Teen star Taylor Swift connects with fans
By Ken Tucker
NASHVILLE (Billboard) - It's a steamy summer night on the banks of the Ohio River, and 18-year-old Taylor Swift, dressed in a green sundress and worn cowboy boots, is backstage for a meet- and-greet with her Cincinnati fans. The aging Riverbend Music Center has seen better days, but it's sold out for Swift's appearance with country trio Rascal Flatts.
She's swarmed by an army of mini-Taylors, all of whom emit high-pitched screams of glee at the sight of the singer. "She's so gorgeous," one teen says, as her friend stands on tippy toes and squeals, "I'm so excited!" Swift chats easily with her fans, giving each a personal moment: "You're tall, like me," she says to one. "I just noticed your necklace -- it's cute," she tells another.
For her preteen fans -- and there are plenty -- she drops to one knee and converses at eye level. Those who asked for hugs didn't receive an awkward, half-hearted embrace: Even the girl holding an "Ohio Loves Taylor" sign who nearly tackled Swift got a warm response. And so begins Swift's transition from rising country superstar -- her 2006 self-titled debut album has sold 3.4 million units, in addition to 7.5 million downloads of singles, according to Nielsen SoundScan -- to just plain ol' superstar.
Swift, who is up for female vocalist of the year, will perform at the CMA Awards, which will air November 12 on ABC. Her new album, "Fearless," will be out the preceding day via Big Machine Records.
Swift wrote a track on the album, "Change" -- which hit the market as part of AT&T's Team USA Olympic Soundtrack promotion this past summer -- to celebrate her independent label and its success.
"Being on a little record label, you have to fight harder than being on a bigger record label to be on award shows, to be a performer and a presenter and to get big tours and support," Swift says. "My record label had 12 employees when I put out my album and my single and I just kept looking around and thinking, 'Some day we are going to grow and this is going to change and we are going to have a fighting chance.'"
Swift finished the song the day after she won the Country Music Association's (CMA) Horizon Award in November 2007. "I looked over at Scott Borchetta, the president of my label, and saw him crying," she says. Continued...