Taylor Swift: 'Men hand me inspiration on a plate'
When it comes to relationships – and revenge – pop superstar Taylor Swift lets her music do the talking…
‘I’ve found that men I’ve dated who are in the same business can be really competitive,’ says Taylor
At 22, Taylor Swift is one of the biggest singer-songwriters in the world. Already the recipient of six Grammys and cited by Forbes magazine as the highest-paid celebrity under 30, having earned 35 million last year, Taylor has, in just a few short years, moved seamlessly from the country charts to mainstream popularity.
Her songs, paeans to young love and the delicious pain of heartbreak, have an added frisson given that Taylor freely admits she writes songs about her life, and given, too, that she has an impressive back catalogue of boyfriends. Rumoured exes include actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Twilight’s Taylor Lautner, musician John Mayer and singer Joe Jonas, and they are all believed to have been subjects of Taylor’s catchy songs.
While she scrupulously avoids mentioning them by name, they aren’t always shy about outing themselves (Mayer declared himself ‘humiliated’ by Taylor’s 2010 song ‘Dear John’). The release of every new album sends her legion of fans – commonly known as Swifties – scurrying to decipher her lyrics with the zeal of Bletchley Park code-breakers.
Growing up in Pennsylvania with her younger brother Austin, it was clear that Taylor was always destined for showbusiness. /10/15/article-0-154B4CBB000005DC-670_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Taylor Swift and her boyfriend Conor Kennedy” class=”blkBorder” />
From left: Taylor with latest beau Conor Kennedy, and receiving an award from Michelle Obama earlier this year
Now with her new album Red and a rumoured romance with 18-year-old Conor Kennedy – son of Robert F Kennedy Jr – things couldn’t be looking better for Taylor. Here she talks love, lyrics, being mates with Spider-Man actress Emma Stone and the benefits of not wearing jewelled bras…
If a man dates me, he’s kind of signing a waiver saying he’s cool with me writing songs about him. I write songs about my life: it’s not something I’ve kept secret and pretty much everyone knows that, so no, I don’t worry that a new man will get upset about something I write. That being said, it’s mind-blowing how some guys have just handed me inspiration for some of these songs on a plate. Some have said, ‘Please don’t write about me,’ but only when we’re in the process of breaking up.
‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ [rumoured to be about Jake Gyllenhaal, whom
she dated in 2010] is a song on the new album celebrating the end of a relationship. It’s a relationship where you’re stuck in an awful cycle of being together, breaking up, being together, breaking up, and it’s just so exhausting that by the time it’s completely over, you’re just relieved and excited that you’re finally done. He didn’t call afterwards – you don’t call someone when they’ve written that song about you. It’s not a subtle song at all.
I’ve had a few semi-toxic relationships, but it’s not what I look for when I’m seeing someone. On my new album there’s a song called ‘Trouble’, which describes a relationship where you see all the red flags, but you ignore them and regret it and feel mad with yourself afterwards. It’s like walking into a burning room and being surprised that your clothes end up smelling of smoke.
If I get happy, will I stop writing songs I’ve been asked that a lot recently. There are a few with a positive outlook on love on my new album, but there are also some about the dark, twisty, awful emotions you feel during a break-up. I’d really like to end up being happy most of the time, so I’m hoping that doesn’t go hand in hand with being creatively stifled.
I’ve found that men I’ve dated who are in the same business can be really competitive. I’ve found a great group of girlfriends in the same business who aren’t competitive, but a few times guys have started comparing careers and it has been…challenging. The last thing I think about when I fall for someone is what they do for a living as I like to get to know that person, but sometimes guys start acting weirdly towards me, especially if I get good news and they get bad… It’s usually downhill from there.
‘I write about the dark, twisty, awful emotions you feel during a break-up’
Ed Sheeran and I wrote a duet called ‘Everything Has Changed’ while sitting on a trampoline in my back yard. It’s a lot easier than you think. We had one guitar, which we passed back and forth, and then we baked an apple pie, or rather my friends and I baked it and Ed watched and then
ate it afterwards. His performance at the Olympic closing ceremony was incredible – I really think that was his big breakthrough moment in the US.
You can’t generalise about an entire country, but I like the energy of British men. Ed’s such a good friend of mine now – he’s just the coolest guy and so much fun. I love that British dry, sarcastic sense of humour.
When I first started writing songs I was pretty lonely. I was about 12 and at school in Pennsylvania. I wasn’t popular and didn’t have many friends, and never knew where to sit at lunch. But songwriting became a release. I’d think, ‘OK, three more classes to go and then I can write about this’, so it became a reward. I didn’t know how to articulate my feelings, but I’d strum my guitar and the words would come out. It allowed me to understand better the way I felt and get through it.
