Although her grandmother had been an opera singer, Taylor Alison Swift's parents both worked in the financial sector but they recognised their daughter's passion for music at a young age and encouraged her with vocal and acting lessons. Particularly keen on country music she began performing coffee houses, fairs and fetes and at eleven won a talent show before picking up a guitar and teaching herself how to play at the age of twelve. Swift's parents would regularly take her to Nashville and realising that she had talent and was serious about pursuing a singing career they moved to Hendersonville eighteen miles outside of the country music capital. The fourteen year old had already secured a development deal with RCA Records and would work with established writers including singer/songwriter Liz Rose. Swift parted company with RCA and while continuing to record demos with nascent producer Nathan Chapman she also performed at industry events and was spotted singing at the famous Bluebird Cafe in 2005 by the head of the fledgling Big Machine Records Scott Borchetta who signed her to his label. Initial sessions with several Nashville producers didn't go well and convincing the company to let Nathan Chapman produce her debut, Swift recorded the album of which she wrote three of the songs alone and co-wrote the rest including seven with Liz Rose. The single 'Tim McGraw' was released in June 2006 and peaked at No 40 in the mainstream charts, No 6 on the country listings and was followed in October by her self-titled debut album which reached No 5 on the Hot 200 and No 1 on the country charts. The record went on to sell in excess of five and a half million copies worldwide and yielded more platinum hits with 'Teardrops On My Guitar', 'Our Song', 'Picture To Burn' and 'Should've Said No' while the non-album track 'Change' (with all profits going to the USA Olympics team) became her first single to enter the US Top 10. The album's reception would have been regarded as immensely successful for any artist but for a sixteen year old's debut it was unprecedented and signalled that her future was going to extend beyond Nashville and the country charts. Dealing with topics that appealed to her age group Swift's lyrics also showed a maturity and a grasp of melody beyond her years.
Totally dedicated to her career, the young artist promoted the record by gigging, making TV and radio appearances and following the example of country greats like Garth Brooks she organised meet and greets with many fans before and after her shows. She played as support for a number of acts including Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Brad Paisley as well as Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. October 2007 saw the release of the six track seasonal EP Sounds of the Season: The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection which in addition to classics such as 'White Christmas' and 'Santa Baby' also featured two of her own compositions; 'Christmases When You Were Mine' and 'Christmas Must Be Something More'. Another huge success, the EP put her back in the US Top 20 and sold over one million copies. The next year saw Swift continuing to promote her debut, tour and work on her second album, the first sign of which came in July 2008 with the single 'Love Story' which in addition to becoming her third country chart topper also peaked at No 4 in the USA and No 2 in the UK. The album Fearless debuted at No 1 in October and with eventual worldwide sales approaching nine million copies won two Grammy Awards for Album Of The Year and Best Country Album. One month later Taylor successfully teamed-up with British rock band Def Leppard as part of CMT's Crossroads with them performing a selection of each other's songs together which was later released as the video album CMT Crossroads: Taylor Swift and Def Leppard.
Fearless produced more hits over the next year or so with 'White Horse', 'You Belong With Me', 'Fifteen' and 'Fearless' all going platinum, as did the song 'Today Was A Fairytale' which was taken from the soundtrack to the romantic comedy movie 'Valentine's Day'. With the enthusiasm and stamina that comes with youth Taylor toured constantly, the Fearless Tour took in 105 dates and she still found time to appear on TV, Radio, support Keith Urban, perform at both the Grammy and the CMT Awards, contribute to other artists records as well as finding time to work on her third album. Two years after its predecessor Speak Now debuted at the top of the US charts in October 2010 and contained no fewer than six hit singles; 'Mine', 'Back To December', 'Mean', 'The Story Of Us', 'Sparks Fly' and 'Ours'. Confirming her songwriting credentials and her major artist status Swift composed every track on the record by herself with no co-writers. Following the familiar pattern of album, tour, album she embarked on the Speak Now World Tour in February 2011 and finished in March 2012 having performed 110 shows in 15 countries.
Almost permanently resident in the charts Swift enjoyed more hits with 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together', 'Begin Again', 'I Knew You Were Trouble', '22', 'Red', 'Everything Has Changed' (featuring Ed Sheeran) and 'The Last Time' (featuring Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody), all lifted from the album Red which debuted at No 1 in October 2013. By the time she was twenty-four Taylor Swift's worldwide album sales were in excess of twenty-four million while her honours included seven Grammy Awards, eleven Country Music Association Awards and fifteen American Music Awards.
Shortly after the release of lead single 'Shake It Off' in August 2014, Swift's fifth studio album 1989 was released - continuing her journey from country to pop. Having debuted at No 1 in the USA, the album sold 1.287 million copies during its first week of release and arrived to largely critical acclaim. Within a year of the album's release, it had racked up over 8 million sales worldwide.
A songwriter of great quality and depth and an artist who easily traverses style and genre, there's no doubt that Taylor Swift is and will remain one of the USA's most successful and gifted artists of the twenty-first century.
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