LOS ANGELES (dpa) – With 40 million albums and nearly 100 million singles sold worldwide, Taylor Swift is the most successful recording artist of the last two decades.
A new exhibition at Los Angeles’ Grammy Museum, The Taylor Swift Experience, chronicles the 25-year-old singer’s life and times, with home videos, family photos and memorabilia offering proof that her career has been a long time coming.
Swift began laying the foundations for her musical career before she entered the third grade.
In shaky home videos, a cherubic two-year-old Swift babbles her way through the childhood standard “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. At age eight, she sits by a Christmas tree – she grew up on a Christmas tree farm in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania – and unwraps her first guitar.
In a video interview that runs alongside the exhibition, Swift said she took precocious inspiration from country singer LeAnn Rimes, who was 13 when she released her first album, Blue.
“I remember being really inspired as a six-year-old … that you could make an album at the age of 12 or 13,” Swift said.
“I think that’s what adjusted my ambition scale to be like: I really want to get a record deal early. I really want to try to do this young. I want to write songs as early as possible. Get me a guitar now!” she added.
As a sixth-grader, Swift performed the US national anthem at the opening of a Philadelphia 76ers basketball game.
“My mom and I were just jumping up and down we were so excited,” Swift told the local newspaper the Eagle Times.
At 14, she sang at the US Open tennis tournament and opened for country singer Charlie Daniels. Her family left Pennsylvania for Nashville, the US country music capital, to support her career.
She said she chose Nashville because it was a natural home for female singer-songwriters like her. She found inspiration in country songwriters like Shania Twain, Kris Kristofferson and Patti Griffin.
At 14, Swift became the youngest songwriter to sign a publishing contract with Sony/ATV. In 2006, when she was 17, she joined the start-up Big Machine Records and released her self-titled debut.
Her 2008 follow-up, Fearless, released when she was 19, went platinum in 11 countries and won four Grammys, including Album of the Year.
Her next two albums, Speak Now (2010) and Red (2012), sold more than a million copies each within the first week of their release.
Her latest album, titled 1989, sold 600,000 copies on its first day of release in November 2014.
That month, Swift pulled her catalog from the online streaming service Spotify following a dispute over the fees they pay to artists, sparking an industry debate.
In a 2014 cover story, Time magazine called her “pop’s savviest romantic,” and Billboard named her its 2014 Woman of the Year – for the second time.
But all this begs the question: what might she accomplish in the next 25 years? In her November 2014 interview with Time, Swift said she had difficulty finding role models for her future in music.
“I just struggle to find a woman in music who hasn’t been completely picked apart by the media, or scrutinised and criticised for aging,” she said. “It just seems to be much more difficult to be a woman in music and to grow older.”
“I just really hope that I will choose to do it as gracefully as possible,” she said.
Swift’s smash single “Shake it Off” helped her secure three Grammy nominations for Sunday’s awards presentation: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance.