When You Think Taylor Swift

Memories of the Decade Since “Tim McGraw”

It’s been 10 years since “Tim McGraw.” Ten years since we first heard about this girl named Taylor Swift. And 10 years since that one song changed the way so many of us thought of country music.

Hardly anyone had any idea that when Swift released her debut single on June 19, 2006, she’d do the things she did.

That song, “Tim McGraw,” was all about hoping that hearing a song would make someone think of her. She’d told CMT.com all those years ago that the song was mostly about McGraw’s unreleased song “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’” from 2004 — “It’s my favorite Tim song” — but the idea turned out to be much, much bigger than that.

“When you think Tim McGraw/I hope you think of me.”

It was the hook that changed her life.

In the decade since, Swift has stockpiled hit songs, platinum records and enough music awards to fill the trophy rooms in all her homes.

But even though she has since crossed over into pop, it’s impossible to think of her and not think of the long list of her country songs that left such an indelible mark on country music.

When I think “Taylor Swift,” I immediately think of the fiddle in “Our Song,” the heartbreak in “Teardrops on My Guitar,” and the piano in the “Forever & Always.” And of the angry banjo in “Mean” and “Picture to Burn.” And of the coming-of-age vulnerability in “Fifteen.” And of the bittersweet regret in “Back to December.” And of Swift sitting down with just her ukulele when she played “Fearless” live.

I look back fondly on all of her country songs, the singles and the album cuts, all the way up through “Red,” released in June 2013. That would turn out to be Swift’s last official country release.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.