Life and career
1989–2003: Early life
Taylor Alison Swift was born on December 13, 1989, in Reading, Pennsylvania. Her father, Scott Kingsley Swift, was a financial advisor, and her mother, Andrea Gardner Swift (née Finlay), was a homemaker who had previously worked as a mutual fund marketing executive. Swift has a younger brother named Austin. The singer spent the early years of her life on a Christmas tree farm. She attended preschool and kindergarten at the Alvernia Montessori School, run by Franciscan nuns, before transferring to The Wyndcroft School. The family then moved to a rented house in the suburban town of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, where she attended Wyomissing Area Junior/Senior High School.
At the age of nine, Swift became interested in musical theater and performed in four Berks Youth Theatre Academy productions. She also traveled regularly to New York City for vocal and acting lessons. Swift later shifted her focus toward country music inspired by Shania Twain's songs, which made her "want to just run around the block four times and daydream about everything". She spent her weekends performing at local festivals and events. After watching a documentary 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 visit Nashville record labels and submitted a demo tape of Dolly Parton and Dixie Chicks karaoke covers. However, she was rejected since "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".
When Swift was about 12 years old, computer repairman and local musician Ronnie Cremer taught her how to play guitar and helped with her first efforts as a songwriter, leading to her writing "Lucky You". In 2003, Swift and her parents started working with New York-based music manager Dan Dymtrow. With his help, Swift modelled for Abercrombie & Fitch as part of their "Rising Stars" campaign, had an original song included on a Maybelline compilation CD, and attended meetings with major record labels. After performing original songs at an RCA Records showcase, Swift was given an artist development deal and began making frequent trips to Nashville with her mother.
To help Swift break into country music, her father transferred to the Nashville office of Merrill Lynch when she was 14, and the family relocated to a lakefront house in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Swift attended public high school, but after two years transferred to the Aaron Academy, which through homeschooling could accommodate her touring schedule, and she graduated a year early.
2004–2008: Career beginnings and Taylor Swift
In Nashville, Swift worked with experienced Music Row songwriters such as Troy Verges, Brett Beavers, Brett James, Mac McAnally, and The Warren Brothers. She eventually formed a lasting working relationship with Liz Rose. They began meeting for two-hour writing sessions every Tuesday afternoon after school. Rose thought that the sessions were "some of the easiest I've ever done. Basically, I was just her editor. She'd write about what happened in school that day. She had such a clear vision of what she was trying to say. And she'd come in with the most incredible hooks". Swift was signed by the Sony/ATV Tree publishing house, but left RCA Records when she was 14. She later recalled: "I genuinely felt that I was running out of time. I wanted to capture these years of my life on an album while they still represented what I was going through".
Swift was at an industry showcase at Nashville's Bluebird Cafe in 2005 when she caught the attention of Scott Borchetta, a DreamWorks Records executive who was preparing to form his own independent record label, Big Machine Records. She had met Borchetta in 2004. She became one of the first signings, and her father purchased a three percent stake in the fledgling company at an estimated cost of $120,000. The singer began working on her eponymous debut album shortly after signing the record deal. She persuaded Big Machine to hire her demo producer Nathan Chapman, with whom she felt she had the right "chemistry". Swift wrote three of the album's songs alone, and co-wrote the remaining eight with writers Rose, Robert Ellis Orrall, Brian Maher, and Angelo Petraglia. Taylor Swift was released on October 24, 2006. Jon Caramanica of The New York Times described it as "a small masterpiece of pop-minded country, both wide-eyed and cynical, held together by Ms. Swift's firm, pleading voice". Taylor Swift peaked at number five on the Billboard 200 albums chart in the United States and spent 157 weeks on the ranking, marking the longest stay on the chart by any release in the country in the 2000s decade. As of August 2016 the album has sold over 7.75 million copies worldwide.
Big Machine Records was still in its infancy during the June 2006 release of the lead single, "Tim McGraw", and Swift and her mother helped "stuff the CD singles into envelopes to send to radio". She spent much of 2006 promoting Taylor Swift with a radio tour and television appearances. Borchetta has said that record industry peers disliked his signing of a 16-year-old singer-songwriter at first, but that Swift tapped into a previously unknown market—teenage girls who listen to country music. Following "Tim McGraw", four more singles were released throughout 2007 and 2008: "Teardrops on My Guitar", "Our Song", "Picture to Burn" and "Should've Said No". All were highly successful on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart in the United States, with "Our Song" and "Should've Said No" both reaching number one. For the former, Swift became the youngest person to single-handedly write and perform a number-one song on the chart. "Teardrops on My Guitar" became a moderate commercial success, reaching number thirteen on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart in the United States. Swift also released the holiday album Sounds of the Season: The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection in October 2007 and the EP Beautiful Eyes in July 2008. She promoted her debut album extensively as the opening act for other artists on their tours.
