Music: OMG! Taylor's senior year

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 7, 2007 - 2:09 PM

After snaring the Horizon Award for country music's top newcomer, Taylor Swift, 17, looks forward to the Grammys and a contest at the Mall of America.

Taylor Swift performs at the 41st Annual Country Music Association Awards, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007, in Nashville, Tenn.

Photo: Mark Humphrey, Associated Press - Ap

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Today, Taylor Swift could experience the, like, second biggest highlight of her senior year of high school.

This morning in Los Angeles, she will join Akon, Linkin Park and Quincy Jones to announce the nominations for the 50th annual Grammy Awards.

"I'm really excited about it, and I'm, like, the only person from country who is there," Swift said Tuesday from Nashville. "It'll be cool to be there and representing country music."

Oh, come on. She knows how this works. She was invited because she's going to be one of the high-profile nominees, probably for best new artist.

"I don't suspect that because I try never to get my hopes up about something like a Grammy nomination," she said. "If you go in thinking you're going to be nominated and you don't get nominated, then that'll just be a bad day."

Hypothetically, then, how would she, like, feel if she got nominated for best new artist?

"I would FREAK out," she exclaimed. "Because that's all genres. That would really, really be an honor that I did not expect and I'm not expecting. I'll keep my fingers crossed."

Of course, this is the 17-year-old who totally lost it last month when the Country Music Association gave her the Horizon Award for top newcomer. After bursting into tears of joy at the podium, she finally blurted out: "This is definitely the highlight of my senior year."

So far, perhaps.

Her next stop after the Grammy announcements will be the Mall of America, where she will judge the Holiday Holla on Saturday. It's a competition in which teenagers write lyrics about driving issues set to familiar Christmas tunes. Swift will determine which of the five finalists wins $15,000 from Allstate Insurance.

The teenager thinks she's well qualified for this assignment -- and not because she was named artist of the year by the Nashville Songwriters Association. Because she has been in some fender benders.

"I've been in three wrecks, each of which were not my fault," she said. "They were because people weren't paying attention and hit my car."

The latest accident occurred two weeks ago when she was stopped at a light and got rear-ended. "It was a car full of teenagers who were texting while driving," she said. "When I got out of the car, they started like FREAKING out because they had, like, my CD in their car. It really kind of drove it home for me that you really need to pay attention while you're driving, especially when teens have got so much technology that we can be focused on things other than driving. You need to have the self-control to not pay attention to that."

Big 18th birthday party

If Taylor hasn't had enough excitement this fall, a week from today she will turn 18. She is planning a private soiree in a Nashville nightclub.

"There's a lot to be celebrating this year," she said. "My album just went double-platinum [signifying 2 million sold]. I've been so blessed."

Most of the attendees will be her adult music-business friends. She has an uncanny ability to walk the line between acting like an adult and being a teenager. In concert, when she sings, she oozes the confidence of an experienced pro. However, between songs, she gushes like a teenager. At the Minnesota State Fair, she mentioned that her album had been No. 1 for five consecutive weeks and declared, "I'm so obnoxiously excited about it."

She truly embraces being a teenager. Said Swift: "When you're 25 or 30, you know, you can't wear lime-green eye shadow anymore."

Having grown up on a Christmas tree farm in Wyomissing, Pa., she says she owes her confidence to her mother, a former traveling salesperson.

"When I would have school projects to do when I would have to make a presentation, like, when I was in fourth grade, we would stay up that whole night before, just practicing different things to say," said the singer/songwriter, whose family moved to suburban Nashville a few years ago.

Swift's self-titled album came out in October 2006, spent more weeks at No. 1 on the country chart than any CD in 2007 and yielded three hits -- "Tim McGraw," "Teardrops on My Guitar" and "Our Song" -- about young love.

In concert, she jokes that guys shouldn't cross her because she'll write a song about them. However, she admits to having had "only one actual, official boyfriend.

"I tend to be able to use my imagination and take something that was maybe one conversation and turn it into an entire song," said Swift, who just issued a deluxe edition of her CD (with three new tunes and a DVD) and a Christmas EP (exclusively for Target).

While most other high school seniors are busy this month working on college applications, the home-schooled Swift is going to record her second CD. She has written more than 20 songs, including one with 22-year-old pop star Colbie Caillat.

"I can guarantee you that this [CD] will outdo the first one," she said. "I want to make it a better continuation of the first. I'm not going to throw anyone for a loop by changing styles."

Sounds like she might graduate high school with, like, honors.

Jon Bream • 612-673-1719

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  • Country singer Taylor Swift

  • HOLIDAY HOLLA

    What: Taylor Swift performs and judges a contest in which teens write lyrics about driving, set to Christmas tunes. When: Noon Saturday; performance at 1:15 p.m. Where: Mall of America rotunda, Bloomington. Tickets: Free. Web: www.taylorswift.com and www.holidayholla.com.
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