Stepping off Music Row and into the small but stylish lobby of Big Machine Records, a visitor quickly realizes it's not just the walls that reveal the story of Taylor Swift's meteoric rise to stardom. Even the floors have a tale to tell. With much of the vertical real estate already claimed by industry awards, framed national magazine covers, and gold and platinum records, the staff has adopted the tactic of neatly stacking the continuous stream of accolades and achievements along the baseboards. All that's needed is a break in a busy intern's schedule to grab a hammer, a few nails and search out any open wall space.
The photo most often found framed inside with all that precious metal is certainly a familiar one to millions of her fans: the cover of her first album, 2006's Taylor Swift. Knowing what we know now about Taylor, it's a striking image. Gazing back at us are the calm yet intense eyes of a sixteen-year-old girl who knows she has much to say, but isn't really sure if anyone will want to listen.
"It's crazy, the first time making an album, not knowing if people are going to care what I write in a song," Swift admits. "And then the second time around...knowing that there are people who are going to know the lyrics that mean so much to me. It makes it all worthwhile."
A second time around. It's hard to believe it's already time for Taylor to follow up her triple platinum debut. Especially considering that, two years after it's release, it is still near the top of the country charts.
What's even harder to believe is that Taylor Swift has yet to turn nineteen.
And when it came time to put a name to her sophomore effort, Swift decided on one word that just might be the perfect adjective to describe her journey to this moment. FEARLESS.
After all, this is the girl who, at the tender age of 10, had the guts to take the stage at every karaoke contest, festival, and county fair that passed through her hometown of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. This is the girl, who at age 11, took a trip to Music City and left in her wake a trail of amused receptionists as she dropped off her homemade demo tape at every label in town. This is the girl who, at only 14, relocated with her entire family to Nashville to sign a songwriting deal with one of the most prestigious publishers in all of music. This is the teenager who signed her first record deal before she could drive. Who sidestepped the major labels in town to take a chance with a smaller start-up label. Who had the guts to step from an ACM awards stage and into the audience to introduce herself to Tim McGraw live on national television -- just seconds after playing the last chord of her first hit song that bears his name.
Following an impressive trend established on her debut CD, Taylor has once again written or co-written every song on FEARLESS -- including seven tracks by herself. Songwriting is a craft Swift has been honing since first strumming a chord on a guitar at the age of 12. By that evening, she had written her first tune. She was hooked. Her life became consumed with songs. Every spare moment was spent writing, playing, or thinking about music. Even while hitting the books as a straight-A student at Hendersonville High School, just outside of Nashville, she was doodling lyrics in the margins of her notebooks.
We've always known Taylor was an old soul, but songs with this level of reflection from someone still so young -- they can leave you shaking your head in amazement. Then you remember she's just a few years removed from her own freshman year - and you understand why her fans, including her over 1 million friends on her MySpace page, love her. She puts to music exactly what they are feeling.
"I want my fans to know -- I'm the same girl I was when the first album came out," says Swift. "I'm just not in high school and I have a different schedule. I feel the same things, I feel the same way. And my songs are where I'll never hold back."
That is music to a Taylor Swift fan's ears.