of last season in 18-49 and total viewers. On February 8, 2009, Swift performed her song "Fifteen" with Miley Cyrus at the 51st Grammy Awards. Since the release of Swift's second album, Fearless, she has released one new song "Crazier" for the soundtrack of the feature film Hannah Montana: The Movie. At the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, Swift picked up Album of the Year honors as a performer and producer for Fearless. She is the youngest artist in history to win Album of the Year award. Swift was also awarded the Academy's Crystal Milestone Award, given for Outstanding Achievement in Country Music. The Academy lauded her for career achievements including selling more albums in 2008 than any other artist in any genre of music, the breakthrough success of her debut album (which spawned five Top 10 hits, more than any in history for a female artist's debut CD), and the worldwide crossover success of her #1 single "Love Story". The Academy also cited Swift's contribution to helping country music attract a younger audience. As of late April 2009, Swift has sold more than 14 million downloads, as well as three Gold Mobile Ringtones.
Swift performing on April 25, 2009, at St. Louis at the Staples Center.
In June 2009, Swift performed "Thug Story" with T-Pain at the CMT Music Awards. She went on to win two awards for Female Video of the Year and Video of the Year. On July 14, 2009, it was confirmed Swift would perform at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. "I'm so excited that MTV and the VMAs have invited me to perform, because I think this year's show will be unlike anything they've ever done!" stated Swift. "I love incorporating theatrics into my performances, and the VMAs have always allowed artists to run with that," Swift says. "MTV has been so good to me, and I could not be more excited about this year's VMAs." This was Swift's first performance on the VMAs. The show aired September 13 on MTV, with British comedian Russell Brand hosting for the second year in a row. In addition to having three of her songs featured, Swift will appear as a playable character in Band Hero. Swift announced September 6 on her Myspace blog that Fearless will be re-released on October 27 with six new songs. It will also include a DVD with her tour footage and pictures.
In January 2009, Swift announced her first headlining tour. Swift is taking her North American Fearless Tour 2009 to 52 cities in 38 states and provinces in the US and Canada over the span of 6 months. Opening acts include Kellie Pickler and Gloriana, a new group in country music. The tour features a theatrical presentation of graphics, sets and visual elements designed by Swift; Swift plays guitar as well as piano. Multiple costume changes and a fairy-tale castle are some of the elements of the three-act show. The tour kicked off April 23 in Evansville, Indiana. On February 6, 2009, tickets went on sale for the May 22 date at Los Angeles? Staples Center and sold out in two minutes. Tickets for several dates and venues, including Madison Square Garden, went on sale the following week and sold out in one minute. On April 28, 2009, Swift gave a free, private concert to students at Bishop Ireton High School, a small Catholic school in Alexandria, Virginia after the school won a national "TXT 2 WIN" contest from Verizon Wireless. The students sent over 19,000 text messages to Verizon during a roughly one month long contest. Swift played for about an hour during the school's field day, an annual day-long recess with games and activities. On October 8, 2009 Swift's official website announced that her sold-out Fearless Tour would return to North America for 37 additional dates in 2010.
2009 MTV Video Music Awards controversy
For more details on this topic, see 2009 MTV Video Music Awards controversy.
Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards with her award.
West taking the microphone from Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
On September 13, 2009, during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, singer/rapper Kanye West came on the stage and took the microphone from Swift during her acceptance speech for winning Best Female Video for "You Belong with Me", saying that Beyonc?'s video for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)", nominated for the same award, was "one of the best videos of all time". This caused the audience in the venue to respond negatively. He handed the microphone back to a stunned and reportedly upset Swift, who did not finish her acceptance speech. West was removed from the remainder of the show for his actions. When Beyonc? later won the award for Best Video of the Year for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)", she called Swift up on stage so that she could finish her acceptance speech. Following the awards show, West apologized for his verbal outburst in a blog entry (which was subsequently removed). He was criticized by various celebrities for the outburst, and by President Barack Obama in an "off the record" comment. He later posted a second apology on his blog and appeared on The Jay Leno Show one day after the incident, apologizing publicly.
On September 15, 2009, Swift talked about the matter on The View. Asked what she was thinking the moment it happened, she stated, "Well, I think my overall thought process was something like, 'Wow, I can't believe I won, this is awesome, don't trip and fall, I'm gonna get to thank the fans, this is so cool", she said, and that she further thought, 'Oh, Kanye West is here. Cool haircut. What are you doing there?' And then, 'Ouch.' And then, 'I guess I'm not gonna get to thank the fans." In addition, she said that West had not spoken to her following the incident. Following Swift's appearance on The View, West contacted her to apologize personally; Swift said she accepted his apology. The night of the awards show, Swift became the first country music artist to win an MTV Video Music Award.
