Taylor Swift

1989 Interview with Paul McGuire

Taylor Swift (ft. Paul McGuire CMT)

LETRA

1989 Interview with Paul McGuire Letra

Paul: There's no big fancy introduction, I don't think we really need one. We just start talking.

Taylor: I mean, yeah, we could do that.

We could do that, right?

Yeah. I mean, did you have a fancy introduction planned?

No?

Did you have a song prepared?

Do we really, well, funny you should mention - no, no song. No song prepared, that's not gonna -

Not at all? And I came all the way to Canada.

Focusing on the year 1989, it was a great year. Do you know what the Best Picture that year was?

I do not.

The movie that won Best Picture in 1989: Rain Man.

Amazing!

Good movie, right?

Fantastic.

Good movie. The Album of the Year, do you know the [?] that won a Grammy? It's the first time that this has happened, really, to you?

Yeah.

In an interview about an album called 1989?

Well, I just figured you'd just want to show off your knowledge.

Well, it's the internet, it's not really showing off.

Okay.

George Michael's Faith!

Amazing!

Album of the Year.

This is actually educational.

It's pretty good, right? But I was happy that it wasn't, like, there weren't too sketchy things. Those were really good things that stand up. Rain Man is still great to watch, Faith is still a fantastic album.

'Like a Prayer' by Madonna came out in 1989, one of the most influential pop songs and music videos of all time.

You were born.

I was in 1989 for two weeks.

Yeah, that's okay. That's okay.

But it still happened in that year.

It happened in 1989. You've only released a studio album four times previous to this, so this is something that doesn't happen to you all that often. So, the title of it -

It's really important.

The theme of it is really important, right? When was the moment you decided it was gonna be 1989?

Actually, no one... this is why I like talking to you, because no one has ever come at it from this angle and actually asked me that specific question. It's actually a really interesting moment. I remember exactly when I decided that I was gonna call it 1989. It was the night of the Grammys this year. After the Grammys I didn't go to any afterparties or anything, I kind of wanted to go home and eat In-N-Out Burger with my friends. I remember going home and playing a lot of the new music I had recorded for some of my backup singers and one of my best friends. We were all sitting in the kitchen and I was playing them all this music, and they were just saying, ‘you know, this is very eighties. It's very clear to us that this is so eighties.' We were just talking and talking about how it's kind of a rebirth in a new genre, how that's a big bold step, how, kind of, starting a part of your career over. When they left that night, I just had this very clear moment of, ‘it's gotta be called 1989. It's gotta be called that. We're talking about creative rebirth, my birth year, the album is eighties-influenced.' I didn't know I was doing that but I was doing that.

You didn't know you were doing that?

I didn't mean to do it, I just was doing it. And so, then, after that, I really was able to focus on the, kind of, eighties sonic concept. And then it really came together as a very sonically cohesive project.

Were you still writing songs in the traditional way, with a guitar?

Yes and no, I mean, some of them I wrote on piano, some of them I wrote on guitar. Some of them I would think of some synth line in my head and sing it into my phone and send it to my co-writers and say, ‘do you think this would sound cool?'

Like, without words, just singing the, kind of, synth line?

Yeah! Or singing a drum beat over top of it, and I would send it to them and I'd go, ‘I don't have the right keyboard to make this sound in my house. I just have a piano and a guitar, but let me play it for you on piano and let you know what I think the bassline should be, and we can start there.' Or it would be a first line of a first verse, or it would be, sort of, an image that I wanted to create a feeling around. We would just start with this image I had, or a story. It was a lot different than making any of my other albums.

It was?

Yeah.

Biggest difference was what?

