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Who Is Taylor Swift?

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Learn how a young girl who lived on a Christmas tree farm grew up to become one of the most celebrated musical artists of the twenty-first century in this addition to the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

Taylor Swift always knew she wanted to be a country music artist, so at age thirteen, she convinced her parents to move their family out of Pennsylvania to Nashville.

As a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Taylor wrote songs about teenage heartbreak and fitting in with her peers, and she performed these and other tunes at open mic nights and karaoke events. Breaking into the music industry took longer than she expected because record executives thought there was no place in country music for her songs. But Taylor was fearless and proved them wrong.

Since the release of her self-titled debut album in 2006, Taylor Swift has dominated the music charts, reinvented her sound, won numerous awards, shaken off public criticism, and spoken up for herself and others. 

Whether you're a lifelong Swiftie or someone who just loves learning about musicians, this enchanting book will teach you all about the experiences that helped Taylor Swift become the successful superstar many kids and adults looks up to.
Who Is Taylor Swift?
 
It was the summer of 2006. A country music radio station in Nashville, Tennessee, was taking song requests from listeners.
 
The host answered a call live on the air. It sounded like a young girl.
 
“Hi, can you play that ‘Tim McGraw’ song you played earlier?” she asked.
 
Tim McGraw was one of country music’s biggest stars, and he had a lot of hits, so the host asked the caller which Tim McGraw song she wanted to hear.
 
“The one by Taylor Swift.”
 
Listening to the radio as she drove through Nashville, sixteen­year-old Taylor Swift screamed, “YES!” and nearly slid off the road. Someone had actually called a radio station to request her new song! Maybe her dream of becoming a country music star was coming true.
 
Even though Taylor was young, she had already experienced a lot of difficulties trying to break into the music industry. She’d been told that teens didn’t listen to country music and adults wouldn’t be interested in her songs. She’d walked away from a deal with a record company because she wasn’t sure they would let her record her own music.
 
But Taylor felt that she had something to say. She knew there were plenty of girls who would be able to relate to her songs. They were trying to fit in at school and find friends, too. They were going through first loves and first breakups just like Taylor.
 
On that day, driving down a street in Nashville, she felt like she had taken a big step in her career. Then again, it was just one step. There was going to be a lot more work for Taylor and her team to do, but she was ready for it.
 
Taylor Swift planned to make music the focus of her life—­and she would bring her fans along for the thrilling ride.
 
 
Chapter 1
Life on a Farm
 
Taylor Alison Swift was born on December 13, 1989, in West Reading, Pennsylvania. Her father, Scott, worked in banking. Her mother, Andrea, had also worked in banking before becoming a stay-­at-­home mom. When Taylor was two years old, her brother, Austin, was born.
 
Taylor and her family lived on a Christmas tree farm that her father had bought from one of his clients. Every morning, Scott would get up early to do chores on the farm before heading into the office. The rest of the family pitched in to help with other tasks, especially during Christmas. Taylor’s job was picking the praying mantis eggs out of the trees so that they wouldn’t hatch in people’s homes! The excitement of Christmas on the farm gave Taylor a lifelong love for the holiday season.
 
The family kept horses on the farm, too, and Taylor began riding them at an early age. She competed in horseback riding tournaments, and her mother dreamed Taylor would become a champion rider when she got older. But Taylor was drawn to something else.
 
As soon as she could talk, Taylor began to sing. She plucked out tunes on toy pianos and learned all the songs from her favorite Disney movies. When she was six, her parents took her to see the young country star LeAnn Rimes in concert. Taylor was enchanted. She started listening to other popular country performers like Faith Hill, Shania Twain, and the Dixie Chicks (now known as the Chicks). Taylor was fascinated by the way country songs told stories. Sometimes when a song she liked ended, she would continue the story herself by singing verses that she made up.
 
Taylor performed in local children’s theater productions. And when she was nine, she began taking singing and acting lessons in New York City. Her parents gave her a guitar, but it was too big for her, and she lost interest in it.
 