In 2008, Swift made her acting debut in Brad Paisley's music video "Online". In that same year Swift filmed a documentary for MTV entitled MTV's Once Upon a Prom and a documentary with Def Leppard for CMT entitled CMT Crossroads, which was premiered on November 7, 2008, drew more than 4.5 million viewers for its four initial airings. Swift collaborated with the Jonas Brothers in their 3D Concert Film, Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. The film was released on February 27, 2009 in North America. The concert film brought in $12,700,000 on its opening weekend. Swift made her primetime television acting debut on CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Turn, Turn, Turn on March 5, 2009 in the U.S. and Canada. The episode was watched by 20.8 million viewers. Swift made a cameo appearance in Kellie Pickler's music video "Best Days of Your Life". Swift also appeared in Hannah Montana: The Movie as "woman singing in the barn". The film was released on April 10, 2009 in North America. The television show Dateline NBC showcased an hour to Swift on May 31, 2009. The episode titled Dateline NBC: On Tour With Taylor Swift included scenes from her tour bus, concert footage, and rehearsals. She was also interviewed for the show and some of her exclusive video diaries were shown.
On September 21, 2007, Swift launched a campaign to protect children from online predators. She has teamed up with Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen to combat internet sex crimes. The year-long campaign, launched in partnership with the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, will distribute Internet safety information and materials to parents and students across the state. In early 2008, Swift donated the pink Chevy pick-up truck given to her by her record label to children?s charity, the Victory Junction Gang; in June, 2008, Swift donated all the proceeds she got from her merchandise sales at the 2008 Country Music Festival to Red Cross, the Nashville Area Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and the National American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Swift donated $10,000, funded by CMT ONE COUNTRY, to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital by winning the "Video of the Year" and "Female Video of the Year" awards at the 2008 CMT Music Awards. In 2009, Swift won "Video of the Year and "Female Video of the Year" awards at the 2009 CMT Music Awards. She donated $5,000, funded by CMT, to American Red Cross.
Swift donated $100,000 to the Red Cross in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to help the victims of the Iowa flood of 2008. Swift has teamed up with Sound Matters to make listeners aware of listening "responsibly". Swift supports @15, a teen-led social change platform underwritten by Best Buy to give teens opportunities to direct the company's philanthropy through the newly-created @15 Fund. Swift's song, "Fifteen", is featured in this campaign. Swift has lent her support to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal by joining the lineup at Sydney's Sound Relief concert, reportedly making the biggest contribution of any artist playing at Sound Relief to the Australian Red Cross. Swift donated her prom dress, which raised $1,200 for charity, to DonateMyDress.org.
Public image and other work
Swift has been featured on the cover of a number of magazines. In 2008, the list includes Blender, Seventeen, Billboard, Girls' Life, Women's Health and CosmoGirl. In 2009, Swift graced the cover of Teen Vogue, Self Magazine, Rolling Stone, Allure, Glamour, and Bliss. She has been a cover girl for Blender, for which she was one of two country artists during the magazine?s fifteen year run to be a cover subject. Additionally, she was named number fifty-seven on Maxim's sexiest women of 2008. CosmoGirl voted Swift as the "2008 Girl of the Year". Swift was named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of "The RS 100: Agents of Change". She was nominated as a candidate for TIME's "2009 The Time 100 Finalists" list, which is determined by online voting.
Jakks Pacific released a celebrity doll of Swift in late 2008. Taylor Swift is the face of L.E.I. Jeans (Life Energy Intelligence) since 2008. Swift and the L.e.i. Clothing Line made a deal to create a line based on Swift's style of dressing. It will appear in Wal-Mart in the coming months. However, Swift said she does not want to be called a designer. Instead, she says she will inspire the clothing company's dress line based on her own style. "I don't look at it like I'm branching out as a designer... It's not the Taylor Swift designer line." In 2009, Swift became the National Hockey League's newest celebrity spokesperson. She appears in commercials for the Nashville Predators.
Swift's best friend has been Abigail Anderson, whom she has known since ninth grade. During a discussion of Shakespeare in an English class they learned what they had in common. "We were the ones in the back of the class saying negative things about Romeo and Juliet because we were so bitter toward that emotion at the time," said Anderson. "We just really connected ... and ever since then we have been inseparable." Anderson also appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to surprise Swift. On that episode of Ellen, Swift also revealed that Joe Jonas broke up with her in a 27-second phone conversation.
Swift is also close friends with Kellie Pickler, with whom she co-wrote Pickler's second single "Best Days of Your Life" from her self-titled album Kellie Pickler. In July 2008, Swift graduated from the Aaron Academy, a Christian school in Hendersonville, Tennessee which offers a home-schooling program.
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Swift has had the same backup band for most of her career thus far. Some of them join her to record in the studio. Banjoist Ben Clark and fiddle player Emily Poe are the only two people who have left the band. As of 2009, the lineup is:
Taylor Swift ? Lead vocals, guitar, piano
Grant Mickelson ? Guitar
Paul Sidoti ? Guitar
Mike Meadows ? Banjo, mandolin, guitar, keyboards, cello
Caitlin Evanson ? Fiddle
Amos Heller ? Bass
Al Wilson ? Drums