The biggest difference was that I didn't have any, I didn't have any boundaries around me production-wise. You know, one of my favorite things about country music is that it taught me how to tell stories. Coming up in the Nashville songwriting community was the greatest thing that could've ever happened to me because it taught me how to weave a story together with very, um, very detailed, personal details but also some, kind of, like, poetic, purple imagery. I love, kind of, I love how it all came about with my career, but at this point, it felt like I wanted to go and run in a direction that I had never run in before, which was, 'I wanna be able to use whatever instruments I want, whatever drum sounds I want, whatever vocal stylings I want. I want to build and layer things, and I don't want someone to say, 'well, this isn't country.'' You know? And for me to be trying to prove that it was. So the reason this felt like a much more free experience was because I was able to write songs without the worry people would say it wasn't in the genre it was supposed to be in. So in labelling it pop and just calling it what it was, you know, when you make a pop album nobody's gonna look at it and say, 'well, that's not pop.' So I didn't have any restraints on me.

Jason Aldean recently said something about how you're not gonna hear him writing a song about being a Wall Street stock broker because he doesn't even know where Wall Street's at, and that was the -

He's gotta know where that is.

I think he-

It's in New York.

That's where he keeps his money.

He's gotta know. He knows where it's at.

I think he was trying to say, just why -

I get what he's trying to say, though. Sorry, I was just, like, my dad is a stock broker who would've just been, like, his brain would be, like,
I understand that that's his life and talking about, 'this is where I grew up, what I grew up knowing.' What you grew up knowing is much different. It's international.

Yeah.

It's the world. You've been traveling the world for a long time.

I completely understand what he was saying there, because, I mean, with me, it's the same thing. It's like, as my life has changed, I need to continue to write about it, and I need to continue to write about even the things that change, like moving to New York and, you know, focusing more on my girlfriends rather than boyfriends. Like, these are things that are, kind of, the focal point of this new album. And as much of when I was in high school, I would sing about what my life was, which was, you know, sneaking out at night, and driving in trucks with your first boyfriend, and falling in love, and that, kind of, innocent summer romance thing, small towns, dirt roads. That was actually my life in high school. It's not anymore. So if I were to continue to write songs about that, I feel like it would be very disingenuous, and as a songwriter, that's the exact opposite of the goal I'm trying to accomplish.

In listening to the songs I've heard already, they're still, they're very much story songs. You tell a story in each one. There's a beginning, a middle, and an end, and that's something that you focus on.

Definitely. I mean, I think that's kind of engrained in me, and that's the one part of my songwriting that I don't think should change as everything else does. I think that my fans have gotten used to receiving my diary entries every two years, and getting that album and going, 'oh, this is what she's been through the last two years.'

I meet a bunch of people who are in the public eye, but not quite like, there's nobody in the public eye like you. There's a few on the planet, and there's nothing that could prepare you for that. Am I right? There's nothing in life that could prepare you for that.

I feel really lucky because I don't feel like I was shot out of a cannon, you know? A lot of people have their first single come out and it is everywhere, and all of a sudden they have a triple-platinum single, and there's all this anticipation about their album and then, all of a sudden, people start to tear them down, and it all happens over the course of six months to a year. My career build, I mean, we're going on, it's about nine years now since I put out my first album?

The record label was signed in 2005, right? The record deal rather, sorry.

We're going on almost ten years, so it's been a really, really gradual arc, and that doesn't mean that sometimes it doesn't feel that it's at a crazy fever pitch that no one could ever prepare you for, but as much as you could possibly be prepared for it, I feel like time has kind of prepared me for it. I mean, some days I wake up and am absolutely overwhelmed by how abnormal my life is. It's not normal to have security with you wherever you go. It's not normal to have assistants. It's not normal to have hair and makeup every day. It's not normal -

To give you people heat for holding a cat a certain way on the streets of New York.

That cat loves being held like that!

I know! No, I know! But you can't do anything without somebody at some point on some website, 'well, the cat doesn't, this isn't right for the cat to be out like that.'

The cat loves it. The cat, here's the thing -

Is that Olivia?

Yeah, that's Olivia. Yeah, you're right, exactly. And when everything that you do is debated upon, scrutinized, questioned, everybody feels entitled to ask you why you did everything. There are days where I feel really, really okay with that, honestly, but then there are days where I just, am kind of overwhelmed by all of it, and I think that that's okay. I try to encourage my fans that they don't have to feel confident every day, they don't have to feel happy every day, they don't have to feel pretty every day, they don't have to wanted every day. That they shouldn't put added, extra pressure on themselves to feel happy when they're not, you know? I think being honest with yourself emotionally is really important.