Swift won accolades for Taylor Swift. She was one of the recipients of the Nashville Songwriters Association's Songwriter/Artist of the Year in 2007, becoming the youngest person to be honored with the title. She also won the Country Music Association's Horizon Award for Best New Artist, the Academy of Country Music Awards' Top New Female Vocalist, and the American Music Awards' Favorite Country Female Artist honor. She was also nominated for Best New Artist at the 2008 Grammy Awards. In July of that year, Swift began a romance with Joe Jonas that ended three months later.
2008–2010: Fearless and acting
Swift's second studio album, Fearless, was released on November 11, 2008. The lead single, "Love Story", was released in September 2008. It peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one in Australia. Four more singles were released throughout 2008 and 2009: "White Horse", "You Belong with Me", "Fifteen" and "Fearless". "You Belong with Me" was the album's highest-charting single on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number two. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and was the top-selling album of 2009 in the United States. The album received promotion from Swift's first concert tour, the Fearless Tour, which grossed over $63 million. Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless, a concert film, was aired on television and later released on DVD and Blu-ray. Swift also performed as a supporting act for Keith Urban's Escape Together World Tour.
In 2009, the music video for "You Belong with Me" was named MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video. Her acceptance speech was interrupted by rapper Kanye West. The incident was the subject of controversy and frequent media attention, resulting in many Internet memes. James Montgomery of MTV argued that the incident and subsequent media attention turned Swift into "a bona-fide mainstream celebrity". Also that year, she won five American Music Awards, including Artist of the Year and Favorite Country Album. Billboard named her 2009's Artist of the Year. The album ranked number 99 on NPR's 2017 list of the 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women.
At the 52nd Grammy Awards, Fearless was named Album of the Year and Best Country Album, and "White Horse" was named Best Country Song and Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Swift was the youngest artist ever to win Album of the Year. During the ceremony, Swift sang "You Belong with Me" and "Rhiannon" with Stevie Nicks. Her vocal performance received negative reviews and a media backlash. Jon Caramanica of The New York Times found it "refreshing to see someone so gifted make the occasional flub" and described Swift as "the most important new pop star of the past few years". Swift became the youngest ever artist to be named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association. Fearless also won the Association's Album of the Year award.
Swift contributed backing vocals to John Mayer's "Half of My Heart", a single featured on his fourth album, Battle Studies (2009). She co-wrote and recorded "Best Days of Your Life" with Kellie Pickler, and co-wrote two songs for the Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack—"You'll Always Find Your Way Back Home" and "Crazier". Swift also provided vocals for Boys Like Girls' "Two Is Better Than One". She contributed two songs to the Valentine's Day soundtrack, including "Today Was a Fairytale", which became her first number one on the Canadian Hot 100 chart. While filming her cinematic debut Valentine's Day in October 2009, Swift began a romantic relationship with co-star Taylor Lautner, but they broke up later that year. The romantic comedy, released the following year, saw her play the ditzy girlfriend of a high school jock, a role in which Los Angeles Times found "serious comedic potential". In a scathing review, the critic for Variety deemed her "entirely undirected", arguing that "she needs to find a skilled director to tamp her down and channel her obviously abundant energy".
Swift made her acting debut in a 2009 episode of CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, playing a rebellious teenager. The New York Times noted that the character allowed Swift to be "a little bit naughty, and credibly so". Later that year, Swift both hosted and performed as the musical guest for an episode of Saturday Night Live. Entertainment Weekly described her as "this season's best Saturday Night Live host so far", noting that she "was always up for the challenge, seemed to be having fun, and helped the rest of the cast nail the punchlines". Later in 2010, she briefly dated actor Jake Gyllenhaal.
2010–2014: Speak Now and Red
In August 2010, Swift released "Mine", the lead single from her third studio album, Speak Now. It entered the United States at number three, making Swift the second female artist in the history of the Hot 100 (after Mariah Carey) to debut multiple tracks in the top five in one year; the other was "Today Was a Fairytale" at number two. Swift wrote the album alone and co produced every track. Speak Now, released on October 25, 2010, was a commercial success, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200, and becoming the 16th album to achieve opening week sales of one million copies. It became the fastest-selling digital album by a female artist, with 278,000 downloads in a week, earning Swift an entry in the 2010 Guinness World Records. She earned another Guinness World Record entry after she became the first woman to achieve 10 track debuts on the Billboard Hot 100. Three of the album's singles, "Mine", "Back to December", and "Mean", peaked in the top ten in Canada.