But Taylor still wanted to sing. She asked her parents to take her to restaurants that had karaoke contests, where people can sing along with the music track from popular songs. She found minor league sports events where she could sing the national anthem before a game.

That helped her get used to performing in front of big crowds. She even got to sing the national anthem in front of thousands of people at a Philadelphia 76ers basketball game! Taylor loved it when she sang and the audience applauded for her. She always wanted to please people.
 
By now, Taylor knew she wanted to become a country music singer. At age eleven, she begged her mom to take her to Nashville, the home of country music, so she could get a record deal. Taylor and her mom drove up and down the streets of Nashville’s famous Music Row, where all the big record companies have their offices. At each building, Taylor dropped off a recording of her karaoke performances. But none of the record companies were interested. Many producers and executives thought teenagers didn’t listen to country music.
 
Taylor was disappointed, but she was not ready to give up. She now understood that getting a record deal wasn’t easy. She needed to find a way to stand out.
 
During middle school, Taylor stood out in all the wrong ways. Her friends called her “annoying” and made fun of her for how much she followed the rules. Some days, no one at school would talk to her. When she sat down at a lunch table, girls would get up and walk away. Taylor often felt like the only friend she had was her mom.
 
But she knew she could always count on music to cheer her up. When Taylor was twelve, she started taking guitar lessons from a local musician named Ronnie Cremer. She fell in love with playing the guitar and practiced for hours a day. Then, Taylor began to compose her own songs. She had always loved writing and poetry, so putting her words to music came easily to her. Taylor poured all the heartache and pain she felt from her struggles at school into her songs.
 
Taylor had been looking for a way to stand out from the other singers—­especially those in Nashville. And now she had it. She wasn’t just a singer. She was a songwriter.
 
 
Chapter 2
Taking a Risk
 
In 2003, Taylor signed with manager Dan Dymtrow, who had helped other musicians early in their careers. He got her some modeling jobs and helped her meet with important people at record companies.
 
When Taylor was thirteen, RCA Records signed her to a development deal. They would work with her for a year, and if they liked her progress, they might help her make an album. It wasn’t a guarantee, but RCA was one of the biggest record companies in music. It meant that Taylor showed promise.
 
Taylor’s parents realized that it was time to leave Pennsylvania. Her father transferred to his company’s office in Nashville, and the family moved to a suburb outside the city called Hendersonville.
 
Taylor immediately felt happier attending Hendersonville High School. In Hendersonville, people didn’t think there was anything odd about trying to become a country singer because many people there knew someone in the music business.
 
And on her first day of school, Taylor found a best friend, Abigail Anderson. She often shared her songs with Abigail before bringing them to anyone else. It helped Taylor to be around people who supported her dreams.
 
In 2004, Taylor made a big decision. Her deal with RCA was up for renewal. The company thought that she might not be ready to make an album until she was eighteen.
 
Taylor didn’t want to wait four more years, so she decided not to renew her deal. This was a huge risk. Musicians all over Nashville would do anything for a deal with a big company like RCA. But Taylor just felt it wasn’t right for her.
 
Instead, she went back to playing in talent showcases around Nashville. Taylor sent promotional packages with recordings of her music to record companies and music publishers. Although her deal with RCA hadn’t worked out, it did help her meet people in the business and get a chance to perform for them.
 
One night in November 2004, Taylor’s risk began to pay off. She got the chance to perform at the Bluebird Cafe, one of Nashville’s most famous live music venues. Many popular country artists had gotten their start there. Taylor performed three of her original songs that night.
 
In the audience was Scott Borchetta, an executive from Universal Music Group, another big recording company. Taylor had performed for him recently and mentioned her upcoming appearance at the Bluebird Cafe. After the show, he told Taylor that he wanted to offer her a record deal. However, he was planning to leave Universal Music Group to start his own record company and wouldn’t be able to sign her until 2005. Taylor promised to think about his offer.
 
