Taylor Swift: CMA Entertainer of the Year Is Her Own Woman (2009)

Originally published in the Dec. 7, 2009 issue of Country Weekly magazine. 

“I feel like . . . ” Taylor Swift pauses, looking for just the right words. 

“I feel like . . . ” She pauses again, even longer. 

Taylor is clearly still reeling from the events of two days ago, Nov. 11, when she was named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association. And quite rightly so—she’s the youngest-ever winner of country music’s most prized award, and the first female solo artist to win it in a decade. 

“I’ve never expected that I would ever experience anything like that,” she confesses. “Looking back now, it still doesn’t feel real, to be honest with you. When you’re so emotional about something that every single one of your music teachers from second grade and every single one of the fans that have come through your meet-and-greet line and every single time your dad told you that you could do it is running through your head, that’s a really, really special moment. I’m so lucky to have had that moment.”

Luck certainly played its part, as it always does, but Taylor earned the honor through good old-fashioned hard work. She has determinedly pushed herself as a songwriter, artist and performer since she began down this path in her early teens, and her relentlessness has now paid dividends she never dreamed of. That’s why, on the day after her CMA Awards triumph (she also won three other trophies, including Female Vocalist of the Year), she went right back to work writing songs for her upcoming third album. “I’m never going to forget that night,” she says, “but I’m also not going to stop working to make sure that I have the chance to have more nights like that in my life.” 

Taylor says the follow-up to last year’s quadruple-platinum Fearless (which was re-released in October with six new tracks and a bonus DVD) will reflect her changing concerns. “I’ve always felt like it’s a good thing that I’ve stayed at my current age with my songwriting,” she says. “Whatever age I am, that’s what I write songs about. When I was 16 I was writing songs about being in high school, and now that I’m 19 I’m writing songs about what I’m going through at this age. I feel like if I continue to write songs in real time, and my life is always changing, and I’m always writing songs about my life, my music will always be changing as well. That’s what I hope.”

One especially big change will come on Dec. 13th, when one of America’s most famous teenagers will no longer be a teenager. “Turning 20 is going to be interesting,” she says. “I’ve been in my teens for what seems like forever, because every time something’s noted it’s ‘teenage’ this and ‘teenage’ that. It’ll be cool to have a different kind of slant put on everything because I’ll be 20. It could be a really cool way to grow up a tiny bit. But I’ve never been in a rush to grow up, ever.” 

Taylor will also soon be moving out of her parents’ house outside Nashville, to a nearby condominium that she bought over the summer. “I decided to gut it, because, of course, I had to have it exactly the way I dreamed my first place was going to be like,” she explains with a chuckle. “I’ve got all kinds of construction going on, so it looks kind of post-apocalyptic in there right now. But I have hopes that someday it will look awesome! Having my own pots and pans and spoons and forks and vacuum cleaner, it’s going to be really cool. That’s a big deal personally.”

Taylor’s continued closeness to her parents, Scott and Andrea Swift, has been vital to her success. She has often spoken about how they’ve helped her to keep her head amid the mind-boggling highs and lows of superstardom. Taylor says she isn’t worried that moving out will weaken her bond with them and with her younger brother, Austin. “My parents are going to be 20 minutes away, so I have a feeling I’m still going to be spending much more time with my parents than on my own,” she notes. “I’m not really nervous about leaving the nest, because I feel like it’s just going to be another adventure. I love adventures.”

Taylor’s big adventure has already taken her around the world. She has been packing arenas not only in North America (where her shows routinely sell out in minutes), but in Europe and Australia—it’s no wonder that during the CMA Awards dress rehearsals Brooks & Dunn presented her with the organization’s 2009 CMA International Artist Achievement Award. She’ll kick off her Fearless Tour 2010 in February with a 12-show run in Australia, and she’s planning shows in Germany and Japan. 

“I feel so lucky to have been embraced outside of the U.S.,” she notes. “It’s really all about being excited about different places that have different rules and different opinions and accepting that the way things are where you’re most comfortable isn’t the only way things are. I really like learning about different places and different cultures and different music industries and different countries. It’s really fascinating.”

When she returns to her home country in March, fans can expect only a few tweaks to her elaborate and polished stage show. She wants to ensure that the fans in cities where the 2009 edition didn’t visit will get a chance to see the show as it is. “I’m going to be rehearsing for a couple of weeks before we go out on tour, and I have a feeling I’m going to want to change a few things,” she explains. “I’m sure I’ll be saying a bunch of different things during the show and rewriting a few of the musical things—and maybe adding a few songs, you never know. But I genuinely was proud of what happened last year.”

Another new adventure will come with the February release of Valentine’s Day, a romantic comedy in which Taylor makes her big-screen acting debut as part of a star-studded ensemble cast (she had a cameo playing herself in this year’s Hannah Montana: The Movie). “I feel like my life has always revolved around telling a good story, whether that be in music or in acting,” she says. “We’ll have to see where the acting comes into play. It’s definitely not my first love, but it’s something that I have a love for, so we’ll see where that fits in. Right now I’ve only had time to do little small things.” 

Even after a year in which she filled her mantel with awards and sold out arenas all over the world, Taylor continues to aim ever higher. Asked if she has any ambitions yet unfulfilled, she teasingly notes, “Well, I haven’t won a Grammy!” But her ultimate goal continues to be ensuring that whatever she does lives up to the high standards she has set for herself, and that she always keeps fans eager to learn what her next move will be.

“In the long term, I hope I continue to be someone that is unpredictable,” she says. “I’ve really tried to change in a way that’s not too drastic, but is different from the things that I’ve done in the past. I just hope that I don’t ever become predictable.”

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