Taylor Swift is an American singer-songwriter, born on December 13, 1989 in Pennsylvania. She grew up on a Christmas tree farm in the state with her younger brother Austin before her family moved to Wyomissing when she was nine.
At the same age, Swift took up an interest in musical theatre and began performing with the Berks Youth Theatre Academy. She also took vocal and acting lessons on Broadway before she fell in love with country music. She began performing at local fairs and events, eventually winning a talent competition where she sang a rendition of LeAnn Rimes’ ‘Big Deal’.
Swift was inspired to move to Nashville after watching an episode of Behind The Music, which focused on the singer Faith Hill. The then eleven-year-old singer travelled to the city with her mother to give label Music Row a CD of covers of Dolly Parton and Dixie Chicks, which was eventually rejected. A year later, Swift was shown how to play three chords on a guitar and shortly after she wrote her first song, ‘Lucky You’.
In 2003, music manager Dan Dymtrow began working with Swift and soon got one of her songs on a Maybelline compilation while also securing the singer a modelling job with Abercrombie & Fitch. Shortly after, she was offered an artist development deal by RCA Records. When she was 14, Swift and her family moved to Nashville.
She soon began working on her songwriting with Liz Rose, meeting up with her every Tuesday after school. Swift also began recording demos with Nathan Chapman, a producer. Her relationship with RCA soon came to an end after the label wanted her to wait until she was 18 to release an album and spend the time before then covering other artists’ work. Swift disagreed, wanting to “capture these years of my life on an album while they still represented what I was going through.”
While performing at an industry showcase at Nashville’s Bluebird Café, Swift caught the attention of DreamWorks Records executive Scott Borchetta, who was in the process of setting up his own label, Big Machine Records. The singer became one of the label’s first signings and soon began working on her self-titled debut album. It was released in October 2006 and was praised by the likes of the New Yorker and Rolling Stone. Two singles from it – ‘Our Song’ and ‘Should’ve Said No’ – went to Number One in the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, with the former making Swift the youngest person to both write and sing a Number One country song.
In 2007, Swift was jointly named the Nashville Songwriters’ Association’s Songwriter Of The Year, alongside Georgia singer Alan Jackson, becoming the youngest person to receive the title. In 2008, she was nominated for the Best New Artist award at the Grammys, but lost out to Amy Winehouse.
Her second album ‘Fearless’ was released in November 2008. It went to Number One in both the UK and US Country Albums charts, while also hitting the top spot on the US Billboard 200. It has sold over 6,800,000 copies in the US and is certified six times platinum. Swift toured in support of the album and invited stars like John Mayer, Faith Hill and Katy Perry to perform duets with her at different shows.
She became the first country music artist to win an MTV VMA for her video for ‘You Belong To Me’, which was victorious in the Best Female Video category in 2009. Controversy overshadowed her win, however, when Kanye West interrupted her acceptance speech to tell the audience Beyonce had the best video of the year. In 2010, she won four Grammy Awards, including Album Of The Year – the youngest artist to do so. At the ceremony, she performed ‘You Belong To Me’ and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rhiannon’ with Stevie Nicks. She was also named Billboard’s Artist Of The Year in 2009 and included on Time’s 100 Most Influential People list the following year.
Swift’s third album ‘Speak Now’, followed in October 2010, with her writing all fourteen songs on the album by herself for the first time. It was the first album that began to expand on her country stylings into pop. Again, it topped both the US Billboard 200 and Billboard Top Country Albums charts.
Her fourth album ‘Red’ came two years after and featured writing contributions from Ed Sheeran and Gary Lightbody, amongst others. The record saw her heading further into pop territory. On the world tour in support of the album, Swift continued her now-tradition of bringing out special guests for one song, inviting the likes of Emeli Sande, Ellie Goulding, Nelly and Carly Simon to perform with her at various dates.
Swift was nominated for four Grammys at the 2013 and 2014 ceremonies, including Record Of The Year for ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’, but lost out in all categories. She was the recipient of a special Pinnacle award at the Country Music Awards in 2013, recognizing “unique” levels of success. To date, Garth Brooks is the only other recipient of the award.
After the release of ‘Red’, Swift’s love life became scrutinized with the Westboro Baptist Chuch declaring her “the whorish face of doomed America”. Swift later referenced the public’s views on her romantic life in the lead single from her fifth album ‘1989’, ‘Shake It Off’, with the line “I go on too many dates but I can’t make ’em stay/At least that’s what people say.”
‘1989’ was released on October 27 2014 and sold over one million copies in the US in its first week of release alone. Co-writers on the album include FUN’s Jack Antonoff, Imogen Heap and Ryan Tedder. She has described the record as her “first official pop album”. ‘Shake It Off’ was released on August 18 2014 and went to Number One on the US Billboard Hot 100 and Number Two on the Official Singles Chart in the UK.
Swift soon embarked on her gigantic ‘1989 World Tour’ which included a sold-out show at London’s Hyde Park in June 2015. On the jaunt she also recruited fellow musicians to join her for a surprise number at each show, which included Beck, St Vincent and even Friends actress Lisa Kudrow across the dates. As the tour reached its conclusion, she partially withdrew from the circuit and has been rumoured to be working on a new album ever since. Potential release dates initially suggested late 2016 but a new album is likely due the following year. She’s also worked with her ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris on single ‘This Is What You Came For’ and received a writing credit under a pseudonym and was rumoured to have helped Kings of Leon write their sixth album ‘WALLS’.
She hasn’t been completely anonymous though. Her longstanding feud with Kanye West reignited in February 2016 over a dispute of the lyrics from his song ‘Famous’, and she endured other public spats with rival Katy Perry and former partner Calvin Harris.
In January 2017, Swift released a duet with former One Direction singer Zayn Malik called ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Forever’, which will feature on the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack. During a one-off pre-Super Bowl gig, Swift revealed that she would not be playing more shows in 2017. She also performed ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Forever’ and ‘Better Man’ live for the first time.