"Mean" won Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. Swift performed the song during the ceremony. Claire Suddath of Time felt she "delivered her comeback on-key and with a vengeance"; Jayme Deerwester of USA Today wrote that the criticism in 2010 seemed to have "made her a better songwriter and live performer". Swift won various other awards for Speak Now, including Songwriter/Artist of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association (2010 and 2011), Woman of the Year by Billboard (2011), and Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music (2011 and 2012) and the Country Music Association in 2011. At the American Music Awards of 2011, Swift won Artist of the Year and Favorite Country Album. Rolling Stone placed Speak Now at number 45 in its 2012 list of the "50 Best Female Albums of All Time", writing: "She might get played on the country station, but she's one of the few genuine rock stars we've got these days, with a flawless ear for what makes a song click."
The Speak Now World Tour ran from February 2011 to March 2012 and grossed over $123 million. In November 2011, Swift released her first live album, Speak Now World Tour: Live. The following month, she contributed two original songs to The Hunger Games soundtrack album: "Safe & Sound", cowritten and recorded with the Civil Wars and T-Bone Burnett, and "Eyes Open". "Safe & Sound" won the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media. After providing vocals for B.o.B's "Both of Us" in May 2012, Swift dated political heir Conor Kennedy from July to September 2012. In August, Swift released "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", the lead single from her fourth studio album, Red. It became her first number one in the US and New Zealand and reached the top slot on iTunes' digital song sales chart 50 minutes after its release, earning the "Fastest Selling Single in Digital History" Guinness World Record. Swift released the album's second single, "Begin Again", in October. It reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100. Other singles released from the album include "I Knew You Were Trouble", "22", "Everything Has Changed", "The Last Time", and "Red". "I Knew You Were Trouble" was a major commercial success, peaking at number two in the United States.
Red was released on October 22, 2012, incorporating new genres for Swift, such as heartland rock, dubstep and dance-pop. The album was a critical and commercial success, and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 1.21 million copies. This marked the highest opening sales in a decade in the United States, and made Swift the first female to have two million-selling album openings, a record recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. The Red Tour ran from March 2013 to June 2014 and grossed over $150 million. Red earned several accolades, including four nominations at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. Its single "I Knew You Were Trouble" won Best Female Video at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. Swift was named Best Female Country Artist at the 2012 American Music Awards and Artist of the Year at the 2013 ceremony. She received the Nashville Songwriters Association's Songwriter/Artist Award for the fifth and sixth consecutive years in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Swift was also honored by the Association with a special Pinnacle Award, making her the second recipient of the accolade after Garth Brooks.
In 2013, Swift cowrote "Sweeter Than Fiction" with Jack Antonoff for the One Chance soundtrack, and received a Best Original Song nomination at the 71st Golden Globe Awards. She provided guest vocals for Tim McGraw's song "Highway Don't Care", featuring guitar work by Keith Urban. Swift performed "As Tears Go By" with the Rolling Stones in Chicago, Illinois as part of their 50 & Counting tour, and stated that the band was a major influence on her career outlook. She also joined Florida Georgia Line on stage during their set at the 2013 Country Radio Seminar to sing "Cruise". Outside music, Swift voiced Audrey, a tree lover, in the animated film The Lorax (2012), made a cameo in the sitcom New Girl (2013), and had a supporting role in the film adaptation of The Giver (2014). During this time, she dated British singer Harry Styles.
In March 2014, Swift relocated to New York City. Around this time, she was working on her fifth studio album, 1989, with writers Antonoff, Max Martin, Shellback, Imogen Heap, Ryan Tedder, and Ali Payami. She promoted the album through various campaigns, including inviting fans to secret album-listening sessions, called the "1989 Secret Sessions". Credited as her "first documented, official pop album", it marked a departure from her previous country albums. The album was released on October 27, 2014 to positive reviews.
Swift at the 1989 World Tour
, which grossed $250 million and became one of the highest-grossing tours of the decade
1989 sold 1.28 million copies in the US during the first week of release and debuted atop the Billboard 200—this made Swift the first act to have three albums sell more than one million copies in their opening release week, for which she earned a Guinness World Record. As of June 2017, 1989 had sold over 10 million copies worldwide. The album's lead single, "Shake It Off", was released in August 2014 and debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The album also generated two additional number-one singles—"Blank Space" and "Bad Blood" (featuring Kendrick Lamar)—as well as the top-ten entries "Style" and "Wildest Dreams", and other singles "Out of the Woods" and "New Romantics". "Shake It Off", "Blank Space", and "Bad Blood" also topped the charts in Australia and Canada. After "Blank Space" reached number-one in the US following "Shake It Off", Swift became the first woman in the Hot 100's history to succeed herself at the top spot. The music video for the former briefly became the fastest video to reach one billion views on Vevo. The videos for "Blank Space" and "Bad Blood" won four accolades at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, with the latter winning for Video of the Year and Best Collaboration. Swift's headlining tour, the 1989 World Tour, running from May to December 2015, grossed over $250 million, and became one of the highest grossing tours of the decade.