Meanwhile, Sony/ATV, a music publisher, had offered Taylor a contract as a songwriter. Songwriters get paid every time their song is played or performed, even by other artists. Writing a hit song is one of the best ways to make money in the music industry. At Sony/ATV, Taylor would get to work with and learn from the company’s many well-­known songwriters. Taylor’s new cowriters quickly discovered that she didn’t need much help, though. One of her cowriters, Liz Rose, said she often just helped edit the songs Taylor had mostly written.
 
Ten days after the show at the Bluebird Cafe, Taylor called Scott Borchetta and agreed to wait to sign with his new company, Big Machine Records. She thought that a small company would be able to pay more attention to her development as an artist.
 
Taylor used the time between making a verbal agreement with Scott Borchetta and signing her official recording contract to write more songs. One of these tunes came to her when she was sitting in math class. A boy she had been dating ended their relationship because he was going off to college. She wrote about the things that she hoped would remind him of her, including her favorite song by Tim McGraw. After school, she finished the song with Liz Rose.
 
After signing her contract in the fall of 2005, Taylor began recording her first album. On June 19, 2006, the record company released her song “Tim McGraw” as a single to radio stations. Borchetta knew it was a good song. He also knew the title would get people’s attention.
 
One night Taylor heard it as part of a “song challenge” on a popular Nashville radio station. The station would play a new song, and then listeners could call in to say whether they liked it or not. Taylor sat nervously in her car with her friends, listening as callers voted. To her relief, people liked her song, and one listener even asked the radio host to play it again!
Who HQ is your headquarters for history. The Who HQ team is always working to provide simple and clear answers to some of our biggest questions. From Who Was George Washington? to Who Is Michelle Obama?, and What Was the Battle of Gettysburg? to Where Is the Great Barrier Reef?, we strive to give you all the facts. Visit us at WhoHQ.com View titles by Who HQ

About

Learn how a young girl who lived on a Christmas tree farm grew up to become one of the most celebrated musical artists of the twenty-first century in this addition to the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

Taylor Swift always knew she wanted to be a country music artist, so at age thirteen, she convinced her parents to move their family out of Pennsylvania to Nashville.

As a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Taylor wrote songs about teenage heartbreak and fitting in with her peers, and she performed these and other tunes at open mic nights and karaoke events. Breaking into the music industry took longer than she expected because record executives thought there was no place in country music for her songs. But Taylor was fearless and proved them wrong.

Since the release of her self-titled debut album in 2006, Taylor Swift has dominated the music charts, reinvented her sound, won numerous awards, shaken off public criticism, and spoken up for herself and others. 

Whether you're a lifelong Swiftie or someone who just loves learning about musicians, this enchanting book will teach you all about the experiences that helped Taylor Swift become the successful superstar many kids and adults looks up to.

Excerpt

Who Is Taylor Swift?
 
It was the summer of 2006. A country music radio station in Nashville, Tennessee, was taking song requests from listeners.
 
The host answered a call live on the air. It sounded like a young girl.
 
“Hi, can you play that ‘Tim McGraw’ song you played earlier?” she asked.
 
Tim McGraw was one of country music’s biggest stars, and he had a lot of hits, so the host asked the caller which Tim McGraw song she wanted to hear.
 
“The one by Taylor Swift.”
 
Listening to the radio as she drove through Nashville, sixteen­year-old Taylor Swift screamed, “YES!” and nearly slid off the road. Someone had actually called a radio station to request her new song! Maybe her dream of becoming a country music star was coming true.
 
Even though Taylor was young, she had already experienced a lot of difficulties trying to break into the music industry. She’d been told that teens didn’t listen to country music and adults wouldn’t be interested in her songs. She’d walked away from a deal with a record company because she wasn’t sure they would let her record her own music.
 
