He might be on to something. Polite to a fault, Swift has bitten her tongue all her life, through trying experiences that less-restrained people would feel the need to fight back against. Childhood bullying. Heartbreak. Professional roadblocks. Industry scandal. In every case, though, she has preferred to let her music speak for her.
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She did the same with her romantic relationships, too, immortalizing her early crushes in her songs. (It’s a habit she hasn’t been able to break, as several of her more recent songs have been rumored to be about former beaus Joe Jonas, of the Jonas Brothers, and Twilight hunk Taylor Lautner.)
“I have never really figured out why I feel more comfortable singing brutal honesty and making these confessions in music rather than saying these things to real people in my life,” she says. “For some reason, I am less likely to say ‘I miss you’ to someone in a text message or phone call than I am to write a song about it that millions of people, including that person, will hear.”
Her innate ability to vividly capture emotions on paper and turn them into songs that were catchy and relatable landed her a coveted songwriting deal with Sony when she was just 14, making her the youngest writer in the company’s history. Her family relocated to Hendersonville, a suburb of Nashville, and shortly thereafter she signed a record deal with Borchetta’s Big Machine Records.
“The first thought that entered my mind the first time I heard one of her songs was, ‘How is she writing like this at 14 years of age?’ ” says Troy Tomlinson, president and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville. But not everyone was as confident as he was in young Swift’s abilities and instincts. Many people were wary of her inexperience, and most didn’t take her seriously. Swift recalls an incident during the recording of a demo when she sang a guitar lick for the producer.
“He said, ‘Little girl, you know I am the producer, and you are a little girl who is here to sing this song. So why don’t you do what you do, and I’ll do what I do?’ ” she says. “In those situations, I would always be polite about it, but I would know that I never needed to work with that person again. I never wanted to be known as a spoiled brat, but I never wanted to be working directly with someone who didn’t believe that I had any musical intuition.”
These days, there are few people left who aren’t aware of Swift’s know-how. She’s the rare triple threat: a gifted songwriter, a talented musician and a captivating performer. Those qualities help explain why she boasts more than 4 million Twitter followers and her Fearless tour sold out in mere minutes.