Taylor Swift knows how long an album’s journey can be … and how big the payoff can be.
The singing-songwriting superstar introduced "Red" in October 2012, and many of the quadruple-platinum-selling release’s songs became chart hits, often crossing between multiple genres. Its bids for both album of the year and country album are among Swift’s four nominations at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, which CBS televises from Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Already an owner of seven Grammys — including album of the year and country album for "Fearless" — Swift, who will perform on the show, also is in the running for best country song of the year (for the "Red" cut "Begin Again") and best country duo or group performance (with Tim McGraw and Keith Urban, for "Highway Don’t Care").
In an interview for this article, Swift spoke about her process with "Red" and also about her generally stellar past year.
Zap2it: What are your reflections on the path "Red" has taken, now that it’s up for several Grammys?
Taylor Swift: It’s astounding to me that the fans have carried out its life as long as they have. Getting the Grammy nomination for album of the year, that was the most incredible triumph for the album.
It’s the oldest contender in that category, and since it’s over a year old, I was a little afraid that people would forget about it. For it to be honored that way by musicians, producers, writers, all the people who vote for the Grammys, it’s the most incredible crowning achievement so far.
Zap2it: What’s the feeling of seeing so many songs from the album — from "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and "22" to "I Knew You Were Trouble" and "Everything Has Changed" — make their marks separately?
Taylor Swift: Seeing the tracks go out into the world and become different things, every song has a life of its own. Every one gets to have its shining moment, and that was the goal when I set out to make albums.
I’m a firm believer in optimism regarding the music industry. So many people are preaching doomsday, and I’m just not there. I just don’t feel it. Sales and stats show that if you are giving the fans part of your life, they will invest in it. I just refuse to believe we are going down in flames.
Zap2it: Did you get added affirmation from the audience response during the North American leg of your "Red" tour?
Taylor Swift: There’s no way of defining why something connects or why it doesn’t, why a certain song works or why it doesn’t. We can try to explain it all we want, or why it’s escalated to the level that we’re now playing stadiums. I’m grateful for it, but there’s no way you can ever explain the connection you have with your fans. It’s more a gut-feeling kind of thing.
Zap2it: You were beamed in during the televised Grammy Nominations Concert while performing a concert of your own in Australia. How was that for you?
Taylor Swift: You have all this anticipation and wonderment as to whether you’ll be included in the nominations, but when I’m playing a show for 40,000 people, I’m right there. I get really lost in it.
When I’m doing a song onstage in front of that many people, I go back to the moment when I wrote the song and try to channel that exact emotion. That pretty much takes you away from everything else, and that’s why I love performing so much. It’s an escape not only for the crowd but for me.
Zap2it: You also received your second consecutive Golden Globe nomination recently (for "Sweeter Than Fiction," from the movie "One Chance") and four American Music Awards, including artist of the year, plus the career-honoring Pinnacle Award at the CMA Awards. How has this run of honors been from your perspective?
Taylor Swift: Honestly, I didn’t know this was an option for how my life would turn out. I really try to be in the moment and spend a lot of time looking around at what’s actually happening, because these things don’t last forever. Nothing does, so you have understand your "golden age" is happening as it’s happening.
Zap2it: It’s clear you’re in the moment when you’re singing along and dancing to other artists’ award-show performances. Any thoughts on that?
Taylor Swift: I think it was a few years ago when they started seating me in the front row at award shows, and it was at that point that I realized it’s really better to just look at an award show for what it is … the sickest concert ever!
You get to see all these people get up one after another and play their biggest hits, so why not treat it like it’s an amazing concert? And what do you do at an amazing concert? You dance.
Zap2it: As you start work on your fifth album, how is it to begin again?
Taylor Swift: I can’t believe we’re going on five albums now, when I feel like it’s still just the beginning. With this album, I’m not trying to open up a new chapter; I’m trying to start a completely new book.
It has to have the common thread of confessional songwriting and my fans getting a glimpse into what’s really happening in my life, but sonically, you can go anywhere. That’s the cool thing.