But Taylor felt that she had something to say. She knew there were plenty of girls who would be able to relate to her songs. They were trying to fit in at school and find friends, too. They were going through first loves and first breakups just like Taylor.
 
On that day, driving down a street in Nashville, she felt like she had taken a big step in her career. Then again, it was just one step. There was going to be a lot more work for Taylor and her team to do, but she was ready for it.
 
Taylor Swift planned to make music the focus of her life—­and she would bring her fans along for the thrilling ride.
 
 
Chapter 1
Life on a Farm
 
Taylor Alison Swift was born on December 13, 1989, in West Reading, Pennsylvania. Her father, Scott, worked in banking. Her mother, Andrea, had also worked in banking before becoming a stay-­at-­home mom. When Taylor was two years old, her brother, Austin, was born.
 
Taylor and her family lived on a Christmas tree farm that her father had bought from one of his clients. Every morning, Scott would get up early to do chores on the farm before heading into the office. The rest of the family pitched in to help with other tasks, especially during Christmas. Taylor’s job was picking the praying mantis eggs out of the trees so that they wouldn’t hatch in people’s homes! The excitement of Christmas on the farm gave Taylor a lifelong love for the holiday season.
 
The family kept horses on the farm, too, and Taylor began riding them at an early age. She competed in horseback riding tournaments, and her mother dreamed Taylor would become a champion rider when she got older. But Taylor was drawn to something else.
 
As soon as she could talk, Taylor began to sing. She plucked out tunes on toy pianos and learned all the songs from her favorite Disney movies. When she was six, her parents took her to see the young country star LeAnn Rimes in concert. Taylor was enchanted. She started listening to other popular country performers like Faith Hill, Shania Twain, and the Dixie Chicks (now known as the Chicks). Taylor was fascinated by the way country songs told stories. Sometimes when a song she liked ended, she would continue the story herself by singing verses that she made up.
 
Taylor performed in local children’s theater productions. And when she was nine, she began taking singing and acting lessons in New York City. Her parents gave her a guitar, but it was too big for her, and she lost interest in it.
 
But Taylor still wanted to sing. She asked her parents to take her to restaurants that had karaoke contests, where people can sing along with the music track from popular songs. She found minor league sports events where she could sing the national anthem before a game.

That helped her get used to performing in front of big crowds. She even got to sing the national anthem in front of thousands of people at a Philadelphia 76ers basketball game! Taylor loved it when she sang and the audience applauded for her. She always wanted to please people.
 
By now, Taylor knew she wanted to become a country music singer. At age eleven, she begged her mom to take her to Nashville, the home of country music, so she could get a record deal. Taylor and her mom drove up and down the streets of Nashville’s famous Music Row, where all the big record companies have their offices. At each building, Taylor dropped off a recording of her karaoke performances. But none of the record companies were interested. Many producers and executives thought teenagers didn’t listen to country music.
 
Taylor was disappointed, but she was not ready to give up. She now understood that getting a record deal wasn’t easy. She needed to find a way to stand out.
 
During middle school, Taylor stood out in all the wrong ways. Her friends called her “annoying” and made fun of her for how much she followed the rules. Some days, no one at school would talk to her. When she sat down at a lunch table, girls would get up and walk away. Taylor often felt like the only friend she had was her mom.
 
But she knew she could always count on music to cheer her up. When Taylor was twelve, she started taking guitar lessons from a local musician named Ronnie Cremer. She fell in love with playing the guitar and practiced for hours a day. Then, Taylor began to compose her own songs. She had always loved writing and poetry, so putting her words to music came easily to her. Taylor poured all the heartache and pain she felt from her struggles at school into her songs.
 
Taylor had been looking for a way to stand out from the other singers—­especially those in Nashville. And now she had it. She wasn’t just a singer. She was a songwriter.
 
 
Chapter 2
Taking a Risk
 
In 2003, Taylor signed with manager Dan Dymtrow, who had helped other musicians early in their careers. He got her some modeling jobs and helped her meet with important people at record companies.
 