When you signed that record deal in 2005, is there any advice you would go back and give to that girl that was signing that day? Or because the slow and gradual build it kind of worked out? I mean, it's obviously all worked out okay. What advice are you gonna give to somebody like that?

I don't think I'd wanna give her too much advice, I would... oh, I think I would tell her to laugh more. Just, you know, if you laugh at yourself first it's less funny when other people make fun of you. I would also explain to her the actual definition of feminism, because I didn't know it when I was younger. I think those are two important things for girls to know, going into this business or going into life itself. But all the other things, all the really intense, times I felt serious pain or rejection or humiliation or embarrassment, those have all produced the songs I'm the most proud of. There was this crazy circumstance that happened where I wrote this song 'Mean' about the harshest criticisms I've ever gotten. It was brutal. And that song ended up winning two Grammys.

Spectacular, yeah. In hindsight you don't [?], but if you knew something was coming, if someone said to you, 'there's something coming around the corner, it's brutal, you're gonna want to, you know, hoodie for three weeks, you're never gonna want to deal with it. But the result will be Album of the Year.'

Oh my God, you'd do anything for that!

Fair enough. Like I said earlier, this is one of the things you don't get to do all the time. You get to go on stage a lot, you get to be interviewed a lot, all of these things happen to you, but album releases don't happen a lot.

They don't.

They don't happen a lot.

I'm really soaking it in.

Yeah? Do you still get as excited? I know you were saying you're more proud of this than any of them.

Yeah. I'm so excited, I mean, honestly. Because having spent the last year and a half, just kind of living my life on my own terms and not, not dating, not focusing on really anything else other than figuring out the album I wanted to make, there's such an incentive for me, like, I'm so proud of it. And I've always been proud of my albums, but there's something about this one, where I feel like I actually did something different this time. I actually made something that is cohesive and fits together and has its own sound and something I was so focused on. And I can be focused on my fans, and I can, you know, like, I'm not tired right now during this interview. Like, I'm not distracted, I'm just, kind of, I'm just, really taking it in.

The highs that you get on stage, almost nobody gets to experience, what you experience on stage. Which, again on the planet. You have one of those jobs that's very rare. What's second to that? What's the thing that comes the closest to the electricity that you feel when you're on stage?

I would say it's different all the time, but right now it's, like, seasonal stuff. Like, I get as excited about being on stage as I get about cozy things. Because just the idea of seasons changing. This is the time of year where I'm so out-of-control excited about the fact that it's fall. Guess what's next? Winter.

Yes, so you're gonna have a hard time getting anybody here excited about that.

It's two seasons that I love, and I can bake stuff all the time, and then I can give it to people. I can try out new recipes, I can wear sweaters, I can wear knee socks. I could even buy sweaters for my cats to wear.

Okay.

I could do any of that, because it's that kind of season!

But that's almost as exciting as being on stage in front of forty thousand people?

You have to understand that if you're choosing your first place as being something like, 'ahhhhhhh,' the second place has to be something that evens that out, which is, like, baking day with your friends.

But your answer really is, 'I don't need another high like that, because that's the one I get by going on stage.'

I think that is actually my revised answer.

You mentioned feminism. You have, almost by happy accident, become a real icon for girls and women, and you said earlier that that would be one of the things you might make sure you would change if you were to go back and talk to younger you, is to, kind of, narrow down that definition, or define the definition of feminism. Do you realize, kind of, how great that it is for young girls to see what you're doing? I mean, you get to experience that [?], right? When you talk to parents of young girls, right?

