Stepping off Music Row and into the small but stylish lobby of Big Machine Records, a visitor quickly realizes it’s not just the walls that reveal the story of Taylor Swift’s meteoric rise to stardom. Even the floors have a tale to tell.
With much of the vertical real estate already claimed by industry awards, framed national magazine covers, and gold and platinum records, the staff has adopted the tactic of neatly stacking the continuous stream of accolades and achievements along the baseboards. All that’s needed is a break in a busy intern’s schedule to grab a hammer, a few nails and search out any open wall space.
The image found most often found framed inside with all that precious metal: the cover shot of FEARLESS, Swift’s second album. The photo captures Taylor’s face in profile. Flowing blonde hair fills the top of the frame. Her logo and the record’s title dominate the lower half.
Of course, that one-word title is a part of pop-and-country culture now. It’s been spotted at the top spot of charts around the world, entered into record books, and engraved on dozens of plaques and awards. But at one point this extraordinary collection of songs had a name. And the artist who put her heart, soul and talent into that music knew it needed to be something special.
“It’s a big deal to title your album, so I wanted to make sure that it was the right call,” remembers Taylor. “Because you really have to make sure that it explains this body of work that you’re putting out these last two years of stories you want to tell.”
In the end, Swift decided on the single word that captures perfectly her journey to this moment.
After all, this is the girl, who at the tender age of 10, had the guts to take the stage at every karaoke contest, festival, and county fair that passed through her hometown of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. This is the girl, who at age 11, took a trip to Music City and left a trail of amused receptionists as she dropped off her homemade demo tape at every label in town. This is the girl, who at 14, became the youngest person ever to be signed as a professional staff songwriter at Sony/ATV Publishing. This is the teenager who signed her first record deal before she could drive. Who had the guts to step from an ACM awards stage and into the audience to introduce herself to Tim McGraw live on national television – just seconds after playing the last chord of her first hit song that bears his name. Who at 17, became the youngest person to single-handedly write and sing a #1 country hit entirely on her own.
It’s safe to say Taylor Swift knows a thing or two about being FEARLESS.
“To me, fearless isn’t not having fears,” explains Swift. “It’s not that you’re not afraid of anything. I think that being fearless is having a lot of fears, but you jump anyway.”
Jump? With FEARLESS, Taylor Swift has taken a flying leap. Her achievements with her second album have been nothing less than staggering. At times, Taylor seems to be rewriting music history on a weekly basis.
Since its release in November of 2008, FEARLESS has spent more weeks at #1 on Billboard’s all-genre Top 200 chart than any other album this decade and helped her sell more albums in 2008 & 2009 than any other artist, in any genre of music. It has produced #1 singles on both Billboard’s Pop and Country Radio charts and helped Taylor become the first country artist in the history of SoundScan to have not one, but two singles reach #1 on the Pop Chart.
As for her first headlining tour in 2009 – the FEARLESS TOUR sold out every show in mere minutes, including every seat in Madison Square Garden in 60 seconds.
Her trophy case display is one of the most diverse of any artist today...and its collection is growing at an exponential rate.
There’s the “Moon Man” for her Female Video of the Year win at the MTV VMAs -- the first ever for a country artist. And, the golden belt buckles from her back-to-back wins for Female Video of the Year and Video of the Year at CMT Music Awards. Also, a handful of Teen Choice and American Music Awards mingling with her ACM Top New Female Artist Trophy from 2008, and the Academy of Country Music’s “Crystal Milestone Award.” Taylor was the second artist ever honored to receive it. The first -- Garth Brooks.
And the sparkling centerpieces -- the 2009 American Music Award for Artist of the Year, and the 2009 CMA Award for Entertainer of the Year, country music’s highest honor. Taylor is the youngest artist ever, and only the sixth female act in history, to win this prestigious award.
Then there is the trophy that perhaps best puts in to perspective Swift’s hypersonic ascent to superstardom. In 2007, she took home the Country Music Association’s Horizon Award. Just two years later, she swept the CMA Awards’ top prizes – winning four trophies: Entertainer of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year and Video of the Year. Later that same month, Taylor was the year’s big winner at the American Music Awards, walking away with trophies for Artist of the Year, Favorite Female Artist (Country), Favorite Female Artist (Pop/Rock), Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist, and Favorite Album (Country – for Fearless).
