Taylor Swift ready to "Speak Now" with third album

Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:29pm EDT
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By Tom Roland

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Taylor Swift pulled a sweater over her knees. She was seated on a black leather couch in the lobby of Big Machine Records in Nashville, and the office was a bit chilly for the short, frilly skirt she wore.

Despite the brisk temperature, the room held distinctly warm memories for the 20-year-old singer. A handful of framed wall hangings provided a mini-retrospective of her career, including a multiplatinum award for her last album, 2008's "Fearless."

The Big Machine lobby was, in fact, a significant reminder of just how far she's traveled in her quick rise from unknown teen to global star.

When she was still a 16-year-old high school student, there was nothing on the walls in this room. Swift remembered sitting on the floor in the early summer of 2006, stuffing promotional CDs of her first single, "Tim McGraw," into envelopes destined for radio stations around the country.

"With every envelope that I would seal I would look at the address and the station on there and think, 'Please, please just listen to this one time,'" she recalled.

"I would say a little message to each envelope: 'Please, whoever gets this, please listen to this.' There's no promise when you're putting out your first single that people are even going to listen to it."

Not only did the single get heard, it opened the door to sales of more than 4 million copies of her self-titled debut album, awash in songs about broken hearts and high school social dramas.

Her sophomore set, "Fearless," did even better, selling 592,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan, on its way to more than 6 million sales.   Continued...