That's awesome. It's interesting because I think that feminism is such an important conversation to be having. Especially right now, because with girls out there in the world living their lives, knowing what it means is so important, because all it means is that they feel they should be treated exactly the same way as guys. They should be given equal opportunities and rights. And I think the more people like Lena [Dunham] talk about it, like, Lorde and Emma Watson talk about it, and the fact that it's becoming, sort of, a conversation that is top-of-mind in the media. I think it's so incredible. I've always made music so I could feel camaraderie with my fans, not in a way that was trying to cater to, kind of, any male fantasy, and that wasn't on purpose, that's just been what has felt natural to me. When asked early on about feminism in my career, I just, I think I was probably fifteen the first time I was asked about it. And so I would just say, 'I don't talk about politics, I don't really understand that stuff yet, so I guess I'm just gonna say I'm not.' And I wish that when I was younger I would've known that it's simply hoping for gender equality.

Probably not so fair of the interviewer to ask a fifteen-year-old about that.

You know, that's an interesting point to make. But I think that, in the media, it's very interesting to witness, on a daily basis. You know, you go online, and we all see these gossip blogs every single time we log on, because we're curious and that's the society we live in. But you'll see these polls, like, 'vote on who has a better butt! This woman or this woman?' And you never see 'who has a better butt: this man or this man?' It just never happens. 'Who's the hotter mama: this woman or this woman?' It's not, like, 'who's the sexiest dad: this man or this man?' You just don't see it. And people are allowed to pit women against each other and vote, and they think it's an innocent thing, when really it's kind of warping your mind that, you know. And if a young girl logs on and votes, it's like she's going, 'oh my God, if that girl in my class is pretty and smart, then maybe everyone's comparing me to her, and maybe I should hate her.' And that's just, it's feeding this negativity and I really think that with girls, kind of, banding together, in music, in culture, in movies, whatever. I think it's nice to see people actually cheer each other on and girls be friends with each other, because hopefully that will kind of bleed into the classroom, and the playground, and the campus, and all that.

I know it seems like disposable entertainment for adults, but it's not only adults who are seeing this stuff.

It's mostly not adults.

It's mostly not adults.

It's mostly very impressionable kids and young girls who are still forming their ideas of who they actually are. And to warp their opinions of other girls, that just adds anxiety to their life that they don't need.

This kind of brings me to talking about your legacy, and I know, I think five albums in it's appropriate to start talking a little bit about that. I'm guessing that you try very hard to make sure that the music you make, you release the things you take part in enough, that they'll all be able to stand up. Not just to the test of time, say, sonically or whatever, but that you can continue to be proud of this, is that right?

Yeah, it's completely right, it's dead-on. I've always had this thing where I think about what, if I'm lucky enough to have grandkids someday, what they would say. If they looked back on pictures, and videos, and things like that, and I'd sure they'd laugh at me and make fun of my awkwardness and things like that. But I would never want to embarrass them. It's interesting because it's like the whole role model question, like, are you a role model? Do you think about the little kids in the front row when you're doing all the things you're doing in this life? I think that's an unnecessary pressure to put on yourself, but it's easier when you make it about your own life, your own legacy, when you, kind of, bring it in house, and you're, like, 'what if I have a five-year-old someday? And what if someday my ten-year-old goes online for the first time? Like, what do I want her to see about me?'

That's a pretty good way to look at it.

It's something that happens very naturally where if you're, kind of, just taking accountability and responsibility for your own actions, it's kind of a natural thing that happens, where, you know, all of a sudden you have parents coming up and thanking you, and you're just, sort of, like, 'hm, well, you're welcome.' Where you were just, kind of, trying to live a good life, because I think, you know, you don't want to feel like you're the national president of the babysitters club, but you do wanna try to do good things, and make ripples, and good echoes in society, and culture, and all that.

But you are doing that, and in the music that I've heard already, man, are people gonna get a kick out of hearing this, and experiencing it live. It's great, congratulations on this.

Good. Thank you!

It's epic. The album's out.

Thank you! It's great to talk to you, as always.

As always. Thanks, Taylor.

Awesome.

Nice job.

Thanks! You're so good!

Thank you, thank you for doing this.

I always end up telling you stuff that I've never thought to say in interviews.