I was never a boy magnet at school. There was always the girl all the guys liked and wanted to date, but it was never me. It would have been fun to find out what that would have been like, though. I’ve always been a girl’s girl.
I used to hate being tall. All the cool girls were the same perfect height and I was a head taller than them. I felt weird about it until I got older and then every once in a while someone would compliment me on my height. I started thinking, ‘Well, maybe this isn’t something I should hate any more.’
Meeting Michelle Obama was like an out-of-body experience. She was presenting me with a Kids’ Choice Award [in March] and she said, ‘Come by the White House any time.’ Unfortunately, I haven’t done it yet, but I might just pop in for tea one day. She was so lovely and approachable.
Emma [Stone] and I are great friends. It all started when we turned up at an awards ceremony wearing the same shade of purple. Although it could have been a disaster, we were so excited about it that we ran up to each other and started talking. That was five years ago and we’ve been friends ever since. We spend hours talking on the phone about life and love, but never business. She doesn’t give advice – she asks you a dozen questions about your problem so you end up figuring it out on your own. She’s like a therapist and she doesn’t even charge.
My brother gives really good advice from a guy’s perspective. He’ll always tell me, ‘You know there are no rules, right So if you want to text this guy back, text him back.’ Saying that, I don’t do the chasing. You kind of learn that in school.
My parents moved to Nashville because of me. I was desperate to move there as a kid because I thought it would be the best place for me to break into the music industry, but my parents took all the pressure off by saying, ‘We’re just moving because we love the area, so don’t worry.’ They knew nothing about the industry and had no involvement in entertainment, but I was obsessed with it and so they did their research and read up about it to help me in every way they could. They’re amazing people.
From left: Taylor at the VMAs three years ago, when Kanye West interrupted her
acceptance speech for Best Female Video and announced that Beyonc should have won; and at this year’s VMAs, crowd-surfing with abandon
In case you can’t tell, I’m a really big worrier. I can’t believe I get to have the life I have, so I’ve got a complete fear of messing up, of making a misstep where it all comes crumbling down. It’s a high-wire act in my brain all the time.
When I was naughty as a kid, I used to send myself to my own room. My mum says that she was afraid to punish me sometimes because I was so hard on myself when I did something wrong. I haven’t changed much since then. I live half my life in the present and half of it as an 80-year-old grandmother. My grandkids will be able to read about what I got up to as a 22-year-old, so I want to make sure that they’re reading things that are good. I know that’s forward planning to a crazy degree, but I want them to be proud of me.
When coming up with a new fragrance, I wanted the crew from Elizabeth Arden to come to my apartment so they could see what the inside of my mind looks like. It’s very Alice in Wonderland meets Harry Potter and I wanted to have some of those influences when it came to designing the bottle. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of creating a fragrance and tying it in with a song. The name of my perfume, Wonderstruck, comes from the song ‘Enchanted’ from my album Speak Now. The lyric goes, ‘I’m wonderstruck, blushing all the way home’, and it describes that first moment when you meet someone new.
I’d like people to remember me for my songwriting, not my hotpants. As soon as I turned 18, I noticed, particularly during the edgier photo shoots, that people were saying, ‘Well, you can wear this shirt or this bra with jewels on it,’ so there’s always the option of going down that road if you choose to. I love a jewelled bra on someone else. Me, I’d rather wear the shirt.
I don’t read the gossip pages and if I see my name on a website, I click off immediately. I’m not thick-skinned at all, so if I read something mean about myself, I become really insecure and obsess over it. The thing is, if somebody has said something bad, I’ve probably said that stuff to myself a hundred times already. When you have a tendency to over-analyse, you have enough of an idea of what you’re insecure about already – you don’t need to be reminded of it in an article.
I think I’m the one person in the world who hasn’t read Fifty Shades of Grey. I read anything that people say is good, but I tend to read books mainly when I’m on tour. The last ones I read were the Hunger Games books. Suzanne Collins writes in such a way that you’re itching to read the next chapter – it’s almost musical in a way.
I don’t really feel the need to party like crazy. I drink occasionally but I usually have something to do the next morning so I don’t drink a lot. But I love having fun with my friends. I’m really not as dull as I’m making out right now.
Taylor’s new album Red will be released by Mercury Records tomorrow. Taylor Swift Wonderstruck is available nationwide in Boots stores and the Perfume Shop, from 20