Born December 13, 1989, Taylor Alison Swift is the daughter of a stockbroker and a mutual fund marketing executive. Named after James Taylor, Swift has some musical heritage in her blood as the granddaughter of an opera singer. At age nine, she took an interest in musical theater, frequently traveling from Pennsylvania to New York City to receive acting and singing lessons.
Inspired by Shania Twain and Faith Hill, Swift soon got into country music. She was just 11 when she convinced her mother to take her to Nashville, where they submitted demo tapes of her singing covers of songs by The Chicks and Dolly Parton. After being rejected, Swift figured out that it was because everyone else in Nashville was trying to do the same thing. If she were going to succeed, she needed to do something different.
Swift learned to play guitar and write songs at age 12, and by 2003, she had a talent agent named Dan Dymtrow. He helped her pursue opportunities like modeling for Abercrombie & Fitch, performing at an RCA Records showcase, and meeting record labels. Her family relocated to Nashville when she was 14 to again help her gain a foothold in the music industry.
Soon Swift was opening for Rascal Flatts and recording her self-titled debut album. When the album dropped on October 24, 2006, it peaked at number five on the US Billboard 200 and spent a record-breaking 157 weeks on the chart. At age 16, she was the first platinum female country music artist to either write or co-write every song on her album.
Both of her subsequent albums, 2008’s Fearless and 2010’s Speak Now, made new forays into country pop. Two singles from Fearless even became the first-ever country songs to reach number one on pop airplay charts. This period saw some of Swift’s most memorable early moments: winning Best Female Video at the 2009 MTV Video Awards, multiple American Music Awards, co-writes with John Mayer and Boys Like Girls, and countless other awards.
2012’s Red saw Swift explore electronic and rock genres, particularly with her number-one single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” It was the 2014 release of 1989 that fully threw off the idea that Swift was just a country artist. 1989 topped numerous charts with singles like “Bad Blood,” “Shake It Off,” and “Blank Space.” 2017’s Reputation brought in more urban elements, while 2019’s Lover put her back in the charts yet again with singles like “Me!” and “You Need to Calm Down.”
Before her next albums came out, Swift made music industry history by going public with a dispute with her record label over ownership of her master recordings. Swift made it known that she was trying to buy the rights to her own songs, but her previous record label would only sell them if she gave them a new album in return.
Swift refused, opting to re-record her entire back catalog instead. This not only served as an act of rebellion, but also taught millions of listeners around the world about the restrictive nature of many record label contracts. Swift began to release new versions of her original albums, including Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version).
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Swift released two surprise albums, Folklore and Evermore. These albums ventured into indie rock and featured collaborations with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Aaron Dessner of The National. These emotional and gorgeously-produced songs topped the US Hot 100 chart and brought Swift’s appeal to a whole new swath of the music-listening world.
2022 saw the release of Swift’s tenth studio album, Midnights. It was preceded by a single “Anti-Hero” which obliterated a number of other streaming records.
To date, Swift sold over 200 million records worldwide, making her among the best-selling artists in history. With 11 Grammys, an Emmy, 40 American Music Awards, and numerous others under her belt, there’s no telling what Taylor Swift will do next.