Taylor Swift hasn't graduated from high school yet, but she's already smart enough to know the secret to success in country music.
"I think the first thing you should know is that nobody in country music 'made it' the same way," says the 17-year-old singer-songwriter who won the coveted Horizon Award at last week's CMA Awards. "It's all different. There's no blueprint for success, and sometimes you just have to work at it. You should make sure that you know who you are as an artist and make sure it's nothing like everyone else. It's good to be inspired by other artists, but you should always make sure that you've got your own niche."
Answering these questions from fans, she talks about learning dance moves from Kellie Pickler, the song that inspired "Tim McGraw" and why she's going to skip college.
1. Who influenced you and why did you choose to make country music?
I was influenced early on by all of the great female country artists of the '90s and all of the cool music they were putting out. Like Shania, Faith, the Dixie Chicks. It was such great music, and it completely drew me in to country music.
2. If you could record a duet with any country music star, who would it be?
I think Kenny Chesney or Garth Brooks would be the coolest duet partners. I look up to them so much for their work ethics. I was lucky enough to open up for Kenny on some shows this summer, and watching him work was so inspiring. He and Garth just represent true artists to me, and any project I could work with one of them would be an honor.
3. If you could tour with all women, which artists or bands of any genre would you like to go on the road with you?
Wow, out of all genres I would pick Rihanna and Brandi Carlile. You say "random." I say "interesting."
4. When you are not touring, what do you like to do for fun?
My best friend, Abigail, and I like to drive past our ex-boyfriends' houses.
5. What did you remember the most about the night you filmed Brad Paisley's video, "Online"?
I remember looking over at Kellie the whole time, trying to copy her dance moves. I'll admit it: That girl can dance!
6. It's so fun to see you come out on stage singing an Eminem cover and your version of Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" rocks. Any plans to do a duet with a rap artist on an upcoming album?
Ha ha! I don't know! I'm not planning anything like that right now, but I think the coolest thing in the world would be to do something with Jay-Z. When I was 11, I sang the national anthem at a 76ers game in Philly. Jay-Z was sitting courtside and gave me a high-five after I sang. I bragged about that for like a year straight. I love doing cover songs that nobody expects. When I went to live shows, I always loved stuff like that. I like it when something you wouldn't expect to happen onstage happens -- musically or visually. I think Sugarland does a great job of incorporating different surprises into their shows.
7. I love to sing but have a big problem with stage fright. Do you have any advice for me to conquer this problem?
I think everyone has that problem when they first start singing. In my opinion, the only way to conquer stage fright is to get up on stage and play. Every time you play another show, it gets better and better. I started singing in front of crowds when I was 10, and it was a little scary at first. Anything you've just started doing is going to be scary. Once, somebody told me to picture the audience in their underpants. Do not picture the audience in their underpants. That does not work. At all.
8. How has your home schooling experience helped or hindered your musical development?
My home schooling has been a great experience. I feel like I've had the best senior year possible. It's awesome that I've been able to stay on the same path to graduating that I would've been on if I'd stayed in high school. I'm going to graduate this year, and I'm so excited about that. My education was always a big deal to me, and I'm so glad home schooling allowed me to keep it up.
9. Do you feel like you miss the so called normal life of a teenager?
I don't, really. Of course, you're always going to wonder about the road not taken, the dorm not taken and the sorority not taken. But if I wasn't doing this, I would've missed out on the best moments I've ever known and the most wonderful life that I still can't believe I get to live. I'm still friends with the same people I was friends with in high school, and I feel like I haven't changed as a person.
10. Do you plan on attending college?
Right now, I'm pursuing my career. I always thought that I would go to college, most definitely. But then I really thought about it and assessed the situation, and I can't leave this life. Going to college would mean saying goodbye to my music career, and I just can't do that. There just wouldn't be enough time in the day to be on tour, do interviews, meet-and-greets, TV appearances and everything else that I need to do and go to college. Maybe later on in life I'll end up taking a few classes or doing it online. But right now, it just isn't where I need to be.
11. I absolutely love your outfits. Where do you shop?
Thank you! I love to shop. One of the things I love about doing this is that you can shop for every season, because you know that sooner or later you're going to be in every part of the country and in every type of weather. I love Forever 21 and BCBG. Those are probably my favorite stores.
12. I know you wear dresses a lot, so I was wondering if you would ever want to have your own dress line. I would definitely buy them.
I love dresses, and I've definitely thought about designing them someday. I just want to make sure that I wait until the time is perfect and I can do it right. My stylist, Sandi Spika, makes my dresses for award shows and videos. We have so much fun planning the next big dress to make. I think it would be great to work with her on some cool dresses for a line.
13. What kind of TV shows and movies do you like to watch?
I love CSI: Las Vegas and Grey's Anatomy. I've come to the conclusion that the guy I end up with will remind me of the character Denny Duquette from Grey's. Ha ha. My favorite movie is Love Actually. It's got the cutest ending.
14. Is the song "Tim McGraw" about a specific Tim McGraw song you danced to?
It's called "Can't Tell Me Nothin'" -- and it's my favorite Tim song.
15. What do you do for inspiration when you sit down to write a song and it seems that nothing wants to come out?
That happens all the time. What I do is just put the guitar down and wait for something to hit me. You can never push songwriting. It happens or it doesn't.
16. Do you also want to write songs for other artists?
Yes! Kellie Pickler and I wrote a song together when we were out on the road, and it was so cool jumping into someone else's feelings for a minute and writing from their perspective. It was like I was writing my very first song. Exhilarating.
17. You are such an inspiration and role model to all girls of any age, and I think that's awesome! How do you manage to stay away from all the bad things superstars seem to be getting pulled into these days?
I think it all comes down to who you surround yourself with and how strong your morals are. Before I make a decision, I stop and think about the 10-year-old girl I saw last night at my concert in the front row. I think about her mom. I think about how they bought my CD, thinking that I'm a good role model. Then I think about how they would feel if I did something to let them down. I can't imagine a greater pain than letting one of those mothers down. I honestly can't.
18. If you were driving cross-country and could only bring one CD, what would it be?
Def Leppard. Pyromania.
19. From performing in front of thousands of fans to daily interviews and signing autographs, how do you keep up your energy?
I'm 17. I think that helps a lot. I'm lucky to have been able to do all of this at a young age. Also, I'm just so consumed by it. I'm just so fascinated by every aspect of this. Whether it's radio or videos or concerts, I never want to stop getting excited. I hope I never do.
20. Do you have any pets?
I have a cat named Indi (who hates everyone in my family except for me) and two Dobermans. They're really sweet, but if you break in, they will eat you.