She's only 17! 

Taylor Swift

click to enlarge Students on the Billboard charts get to sit on desks and go barefoot.
  • Students on the Billboard charts get to sit on desks and go barefoot.

In many ways, country artist Taylor Swift is exactly what you would expect of a 17-year-old girl.

"I am totally a texter!" she exclaims over the phone from a tour stop in Salisbury, Md., amid chatter about MySpace and blogging.

She's a self-proclaimed girly-girl who loves makeup and getting dolled up in dresses and boots; her Web site is designed to look like a scrapbook, with a butterfly floating across the pages; and her MySpace background is pink, with white flowers.

And yet, age aside, there's a heartening maturity about her. Sure, she sings about love and break-ups her two Top 5 hits, "Tim McGraw" and "Teardrops on my Guitar," are prime examples. But Swift also tackles issues like eating disorders.

When one of her friends struggled seriously with food and weight issues, Swift was shocked: "She was a beauty pageant queen. Every girl wanted to be her. Every guy wanted to date her."

So Swift did what she has done for many years: She turned to songwriting to work through her own emotions and to help her friend.

"The cool thing about songwriting," Swift says, "[is that] every experience in your life you can turn into a positive."

She's certainly experiencing plenty of the positive right now. Thanks to a string of opening on tours for Rascal Flatts, George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley and Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, Swift has been able to bring her live music performance to more than a million fans.

"I'm really, really lucky to be able to tour with all these people," she says. "I've had five major tours in a year and a half. I don't take vacations. I don't take weeks off. I'm so lucky; I should play every night."

She probably could play every night, considering her current popularity. Swift's self-titled debut album spent eight consecutive weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's Country Albums chart and she's the only country artist to accomplish that feat this year. That success is also enough to make her 2007's third-best-selling artist, behind only Carrie Underwood and, perhaps ironically, her hit song's namesake, Tim McGraw.

While fans won't see a new album from Swift until this time next year, she will sing in 33 states in just three months this fall. And Target stores have already released Swift's six-song holiday exclusive, for which she wrote two new songs and rewrote the melody for "Silent Night."

"I like the holidays a lot," Swift says. "I grew up on a Christmas tree farm. So the holidays for me were about helping Dad lug trees up a hill, putting them on people's cars."

Swift's parents taught her early on to put in her work.

"Have high hopes, but never expectations about what you're going to get in life," she says. "I still can't believe [my success]. I'm just trying to work so hard."

If Swift keeps it up, it's likely she'll reach just the future she's hoping for.

"In 10 years, I'll be 27," she says. "I hope I'm still doing this. I'd love to be headlining."


Taylor Swift

Cowboys, 3910 Palmer Park Blvd.

Saturday, Oct. 27, 9 p.m.

Tickets: $15, 18-plus; call 596-1212.


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