Songwriting is the topic of the moment for Taylor Swift.
The 23-year-old pop star was honored for a record sixth time as songwriter-artist of the year by the Nashville Songwriters Association International, surpassing guys like Vince Gill and Alan Jackson. She earned the award with 14 hits in the top 30 over the last year, a tribute to the popularity of her multiplatinum fourth album, “Red.”
As Swift accepts the award, she’s six months deep in the songwriting process for her next album. “I think the goal for the next album is to continue to change, and never change in the same way twice,” the seven-time Grammy winner said. “How do I write these figurative diary entries in ways that I’ve never written them before and to a sonic backdrop that I’ve never explored before? It’s my fifth album, which is crazy to think about, but I think what I’m noticing about it so far is it’s definitely taking a different turn than anything I’ve done before.”
Swift sat down with The Associated Press after the Saturday ribbon-cutting on the new $4 million Taylor Swift Education Center at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in her adopted hometown to talk about what’s to come with the new album, her six Country Music Association Award nominations, her friend and fellow Nashville resident Ed Sheeran and Madonna.
AP: Next month you leave on a stadium tour of Australia, making you the first female solo performer to tour that country since Madonna 20 years ago. Madonna was the top pop star in the world at the time. Do you see yourself as that kind of pop star?
Swift: I would never see myself that way. I see myself as kind of this girl who writes songs in her bedroom. You can kind of dress it up all you want and you can put together an amazing theatrical production, you can become a better performer as time goes by, and you can try to excite people, but I’m always going to be a girl who writes songs in her bedroom in my own personal perception of myself. And I think it’s important that I don’t necessarily think too hard about what everybody else’s perception of me is or else I’d just get completely lost in it. It’s just easier to think of myself that way.
AP: You’re up for entertainer of the year again at the CMAs on Nov. 6. If you win, you’ll become the first woman with three wins, passing Barbara Mandrell. How do you feel about that?
Swift: I think winning entertainer of the year would be an unbelievable thing to happen in my life because I still sometimes can’t believe I’ve gotten to win that twice. So a third time, what I think it would mean for my fans, would be the biggest feeling I would have. Just knowing the, I think, 1.3 million people we saw this year in the U.S. would get to know that they contributed to that and that they being frenzied and covering themselves in Christmas lights and making signs and learning the lyrics and screaming at the top of their lungs and dancing for two hours straight at my show somehow moved the needle and impacted my life in a way that I’ll remember when I’m 85 if I get to be 85.
AP: You said recently you’ve been working on songs for the new album for about six months. What can you tell us about what you have planned?
Swift: It’s too early to tell who are going to be my predominant collaborators, but I do know that my absolute dream collaborators were Shellback and Max Martin on the last project. I’ve never been so challenged as a songwriter. I’ve never learned so much. I’ve never just been so excited to show up to the studio every day, just because you never know what we’re going to put together. I’ll bring in ideas and they’ll take such a different turn than where I thought they were going to go, and that level of unexpected spontaneity is something that really thrills me in the process of making music. … What if we did this? What if we made it weirder? What if we took it darker? I love people who have endless strange and exciting ideas about where music can go.
AP: How far are you willing to push the boundaries of your sound?
Swift: I definitely think that with music my favorite thing about Nashville is that it’s a music hub that accepts and allows all genres to be present, and I think there’s been a kind of fusing of genres lately that for me makes me really happy and excited. I am blown away at getting six CMA nominations in a year that I pushed the boundaries of what a genre is more than ever before. I’m so happy that people understood what I was doing conceptually. Getting those six CMA nominations to me signified that this community knew that I was not running from where I come from. I was exploring, and I think the more people who know what country music is, the more people will gravitate toward Nashville.
AP: Speaking of Nashville, I think you convinced your friend Ed Sheeran to move here …
Swift: Oh, I definitely did. Ed loves Nashville. You know, so many people live here now. It’s really exciting because nobody who comes here … doesn’t like it, and it just makes me proud to live here and it makes me proud to make music here and I love it. I just love it becoming such an exciting place to live after eight years.