This young woman who, as a high school freshman, sang of “trying to find a place in this world” is now a global sensation. FEARLESS has already reached Gold and Platinum status in fourteen countries spanning five continents. Sales of FEARLESS and her debut album, TAYLOR SWIFT have now totaled more than 10 million. And, the first country superstar of the digital age has also sold more than 20 million downloads.
But perhaps the ultimate testament to the album’s place in country music history –the Country Music Association, the Academy of Country Music, and the American Music Awards ALL named FEARLESS the 2009 Country album of the year, making her the youngest artist ever to earn these awards.
And now with this re-release of the award-winning record, Taylor is offering even more music to her fans. For the FEARLESS: PLATINUM EDITION, Swift has added essentially a half an album’s worth of new songs to the original record.
“I decided to release a deluxe edition of Fearless, because I know a lot of people are just discovering my music now,” says Swift. “But there were a lot of people who went out and bought the album the first week. And for those people, I wanted to give them something new. I’m really excited about these new songs, because I feel like they all fit in with the general vibe of this record.”
In addition to the new music, the PLATINUM EDITION includes a bonus DVD of exclusive photos, music videos – including the award-winning “You Belong With Me” and “Thug Story,” her collaboration with T-Pain -- as well as behind-the-scenes features and backstage footage from her sold out tour.
“The fans are the reason why I’m on that big stage in the first place,” says Swift. “So I wanted to give them as much behind-the-scenes access as possible.”
Taylor’s rise to superstardom might seem at times to have happened in the blink of an eye, but in reality it has taken a decade of hard work. Her family recognized Taylor’s talent and determination at an early age, and they started taking regular trips to Nashville to shop her music around. She began writing with local songwriters, and after a few years, during which the family made the decision to move to nearby Hendersonville, Tenn., a showcase at the Bluebird Cafe caught the eye of music-industry veteran Scott Borchetta, who was planning to launch a new label. What he saw on that stage was a young girl with an innate ability to entertain and a true gift for writing great songs.
It’s important to remember here – when you hear a Taylor Swift tune, you are hearing her words. Following an impressive trend established on her debut CD, Taylor has written or co-written every song on FEARLESS: PLATINUM EDITION.
Songwriting is a craft Swift has been honing since first strummed a guitar at the age of 12. Minutes later she had written her first tune. She was hooked. Her life became consumed with songs. Every spare moment was spent writing, playing, or thinking about music. Even while hitting the books as a straight-A student at Hendersonville High School, she was doodling lyrics in the margins of her notebooks.
Even now, with her life barreling down the country music fast lane Taylor still makes it a priority to put the guitar, pen, and paper she keeps nearby to good use. Writing songs helps her stay grounded as her career orbits in the stratosphere. But for listeners popping in Taylor’s CD and expecting to hear a laundry list of lyrics on the plight of country music superstar rising through the ranks, FEARLESS is going to surprise you.
“I didn’t want to write songs about being on the road and being on hotels and missing your family and missing your friends,” insists Swift. “When I was like 14 or 15 and I would hear those things on an album...being alone, living out of a suitcase... and I was always like, ‘Ugh, skip!’ I’m inspired by boys and love. I’d rather write songs about how I’m feeling and the relationship side of things.”
Taylor’s lyrical exploration of girl meets boy continues with the six new songs kicking off the FEARLESS Platinum Edition.
The opening track “Jump Then Fall” radiates with the simple joy a new love can bring while “The Other Side Of The Door” and “Come In With The Rain” deal with the emotional complications of relationships that are on a downturn.
Two of the new tracks are also proof Swift is fearless when in it comes to experimenting in the studio. From the searing, soaring melody of “Untouchable” to the aching, stripped-down piano version of the previous album’s “Forever & Always,” it’s Taylor like we’ve never heard her before.
