In case you wouldn’t know Tim McGraw from a McNugget, here’s what Taylor Swift will have accomplished before she turns 19 next month: released a triple-platinum first album, made the Guinness Book of Records as the first million-selling female in the U.S. to write her debut release, and never took a “vacation” to rehab or posed nude. Swift checked in from the road to discuss her new album and indulged us with talk about mean girls, the King of Prussia mall, and some guy named Jonas.
Tell me about this legendary Christmas tree farm you grew up on. It was an actual Christmas tree farm. We had, like, 15 acres. It was really fun as a kid. I also spent my summers at the Jersey Shore, on the bay in Stone Harbor. I walked everywhere barefoot. It was just the most amazing, magical way to grow up.
Do you remember the first song you wrote? A song called “Lucky You,” when I was 12. There’s a terrible recording of it that leaked on the Internet. I sound like a Chipmunk.
I understand the King of Prussia mall comforted you at a very tough time in your life. Can you explain? In middle school, my friends decided I was weird, and they didn’t like my hair. They ditched me and talked behind my back, which is cool — I’m over it. [laughs] One time I called them and said, “Hey, do you want to go to the Berkshire Mall?” They all gave me excuses and said no. So I go to the mall with my mom, and don’t you know, we run into all of them. Together. Shopping. My mom could see I was about to cry, so she said, “You know what? We’re going to the King of Prussia mall,” which was the mecca.
In a way, you owe those bitches some thanks for giving you good material. Exactly. The thing about being a songwriter is that no matter what happens, if you write a song about it, it’s productive.
Was the transition from your tree farm to Nashville difficult? It was easy. In Pennsylvania, I was weird. I would play singer-songwriter nights every weekend instead of going to parties. I think it’s weird to go to parties and get drunk when you’re 13, but whatever. Then I moved to Nashville, and all of the sudden I was a normal kid.
When did you realize that you weren’t just successful — you were a humongous friggin’ deal? [pause] Um, I never came to that realization, actually. My biggest pet peeve is people who feel they’re entitled to success and fame. I haven’t reached the point where I’m like, “Hey, man, I’ve made it!” And I hope I never do get to that point.
Here’s my James Lipton question. Your new album is called Fearless. What scares Taylor Swift? My definition of “fearless” is not that you’re not afraid. It’s that you’re afraid but you jump anyway. I have moments where I’m afraid of the music industry, I’m afraid of being average, I’m afraid of not mattering to people. I’m not afraid for this second album, honestly. There are moments when I think, “Is there anything that’s missing?” But there’s really not.
You have a new song called “Hey Stephen.” Is this guy getting the Taylor Swift smackdown? This is a guy I had a crush on. I wrote about all these reasons he should be with me instead of other girls. [laughs] “Hey Stephen/I could give you 50 reasons/Why I should be the one you choose/All those other girls are beautiful/But would they write a song for you?” This guy has absolutely no idea I had a crush on him. It’s gonna be kind of interesting when he finds out.
That could be a pretty short song. “Hey Stephen/If you haven’t heard/I’ve sold like 10 billion records/We should go out.” That’s not a good reason to date me!
What’s up with you and that Jonas Brother? I’m not going to answer the question if you refer to him as “that Jonas Brother.” [laughs]
I’m not well-versed in all things Jonas. I only know there’s three of them. [Sweetly] I’m sorry.
But your fans want to know! Which one? [laughs]
Crap. Joe? Is that even one of them? He’s an amazing guy, and anybody would be lucky to be dating him.
So I got it? He’s the one? I’m not admitting anything.
I’m awesome! I’m impressed. I didn’t think you had a chance.
So, promise rings — not a deal-breaker? [Long pause] I don’t ever talk about how I feel about that sort of thing because it makes people look at me sexually, which has never been a goal of mine. So, honestly, deal-breaker? That’s actually a plus for me.