When Taylor was thirteen, RCA Records signed her to a development deal. They would work with her for a year, and if they liked her progress, they might help her make an album. It wasn’t a guarantee, but RCA was one of the biggest record companies in music. It meant that Taylor showed promise.
 
Taylor’s parents realized that it was time to leave Pennsylvania. Her father transferred to his company’s office in Nashville, and the family moved to a suburb outside the city called Hendersonville.
 
Taylor immediately felt happier attending Hendersonville High School. In Hendersonville, people didn’t think there was anything odd about trying to become a country singer because many people there knew someone in the music business.
 
And on her first day of school, Taylor found a best friend, Abigail Anderson. She often shared her songs with Abigail before bringing them to anyone else. It helped Taylor to be around people who supported her dreams.
 
In 2004, Taylor made a big decision. Her deal with RCA was up for renewal. The company thought that she might not be ready to make an album until she was eighteen.
 
Taylor didn’t want to wait four more years, so she decided not to renew her deal. This was a huge risk. Musicians all over Nashville would do anything for a deal with a big company like RCA. But Taylor just felt it wasn’t right for her.
 
Instead, she went back to playing in talent showcases around Nashville. Taylor sent promotional packages with recordings of her music to record companies and music publishers. Although her deal with RCA hadn’t worked out, it did help her meet people in the business and get a chance to perform for them.
 
One night in November 2004, Taylor’s risk began to pay off. She got the chance to perform at the Bluebird Cafe, one of Nashville’s most famous live music venues. Many popular country artists had gotten their start there. Taylor performed three of her original songs that night.
 
In the audience was Scott Borchetta, an executive from Universal Music Group, another big recording company. Taylor had performed for him recently and mentioned her upcoming appearance at the Bluebird Cafe. After the show, he told Taylor that he wanted to offer her a record deal. However, he was planning to leave Universal Music Group to start his own record company and wouldn’t be able to sign her until 2005. Taylor promised to think about his offer.
 
Meanwhile, Sony/ATV, a music publisher, had offered Taylor a contract as a songwriter. Songwriters get paid every time their song is played or performed, even by other artists. Writing a hit song is one of the best ways to make money in the music industry. At Sony/ATV, Taylor would get to work with and learn from the company’s many well-­known songwriters. Taylor’s new cowriters quickly discovered that she didn’t need much help, though. One of her cowriters, Liz Rose, said she often just helped edit the songs Taylor had mostly written.
 
Ten days after the show at the Bluebird Cafe, Taylor called Scott Borchetta and agreed to wait to sign with his new company, Big Machine Records. She thought that a small company would be able to pay more attention to her development as an artist.
 
Taylor used the time between making a verbal agreement with Scott Borchetta and signing her official recording contract to write more songs. One of these tunes came to her when she was sitting in math class. A boy she had been dating ended their relationship because he was going off to college. She wrote about the things that she hoped would remind him of her, including her favorite song by Tim McGraw. After school, she finished the song with Liz Rose.
 
After signing her contract in the fall of 2005, Taylor began recording her first album. On June 19, 2006, the record company released her song “Tim McGraw” as a single to radio stations. Borchetta knew it was a good song. He also knew the title would get people’s attention.
 
One night Taylor heard it as part of a “song challenge” on a popular Nashville radio station. The station would play a new song, and then listeners could call in to say whether they liked it or not. Taylor sat nervously in her car with her friends, listening as callers voted. To her relief, people liked her song, and one listener even asked the radio host to play it again!

Author

Who HQ is your headquarters for history. The Who HQ team is always working to provide simple and clear answers to some of our biggest questions. From Who Was George Washington? to Who Is Michelle Obama?, and What Was the Battle of Gettysburg? to Where Is the Great Barrier Reef?, we strive to give you all the facts. Visit us at WhoHQ.com View titles by Who HQ