Taylor Swift & Me: The Early Years

[Disclaimer: I am aware that this post is a little ridiculous, and very self-indulgent. I don't mind at all how you feel about Taylor Swift, I just wanted to document a bit about the impact she's had on my life because, well, I guess I have too much free time!]

I first met the music of Taylor Alison Swift in the summer of 2007, when my brother returned from his [first] gap year around the United States with a contemporary country music mix CD made by a friend he'd met in Kentucky. At that point she had released her debut album, and just two singles, 'Tim McGraw' and 'Teardrops On My Guitar', but the song on the mixtape was 'Picture To Burn'. I listened to it over and over, looking at the girl on the photo with this kind of alien face, and a ludicrous explosion of blonde curls. I imagined who she was, where she came from, loved her twangy accent. I remember changing the radio station at the shop where I worked on Saturdays to a country one in the hope I'd hear her as I entered orders in the office.

I gradually downloaded more and more of her songs, until I just went the whole hog and purchased the full album. This was the beginning of my country renaissance. I had been resolutely indie in my tastes for a couple of years at that point (after I got over the tragic loss of Busted) but before then, I had been the little girl singing Shania Twain and LeAnn Rimes in my bedroom while everyone else listened to Steps (I also loved Steps too, I mean, I'm only HUMAN). Taylor Swift came along and let me into her little life in Tennessee, where her boyfriend was breaking up with her, and she was just trying to fit in. I don't think I was even conscious of it at the time, but Taylor Swift was the first musician who was in exactly the same position as me, and singing about it. She was also 'just a girl, trying to find a place in this world.'

Outside of my family, I didn't know anyone else who had even heard of her; she was like my special little secret. I listened to her album pretty much constantly for my entire final year of school, along with Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw and my usual British indie music. I learned all her songs on the guitar and I even wrote them all out in a notebook with the chord progressions for ease of access. Every single song on that album was my favourite.

Towards the end of the next summer, 2008, I got a new job working in an office, just for a month before I was due to leave for university. One evening in late August, I read online that Taylor would be playing her first UK show, at King's College London Students Union on 3rd September. I later saw Hanson there (but that's another story) and I cannot impress upon you enough how tiny this venue is. There are definitely upper-middle class people with larger living rooms than this venue. She was huge in America at this point, and this would be something pretty special. I agonised over going for the whole evening after I found out, but it was really short notice, and the night before my first day at a new job and I wouldn't have been in bed much before 2am, so I decided against it. By all accounts it was incredible, life-changing, wonderful. And she apparently stayed behind to meet everyone afterwards. Such. Deep. Regret.

A month or so later, I came to leave for university (and my mother and I couldn't listen to this song without weeping). I was buoyed by the news that there would be a new Taylor album in November. Before I left, the new single, 'Love Story' was released. Naturally, I was all over it. I don't know how many times I watched the princess castle video and, I even bought a weird karaoke cover version because it wasn't available on UK iTunes yet. I told everyone I knew that the one thing I wanted for my nineteenth birthday was 'Fearless', the new album. I woke up on my birthday all alone and scared at university, cried at my parents' cards, opened all my (lovely!) presents to find no album. Immediately I rushed onto Amazon and ordered it with express shipping (at a total cost of like £25 as I recall - ridiculous considering my precarious student budget).

I remember, a few days later I was in the common room with some friends and someone walked past and told me I had a parcel. I thought for a moment - what was I expecting? And then it came to me in flash - my album!! I literally ran to the post room, collected my parcel, ran back to my room, ripped off the packaging and listened to it on repeat the whole rest of the evening. I wrote in my diary that week a review of the album track-by-track. Once again, I committed the whole thing to memory, chords and all, and I loved Taylor Swift.

To be continued...

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