Taylor Swift can’t describe her new album, Red, in just a few words.
“Every song sounds different from every other song, so you have a lot of country, you have a lot of pop, you have a lot of acoustic, you have a lot of really cool loops that these amazing producers have created,” she tells CMT Insider host Katie Cook.
“But, for me, this album was about making every song sound how it felt. And that was an interesting goal to achieve because it’s not as easy as ‘we need to put more fiddle on that. We need to make that bass more heavy.’ It’s really more about finding a feeling, so there are influences from every genre on this record,” she adds.
Rather than encapsulate Red into neat categories, Swift elaborated with Cook about all the emotions in the album, the honesty in the lyrics and the eagerness to share it.
CMT: You’ve said Red is covering all the passionate emotions. Which emotions are we talking about?
Swift: We’re talking desperation, pining away, missing someone, wanting someone back, feeling something unravel as you’re in it, falling in love, feeling like you’ll never be the same after, waiting for someone who’s never going to show up, being desperately let down, just wallowing in the self-loathing regret of ever meeting that person. … There’s a lot of great stuff on this record. It’s very upbeat.
Have you ever written a song and thought, “Oh, that’s too personal. I’m not going to share that”?
Not really. … I never want to make my fans feel like I am shutting them out, so I share everything with them in my music.
Your friends and family are used to being characters in your songs. Do you ever not tell them when a line was about them?
Yeah, I do that sometimes. I mean, only I know really what each line was inspired by. Sometimes you have a song that is a patchwork quilt of inspiration, like, “Oh, that one was about that dude. Oh, that line was about that one time that my friend said that to me, and that line comes from something that they did at that point.” Sometimes a song has five different sources of inspiration, and it’s really interesting how they each come together in a different way.
I picture your phone ringing off the hook. They’re like, “I think that line was about me.” And sometimes they probably don’t get it right.
The guessing game is funny. I am never going to say, “This song is about ‘blank, blank,’” like, “this person: first name, last name.” So everybody, I guess, places their bets, and it’s interesting to see how that happens.
You do keep us guessing. How has collaborating with other writers this time around changed the music we are going to hear on Red?
Collaborating with different writers on this album was such an amazing experience because, for my last album, I just wrote it by myself. And so this one, I wanted to approach it differently because I never want to make the same album twice. So I would just call my songwriting and producing heroes and say, “Hey, you want to work together?” And I got to work with some of my heroes, and I feel like I learned so much about other people’s processes and other people’s ways of doing things. It’s so healthy as an artist to consistently put yourself in a room with people who are so different, style-wise, and so different in the way that they approach music than you are because it teaches you things. It teaches you new tricks.
Speaking of style, I love this whole retro thing you’ve been going for with the vintage dresses and the red lips and everything. Just trying something different?
Thank you. I’ve been sort of obsessed with retro for the last year. I love looking at old black-and-white pictures and girls who look really ladylike. I think that, for me, it’s just sort of an easy thing — you just put on red lipstick, you throw on a dress and you can go. It’s really fun. I’ve gone through different phases throughout my life as far as different hairstyles, different clothing styles. Dresses have always been a constant, but I am liking the whole vintage thing right now.
Is there a particular song you’re curious to see how your fans react to?
It took me so long to pare down the list, and these are the ones I love the most. There are lines that I am so stoked for people to discover — like a second line and the bridge. I am so excited to see if people will quote that on their Facebook page and things like that because, to me, the lyrics are the most exciting thing about putting out a new record and hearing what people think about the lyrics. But these are honestly the 16 best songs from the last two years of my life, and I am so excited for people to hear them.