Swift lessons: How Taylor became a superstar

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 6, 2013 - 5:40 AM

What we’ve learned from Taylor Swift’s transformation from teen sensation to adult superstar.

Look what’s happened to Miley and Biebs. Twerking on TV and peeing in a bucket in public. But while Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber have been making fools of themselves, Taylor Swift is demonstrating how to sustain stardom and effectively navigate into adulthood. Sure, she has made some dubious choices in boyfriends, but aside from that her career — we met her at 16 and she’ll turn 24 in December — has been exemplary. With her third headline tour bringing her to St. Paul for two virtually sold-out concerts this weekend, here are some things we’ve learned from her approach.

 

Write from your age and experience. No young artist in the history of popular music has been more effective at writing songs reflecting what it’s like to be her age. Witness her songs “Fifteen” and “22.” This isn’t Carly Rae Jepsen, at 27, writing “Call Me Maybe” as if she’s 17.

 

 

Work with collaborators who will help you grow. She’s been writing songs since she was 12. But after she moved to Nashville and signed a record deal at 14, she worked with various professional Nashville co-writers. When she decided to go in a more concerted pop direction for last year’s “Red” album, she turned to experienced popmeisters, including Max Martin (Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, Pink, Ke$ha) and ex-Minneapolitan Dan Wilson (Adele, Pink).

Be who you are. Her songs ring true because they are her ideas and her stories; the pros just help edit her ideas. She hasn’t tried to grow up too fast — though she has dated older guys — so her fans can still relate to her.

 

Do your homework and be prepared. When she hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 2009, she showed up with a long list of ideas for sketches. And when she appeared on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” that week, she spent all of her time quizzing him about “SNL.”

 

Be fearless. It’s not just the title of her second album; it’s her approach to life. The first time she performed in the Twin Cities, she hit the stage solo, playing an acoustic guitar version of rapper Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” Since then, she has rapped with T-Pain in a video and performed with an unlikely list of stars including the Rolling Stones, Stevie Nicks, Ellie Goulding, Carly Simon, Def Leppard and the Civil Wars. She’s even talking about starring in a biopic of Joni Mitchell.

 

Make time for fans. What other superstar does four meet-and-greets with fans at each concert? Not to mention all the tweeting, blogging and Facebook postings. When she announced her “Red” album last year, she did it with a webcast surrounded by a gaggle of fans. She knows where her bread is buttered.

 

Work hard. Since the fall of 2006, she has released four studio albums, three live albums, three EPs and 30 music video clips; undertaken three headlining world tours encompassing 278 concerts (after three years of opening concerts for other stars); appeared in four movies and four TV shows, and given countless interviews. She writes or co-writes her own songs — 67 for her four studio discs.

 

Don’t be a puppet; be involved in decision-making. She’s a visionary, thinking of everything from music video concepts while she’s writing the song, to how to assemble her touring show, to marketing her third perfume. On her “Red” album, she was listed as “creative director.” She is actually her own manager, though a “tour manager” does a lot of heavy lifting and dirty work under her direction.

 

Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719

  • TAYLOR SWIFT

    Opening: Ed Sheeran, Casey James.

    When: 7 p.m. Sat. & Sun., Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul • Tickets: Virtually sold out; for last-minute tickets, go to ticketmaster.com.

    Website: taylorswift.com

    Twitter: @taylorswift13

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