In addition to her music career, Swift has appeared as an actress in the ensemble comedy Valentine’s Day (2010), the animated film The Lorax (2012) and The Giver (2014). As a philanthropist, Swift supports arts education, children’s literacy, natural disaster relief, LGBT anti-discrimination efforts, and charities for sick children.
Life and career
1989–2004: Early life
Swift was born on December 13, 1989, in West Reading, Pennsylvania. Her father, Scott Kingsley Swift, is a Merrill Lynch financial adviser.
Scott was raised in Pennsylvania and is the descendant of three generations of bank presidents. Her mother, Andrea (née Finlay), is a homemaker who previously worked as a mutual fund marketing executive.
Andrea, though American, spent the first 10 years of her life in Singapore, before returning to the U.S. and settling in Texas—her own father was an engineer who worked throughout Southeast Asia. Swift grew up with one sibling, her younger brother, Austin.
Swift spent the early years of her life on an 11-acre Christmas-tree farm in Cumru Township, Pennsylvania. Swift’s family owned several Quarter horses and a Shetland pony, and her first hobby was English horse riding.
Her mother first put her in a saddle when she was nine months old and she later competed in horse shows. Swift summered at her parents’ waterfront vacation home in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, and described it as the place “where most of my childhood memories were formed.”
Swift attended preschool and kindergarten at the Alvernia Montessori School, run by Franciscan nuns, before moving to the Wyndcroft School, a co-ed private school.
Swift and her brother were raised in accordance with the Presbyterian faith and attended Vacation Bible School. When Swift was nine years old, the family moved to a rented house in the suburban town of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, where she attended West Reading Elementary Center and Wyomissing Area Junior/Senior High School.
During early adolescence, Swift became interested in musical theatre. She performed in numerous Berks Youth Theatre Academy productions.
Swift also traveled regularly to Broadway for vocal and acting lessons. Swift then turned her attention to country music—Shania Twain’s songs made her “want to just run around the block four times and daydream about everything.”
She spent her weekends performing at local festivals, fairs, coffeehouses, karaoke contests, garden clubs, Boy Scout meetings and sporting events. At the age of 11, after many failed attempts, Swift won a local talent competition and was given the opportunity to appear as the opening act for Charlie Daniels.
After watching a Behind the Music episode about Faith Hill, Swift felt sure that she needed to go to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a music career.At the age of eleven, she traveled with her mother to Nashville for spring break to submit a demo, of Dolly Parton and Dixie Chicks karaoke covers, with record labels along Music Row.
She received label rejections and realized that “everyone in that town wanted to do what I wanted to do. So, I kept thinking to myself, I need to figure out a way to be different.” At the age of twelve, Swift was taught how to play three chords on a guitar, inspiring her to write her first song, “Lucky You.”
She had previously won a national poetry contest with a poem titled “Monster in My Closet,” but now began to focus on songwriting.
In 2003, Swift and her parents started working with New York-based music manager Dan Dymtrow. With Dymtrow’s help, Swift modelled for Abercrombie & Fitch as part of their “Rising Stars” campaign, had an original song included in a Maybelline compilation CD, and attended meetings with major record labels.
After performing original songs at an RCA Records showcase, the eighth-grader was given an artist development deal and began making frequent trips to Nashville with her mother. When Swift was fourteen, her father transferred to the Nashville office of Merrill Lynch and the family relocated to a lakefront house in Hendersonville, Tennessee:
My parents took all the pressure off by saying, “We’re just moving because we love the area, so don’t worry.” They knew nothing about the industry and had no involvement in entertainment, but I was obsessed with it and so they did their research and read up about it to help me in every way they could. They’re amazing people.
In Tennessee, Swift attended Hendersonville High School for her freshman and sophomore years. Later, to accommodate her touring schedule, Swift transferred to the Aaron Academy, a private Christian school which offered homeschooling services. She earned her high school diploma in 2008, having completed her final two years of course work in 12 months.
Musical and vocal style
Swift’s music contains elements of pop, pop rock and country. She self-identified as a country artist until the 2014 release of 1989, which she has described as a “sonically cohesive pop album.” However, she intends to record further country music albums in the future.
Rolling Stone asserted that, “she might get played on the country station, but she’s one of the few genuine rock stars we’ve got these days.” The New York Times noted that, “There isn’t much in Ms. Swift’s music to indicate country—a few banjo strums, a pair of cowboy boots worn onstage, a bedazzled guitar—but there’s something in her winsome, vulnerable delivery that’s unique to Nashville.
The New Yorker believes she is “considered part of Nashville’s country-pop tradition only because she writes narrative songs with melodic clarity and dramatic shape—Nashville’s stock-in-trade.”The Guardian has said that Swift “cranks melodies out with the pitiless efficiency of a Scandinavian pop factory.”
Swift’s voice has been described as “sweet, but soft.” In studio recordings, the Los Angeles Times identifies Swift’s “defining” vocal gesture as “the line that slides down like a contented sigh or up like a raised eyebrow, giving her beloved girl-time hits their air of easy intimacy.
” Rolling Stone, in a Speak Now review, remarked: “Swift’s voice is unaffected enough to mask how masterful she has become as a singer; she lowers her voice for the payoff lines in the classic mode of a shy girl trying to talk tough.
In another review of Speak Now, The Village Voice noted that her phrasing was previously “bland and muddled, but that’s changed. She can still sound strained and thin, and often strays into a pitch that drives some people crazy; but she’s learned how to make words sound like what they mean.”
In a live setting, Swift, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “does her best, but certainly doesn’t have the pipes to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Christina Aguilera or Carrie Underwood.” Her live vocals were described in 2009 as “flat,” “thin, and sometimes as wobbly as a newborn colt.” However, Swift has received praise for refusing to correct her pitch with Auto-Tune.
In an interview with The New Yorker, Swift characterized herself primarily as a songwriter: “I write songs, and my voice is just a way to get those lyrics across.” Borchetta conceded in 2010 that Swift is “not the best technical singer,” but described her as the “best communicator that we’ve got.” Swift’s vocal presence is something that concerns her and she has “put a lot of work” into improving it.
It was reported in 2010 that she continues to take vocal lessons. She has said that she only feels nervous performing “if I’m not sure what the audience thinks of me, like at award shows.”
Awards and achievements
Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Taylor Swift
Swift has received many awards and honors, including seven Grammy Awards, 16 American Music Awards, 11 Country Music Association Awards, seven Academy of Country Music Awards, and 34 Billboard Music Awards.
As a songwriter, she has been honored by the Nashville Songwriters Association and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. According to Britain’s Wonderland publication, Swift had received over 200 accolades for her musical endeavors by the end of 2014.
Main articles: Taylor Swift discography and List of songs recorded by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift (2006)
Speak Now (2010)
Fearless Tour (2009–10)
Speak Now World Tour (2011–12)
The Red Tour (2013–14)
The 1989 World Tour (2015)
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