In the last few years, Taylor Swift has made the leap from being a teenage girl who writes songs about breakups to … a very famous teenage girl who writes songs about break-ups. (Sometimes it all works out, though, as in her newest single, “Love Story.”) After selling 3.5 million copies of her debut album, the vivacious singer-songwriter returns with her second album, Fearless, which will be released Tuesday (Nov. 11).
In this interview with CMT Radio, the 18-year-old country star talks about her fascination with fairy tales, the story behind “Fifteen” and what was going through her head when she was 5 years old.
CMT: A couple of themes in the album stood out when we were listening to it. One is the princess theme.
Swift: I am completely fascinated by the differences and comparisons between real life and fairy tales because we’re raised as little girls to think that we’re a princess and that Prince Charming is going to sweep us off our feet. And that we’re going to ride off into the sunset on a white horse. We’re not really expecting to get blown off or ignored or broken up with or cheated on. … I think it’s really interesting when you come to terms with that reality: “Maybe that’s not gonna happen with this guy because this guy’s a jerk.”
But there’s still that core of us that believes that it’s true and that if you find the right person, you can have that love story and it can work out. So there are different examples of fairy tales, and sometimes I believe in them and sometimes I don’t. And moments on the record like in “White Horse,” it’s a song about, “Wow, this is not a fairy tale, is it? Awesome. Great.” It’s (about how) I’m coming to this realization that this is not a fairy tale at all — this is real life. And then there’s “Love Story,” which is about the complete optimist. This is a love story: “Say yes, and everything will be fine forever, and it will be perfect, and we’ll have a happy ending.” I think it’s important to keep both sides of that. You know, to kind of be a little skeptical of it, but then if you meet the right person, just to believe it will be perfect.
What was your favorite fairy tale growing up?
This isn’t a fairy tale, it’s Shakespeare, but Romeo and Juliet were always my favorite couple because they didn’t care, and they loved each other no matter what. And it was always my favorite — except for the ending. So with “Love Story,” I just took my favorite characters and gave them the ending that they deserve.
Is “The Best Day” about your mom?
It is. In the first verse, I was talking about being 5 years old, so as a writer, it was really fun to go back to that place of the way that I used to talk when I was 5. I wrote the song from that perspective, and I starting thinking, “What would I be thinking if I was 5 and I was remembering this?” And it goes, “I’m 5 years old/It’s getting cold and I’ve got my big coat on.” It had language like that — that makes me really think back to that time. I actually wrote that song without telling my mom and recorded it without telling my mom. Complete secret session. Then I got the track back and synced up all these home videos of me when I was a little kid and made this video and played it for my mom on Christmas and said, “Merry Christmas!” She had no idea that it was me singing for the first half of the song. And then she just broke down crying when she realized I had done this whole thing to surprise her. It was a really cool moment.
Did you cry when you recorded it?
No, the one I cried during was “Fifteen.” That’s a song about my best friend. I’m not likely to cry over something I’ve gone through, even if it’s the worst breakup ever. Maybe I haven’t had that breakup yet. Maybe there will be a breakup where I’ll just cry every time I think of it. (laughs) But the things that make me cry are when the people I love have gone through pain and I’ve seen it. “Fifteen” talks about how my best friend, Abigail, got her heart broken when we were in ninth grade and singing about that absolutely gets me every time.
Another theme on the record is kissing. In “The Way I Love You,” it talks about …
Screaming and fighting, kissing in the rain. And in “Fearless” — “It’s a first kiss/It’s flawless.” Yeah, I’m fascinated by the theme of love and kissing and breaking up and fairy tales and boys. That’s what I love to write songs about. It’s funny how you can mention one thing, like kissing, and have it be completely different in each song and have it mean a different thing.
When you have a relationship starting, do you think about certain moments, like when you say “I love you” for the first time? Do you have dream ideas about what you want all that to be like?
I am a complete hopeless romantic. And I think that you can’t be too neurotic about love. You can’t plan everything out. I think that one of the cool things about love is that the spontaneity of it is what makes it so magical. I think the coolest way to have a first kiss is when you’re in the middle of a sentence, and you’re rambling on about something, and the guy looks over and just kisses you, and you’re not expecting it. Like, you’re not planning that. That’s not underneath a terrace, underneath the moonlight with a shooting star running across the sky and everything’s perfect. I think the perfection of love is that it’s not perfect.
Lindsey Roznovsky is a writer for CMT Radio.