Then there is “Superstar.” And don’t let that title fool you. This isn’t an auto-biographical song chronicling her life in the spotlight. It’s a musical tale of unrequited love. In other words, it’s Taylor doing what she does best – writing from her own unique point of view that millions of her followers can relate can relate to.
“I want my fans to know – I feel the same things,” shares Swift. “I feel the same way. And my songs are where I’ll never hold back.”
Swift certainly didn’t hold back with the tracks that made up the original FEARLESS album. With songs like “You’re Not Sorry”, “Tell Me Why,” and “White Horse,” the latter of which debuted in an episode of the primetime drama Grey’s Anatomy, Taylor shows she has learned “happily ever after” endings are not always a given.
“I think I’m very fascinated by the differences between reality and fairy tales,” Swift says. “When we’re little, we read these books and we see cartoons and the bad guy is always wearing black. You always know who he is. But in real life, the bad guy can be incredibly charming and have a great smile and perfect hair. He says things that make you laugh and he’s sweet and he’s funny, but you don’t realize that he’s going to cause you a lot of pain.”
But lest you think it’s all ogres and trolls reeking havoc on the landscape of Taylor’s love-life, there is a welcomed cameo from a prince charming or two riding to the rescue.
The album’s first single, the international #1smash hit “Love Story,” offers up a version of Shakespeare’s play that is anything but a tragedy. In Taylor’s world, Romeo is still breathing when the curtain closes...and Juliet has a ring on her finger.
And in the incredibly infectious “Hey Stephen,” Taylor proves she truly is FEARLESS by singing about a secret crush – who did not remain a secret for long after the album’s release. Yes, the boy really exists. And yes, Stephen is his real name. “He had no idea the song was written about him,” Taylor says with laugh. “He’s someone who I’ve always been friends with and always kind of had a thing for...and he only found out when FEARLESS came out. It’s always fun for me to put something on the album that is personal. Something I know I’m going to have to deal with when the record comes out.”
She even leaves listeners with a positive vibe. The album’s final track is a song Swift wrote to inspire her during some of the tougher moments in the early going of her career. “There were times I was working so hard that I didn’t realize that every single day our numbers were getting bigger,” Swift remembers. “Every single day, our fan base was growing. Every single day, the work that we were doing was paying off.
“Then during the 2007 CMA Awards, when they called out my name as the Horizon Award winner, I looked over and saw the president of my record label crying. Walking up those stairs, it just occurred to me that that was the night things changed. It changed everything.”
As if writing every song on the album and living the life of country superstar wasn’t enough, Taylor added even more to her work load when recording FEARLESS. She joined Nathan Chapman, the main man behind the board for her debut album, as a co-producer on the record.
The effort earned her an artist and producer award when it was named the 2009 ACM Album of the Year.
“All the songs for this second record, it’s like they were already produced in my head,” recalls Swift. “When I was writing a song, I knew what every instrument is doing. The strings, or mandolin, or banjo, or dobro. I heard it all. It was just really cool to have all those instruments I heard end up on the album.”
But even as she experiments with new sounds and new directions for her music, Taylor Swift knows the power of a song begins and ends with its lyrics. And it is in two of the softer, more stripped down moments on FEARLESS – the tracks “Fifteen” and “The Best Day” -- that Taylor’s extraordinary gift for writing shines the brightest as she remembers fondly moments from her past.
“I do this mental exercise with my albums,” tells Swift. “I sit in the car with all my masters, and I would say to myself: I’m fifteen years old and my boyfriend just broke up with me and I’m crying on the way home. What song am I going to listen to? Or, I’m 17 and I just got back from the best date that I’ve ever been on. I’m so happy about it. What am I going to listen to? Or I’m 45. I’m sending my 15-year-old daughter off to her freshman year of high school for the first time. What am I going to listen to? I won’t be satisfied until I have a song for each person, for each thing.”
For Taylor, each song she writes and sings is a chance to make a connection. To reach out and hug, laugh or cry with a listener. With FEARLESS, millions around the world have shared their own personal moment with Taylor. With this the new music and features in this PLATINUM EDITION, it’s a fan’s chance to share even more.