Taylor Swift

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Taylor Swift Finds Her Place in New Orleans

Photo: Joseph Anthony Baker

Taylor Swift, the young girl who sang about “trying to find a place in this world” as a self-conscious high school freshman, is without a doubt a bonafide and beautiful global sensation in the world of entertainment today. Where there is an award to be had for almost anything in the music industry, it’s usually a given that any nomination Swift earns easily morphs into a smashing and successful win for her.

The country-pop starlet recently won CMT’s fan-voted Video of the Year for “Mine” in June at the CMT Awards, the most esteemed award of the night, adding another notch to her densely-studded award belt. Swift has received awards for everything from the Academy of Country Music’s nod for Top New Female Vocalist in 2008 to Billboard’s Artist of the Year in 2009, plus a GRAMMY for Album of the Year in 2010 for her second album Fearless – and a whole slew of amazing others.

But there’s another great reason to call the golden girl of modern music a real winner: In May, Swift brilliantly turned her tour rehearsal show into the “Speak Now … Help Now” Concert Benefit, which raised more than $750,000 for victims of the recent devastating tornadoes in the Southeastern United States. Swift then kicked off the North American portion of her Speak Now World Tour 2011 at the end of May in Omaha, which will culminate in late November in New York City.

New Orleans is on her schedule as well, and Swift and her band will stop here for a sold out show at the New Orleans Arena on Wednesday, October 5. Swift recently shared with New Orleans Living magazine that she cannot wait to get here and enjoy the good food and the great people. And lucky local fans who managed to score a seat for Swift’s upcoming concert can count on not only enjoying a night of musical enchantment by a wonderfully talented young performer who has taken the globe by storm, but also bearing witness to a selfless, admirable young ambassador of good for this world.

She’s compassionate, innovative and a genius when it comes to charitable acts: “The original idea to open up our last rehearsal to the public for the “Speak Now … Help Now” Concert Benefit (came to me when) we were rehearsing for the Speak Now tour, and one of my dancers who lives in Alabama came in and showed all of us a picture of a cyclone in her backyard, and we were just floored. And then we turned on the news and we were watching the coverage. I just felt like if there was any way that I could help with all the damage done and all the families who lost their homes, I had to think of one. It came to me really quickly that here we are at rehearsal, in an arena where there are empty seats – what if we filled those seats and gave the proceeds to the victims of the tornadoes?”

What she shared with the audience at the “Speak Now … Help Now” Concert Benefit in Nashville: “Good evening, Nashville, Tennessee! I’m Taylor! … You have never looked more beautiful! Thank you so much for hanging out with us tonight! You know, this night was originally planned as our last dress rehearsal before the Speak Now North American tour kicked off, which would have meant that it would have been us on the stage doing this for an empty arena – and I like it much better this way! What changed all of it was that one day we were at rehearsal and we turned on the news and we saw that our beloved friends and neighbors in the Southeast were losing their homes, losing their loved ones, losing everything due to tornadoes and I felt like if it was possible to help them in any way, we should do it. All proceeds tonight, T-shirts, merch, tickets, everything, will be going to the victims of these tornadoes. We don’t have the final tally yet, but we do know that so far, just based on tickets alone, you have raised over $750,000. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for being with us tonight. I cannot tell you what a difference you are making in the lives of our loved ones in the Southeast.”

Her thoughts on classifying her thoughts: “These days, I’ve been trying to classify my thoughts into two categories: “Things I can change” and “Things I can’t.” It seems to help me sort through what to really stress about. But there I go again, over-planning and over-organizing my over-thinking!

The tricky, enthralling, lucrative business of love: “I write songs about my adventures and misadventures, most of which concern love. Love is a tricky business. But if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be so enthralled with it. Lately I’ve come to a wonderful realization that makes me even more fascinated by it: I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to love. No one does! There’s no pattern to it, except that it happens to all of us, of course. I can’t plan for it. I can’t predict how it’ll end up. Because love is unpredictable and it’s frustrating and it’s tragic and it’s beautiful. And even though there’s no way to feel like I’m an expert at it, it’s worth writing songs about — more than anything else I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

Incredible milestones for a young ’un: At age 20, Swift became the youngest-ever winner of the music industry’s top honor, the GRAMMY Award for Album of the Year. At 17, she was the youngest person to single-handedly write and sing a No. 1 country single entirely on her own. And at 14, she became the youngest person ever to be signed as a professional staff songwriter at Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

Regarding rejection by labels over the years before her first album, Taylor Swift, was released by Big Machine Records in 2006: “I can understand. They were afraid to put out a 13-year-old. They were afraid to put out a 14-year-old. Then they were afraid to put out a 15-year-old. Then they were nervous about putting out a 16-year-old. And I’m sure if I hadn’t signed with Scott Borchetta (head of  HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Machine_Records” \o “Big Machine Records” Big Machine Records), everybody would be afraid to put out a 17-year-old.”

Why her sophomore album was appropriately names Fearless: 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. Who at age 11 took a trip to Music City and left a trail of amused receptionists as she dropped off her homemade demo tape at every label in town. Who at age 14 became the youngest person to be sign as staff songwriter at Sony/ATV Publishing. This is the teenager who signed her first record deal before she could drive. This is the artist 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.

Why her third album, Speak Now’s sales and chart success is matched by its critical acclaim: Rolling Stone awarded the CD 4 stars, writing: “People like to fixate on Taylor Swift’s youth, as if to say, yeah, she’s pretty good for her age. But that just begs a question: Where are all the older people who are supposedly making better pop records than Taylor Swift? There aren’t any.” The New York Times calls Speak Now “the most musically diverse (album) of her career. … And it’s excellent too, possibly her best.” The Associated Press hailed Swift as “a country-pop Jane Austen.” “Brilliant,” raved the Hollywood Reporter, and Entertainment Weekly writes, “What Swift does extremely well is tell a story: Speak’s 14 tracks are perfectly contained snow globes of romance and catharsis, whole cinematic narratives rendered in four-to six-minute miniatures.” Us Weekly dubbed Speak Now “another unrestrained grand-slam,” USA Today says, “When Taylor Swift speaks on her new album, you should listen,” and People wrote that the “songs play out like journal entries in which the country-pop phenom lets it all out in delicious, narrative-driving detail.”

Swift is already hungry for her October tour stop in New Orleans: “I always love going to New Orleans because it’s just the best place to try new restaurants. The food is so different from anywhere else in the country – it’s always so good! And the people in New Orleans are always so friendly!”

-Christine Fontana