Swift was named Billboard's Woman of the Year in 2014, becoming the first artist to win the award twice. Also that year, she received the Dick Clark Award for Excellence at the American Music Awards. In 2015, "Shake It Off" was nominated for three Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year and Swift won the Brit Award for International Female Solo Artist. The singer was one of eight artists to receive a 50th Anniversary Milestone Award at the 2015 Academy of Country Music Awards. In 2016, Swift won three Grammy Awards for 1989—Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, and Best Music Video for "Bad Blood". She became the first woman, and fifth act overall, to win the first of these twice.
Prior to 1989's release, Swift stressed the importance of albums to artists and fans. In November 2014, she removed her entire catalog from Spotify, arguing that the streaming company's ad-supported, free service undermined the premium service, which provides higher royalties for songwriters. In a June 2015 open letter, Swift criticized Apple Music for not offering royalties to artists during the streaming service's free three-month trial period and stated that she would pull 1989 from the catalog. The following day, Apple announced that it would pay artists during the free trial period, and Swift agreed to stream 1989 on the streaming service. Swift's intellectual property rights management and holding company, TAS Rights Management, filed for 73 trademarks related to the singer and the 1989 era memes. She re-added her entire catalog to Spotify, Amazon Music and Google Play in June 2017.
In 2015, Swift performed "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Shake It Off" with Paul McCartney at the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special after-party, and joined Kenny Chesney to sing "Big Star" on the opening night of his Big Revival Tour in Nashville. In March 2015, Swift started dating Scottish DJ and record producer Calvin Harris. By June 2015, the duo were ranked as the highest-paid celebrity couple over the past year by Forbes with combined earnings of over $146 million. In August, Swift addressed her mother's cancer diagnosis, and encouraged others to get a medical checkup. Before Swift and Harris announced the end of their relationship in June 2016, the two co-wrote his song "This Is What You Came For" (featuring Rihanna), for which she was initially credited under the pseudonym Nils Sjöberg. In October, she penned Little Big Town's "Better Man" for their seventh album, The Breaker. The song earned Swift an award for Song of the Year at the 51st CMA Awards. Two months later, Swift and Zayn Malik released a single together called "I Don't Wanna Live Forever", for the soundtrack of the film Fifty Shades Darker (2017). The song reached number one in Sweden and peaked at number two in the United States. At the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, the duo won the award for Best Collaboration for the song's music video.
In August 2017, Swift sued and prevailed in a civil trial against David Mueller, a former morning show personality for Denver's KYGO-FM. Four years earlier, Swift had informed Mueller's bosses that he had sexually assaulted her by groping her at an event. After being fired, Mueller accused Swift of lying and sued her for making him lose his job. Shortly after, Swift counter-sued for sexual assault. The jury rejected Mueller's claims and ruled in favor of Swift. The singer thereafter cleared her social media accounts and released "Look What You Made Me Do" as the lead single from her sixth album, Reputation. The song topped the charts in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Its music video gained over 43.2 million views during its first day on YouTube, breaking the site's record for the most-viewed music video within 24 hours. In October, Swift released the album's second single, "...Ready for It?", which charted at number three in Australia and at number four in the United States.
Two promotional singles were released from Reputation, "Gorgeous" and "Call It What You Want"; the former later became the album's fifth single, however only being released as such in Europe. The album was released on November 10 and sold 1.216 million copies in the United States—becoming 2017's top-selling album (pure sales only) in the country—and 2 million copies worldwide during its first week. It topped the charts in several countries, including the US, the UK, Australia and Canada. Later that month, Swift performed "...Ready for It?" and "Call It What You Want" on Saturday Night Live. "End Game", featuring Ed Sheeran and Future, followed in November as the third single, and peaked at number 18 in the US. Other singles from the album include "New Year's Day" and "Delicate"; the former of which was released exclusively to country radio.
In support of Reputation, Swift embarked on Taylor Swift's Reputation Stadium Tour in 2018. In April 2018, Swift featured on Sugarland's "Babe" from their album Bigger.[a]