A look back at 2009, my year of Taylor Swift [Or, how did this happen?]

[This was written in January, and I figured since I’ll be seeing Taylor Swift in concert this week, I’d post the story of how I became a fan. I edited one name out of the original writing, and the psudeonym chosen is not meant to be disparaging or mean in any way. I just can’t think of a good ‘fake name’ that fit.]

I have been meaning to write this story down since November but, it wasn’t until two friends asked me over Christmas break the direct question, ‘So, how did you become a Taylor Swift fan?’ that I decided to actually get this down on paper.

As usual, it’s a rather involved tale. I’ll do my best to keep it interesting. First, we have to go back a bit.

The first time I became aware of Taylor Swift was actually sometime in the summer of 2007. I was visiting my friend Eddie and his family and, the TV was on one of those Country Music Magazine shows, like Entertainment Tonight dedicated exclusively to the country music genre. There was a brief interview with Taylor on a video set [years later I would come to realize it was for the vid ‘Picture to Burn’ but at the time I was clueless]. I just remember seeing footage of her with her guitar, lip-synching to the audio. I thought, ‘Wow, she’s cute,’ but that was it. The vision and the thought left my mind as quickly as it came.

Fast forward to September 2008; I had begun to watch country music videos very late on Friday nites, just as something to pass the time. It’s been well documented in other notes that I grew up around country music, so, while it was never my first choice, it wasn’t foreign to me. On one of these evenings while watching videos, I saw the video for Taylor’s then new single ‘Love Story.’ I thought again, ‘Wow, she’s cute, and that’s a really good song.’ I saw the writing credit on the video listed her as the only author, so I was impressed, but again, the song didn’t stick with me so nothing more came of it. Life went on as usual.

Now, we move to April 2009. I am in Vegas at a conference for work. The very first seminar I attend is a ‘Think Positive’ motivational piece. It was Tuesday April 7. The speaker handed out sheets of paper and said ‘I want you to take five minutes and write down everything that is important to you and your life, the things you care about, the things you want and desire…the goals you have in your life and your career.’ I sat there and immediately wrote down the words ‘Maddie, mom, Brian and baseball’ and then the only other thing I wrote down, and kept tracing over was the name of a girl I’ve known and loved for years [heretofore, referred to simply as ‘The Girl’ because writing out ‘the girl I’ve known and loved for years’ takes too long]. That’s when it hit me as clear as anything I’ve ever felt before. Not to be cliché, but it was like the line in ‘When Harry Met Sally’:

‘When you find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.’

Only problem was, The Girl was living with someone. So, I kept the revelation a secret from everyone.

Now, we move to May 14, 2009. I am in the office of a retinal specialist. It’s up to him to determine if my retina will be able to withstand the needed eye surgery I was hoping to have in June. I don’t usually get nervous at a doctor’s office but, knowing I would have to find other alternatives to surgery if this doctor said ‘No’ had me on edge. They ran tests, they dilated my eyes…and they had piped in music I couldn’t control. So, I sat there in the dark waiting for them to come back to run more tests…nervous and on edge just a bit. I heard a radio DJ say, ‘and now the latest hit from teen pop sensation Taylor Swift, You Belong With Me.’’ At that point I was pretty much a captive audience.

As I listened, I remembered the two other instances where I ran across Taylor Swift, and I thought, ‘This is another catchy pop tune, good stuff.’ Then, the song got to the bridge…and my entire relationship with The Girl was summed up in five lines that took 18 seconds:

‘Oh, I remember you driving to my house in the middle of the night / I’m the one who makes you laugh when you know you’re ‘bout to cry / I know you’re favorite songs and you tell me ‘bout your dreams / Think I know where you belong / Think I know it’s with me. ‘

The song stuck in my head for the rest of the day, then for the next week, what I could remember of the song played on an incomplete loop in my ‘cerebral jukebox’ so much so that at the end of that week, I downloaded the album ‘Fearless.’ I decided to download the album instead of just the single ‘You Belong With Me’ because ‘Love Story’ was also on that album. I figured if I liked at least two of the songs, it was worth checking the other 13 songs out.

Now we move to early June. At some point the first week of June, I saw the video for the song ‘You Belong With Me’ and I loved it. That same week, The Girl and I had a conversation [via text as we always do] that changed things. I asked her point blank if she was happy with her current relationship. She said she was. Even though I didn’t believe her, I took her at her word, and did my best to move on.

Suffice to say, it became clear that, of all the things The Girl and I may be to one another, we would never be a couple. Despite my hopes and my best effort, it wasn’t going to happen. It took me a few days to get over that, and the one thing I kept going back to and listening to, was Taylor’s “Fearless” album. There’s a journal entry of mine from July that says simply: ‘My relationship with The Girl in three songs. 1) What it started out as: ‘You Belong With Me’. 2) What I wanted it to be: ‘Love Story’. 3) How it ended: ‘You’re Not Sorry’. It’s no coincidence that those three songs, in that order, remain the three most played songs on my iPod, by a wide margin.

So, the relationship I wanted with The Girl was more or less over at that moment and I needed something else to focus on, something positive that made me smile. And that’s when I threw myself into being a Taylor Swift fan. I downloaded her debut album, bought the Christmas EP on eBay [it was out of print in the summer, only to be re-released this past October]. I bought the out of print ‘Beautiful Eyes’ CD/DVD package from a seller on Amazon and downloaded any videos I could find on YouTube and iTunes. Was it an obsession? Some might think so but I prefer to think of it as a needed distraction when I was dealing with a broken heart and a bruised ego. And, in the end, if the songs weren’t any good, I really don’t think I would still be listening to them. Luckily, most of them are very good.

In late August, I was looking at Taylor’s tour itinerary. Every show was sold out but tickets could still be obtained thru StubHub. She had a show scheduled for Labor Day weekend in South Carolina. I already had a trip planned to visit a friend in Jacksonville, Florida that same weekend, with plane ticket bought and plans made. I ended up going to Florida, but for several days, I thought long and hard about bagging that trip and going to South Carolina instead to see Taylor in concert.

Happily, her management, knowing a good thing when they saw one, decided to add dates to the tour starting in February. Tickets went onsale in October for two shows relatively close; Charlottesville in March and Washington, DC in June. I was lucky enough to get tickets to both shows, and both shows sold out in less than five minutes. I thought I would have to convince a friend or talk someone into going with me, since I don’t drive, but once Eddie [who was there at the start of this whole thing when I first saw Taylor in 2007] heard about the shows, he was eager to attend.

This past year, really since Christmas 2008 when I asked for a Buck Owens box set for Christmas, I have listened to a lot of country music that in the past I would have ignored. Some people, including my brother, don’t get it. That’s okay. I still listen to my first love, KISS, but since that day at the doctor’s office in May, I’ve had a steady diet of Taylor Swift music. It got me through a very rough patch and, no matter my mood, it continues to make me smile.

What more can you ask of music?

Thanks for reading,