Taylor Swift sold so many records in 2012, the only people who didn't buy one are probably named Jake and John. Her fourth album, Red, is yet another blockbuster, selling 1.2 million copies in its first week, far outpacing every other week-one sales tally for 2012. (Mumford & Sons' Babel placed a distant second with 600,000). But Red is far from a safe record for Swift. She stretched her sound by co-writing with Swedish hit mafia Max Martin and Shellback and dueting with moon-eyed British folkies Ed Sheeran and Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody, and tackled assorted adult subjects with the same precision she previously saved for high-school crushes. Don't let the off-white sundresses and kitty-cat Instagrams fool you. At 22, Swift is clearly no innocent: She's in charge of her career to a degree that few artists can dare match, and she's an exceptional songwriter who still hasn't peaked at her craft. We spoke to Swift by telephone while she was in Los Angeles for a TV appearance and video shoot.
Why surprisingly pleasant?
I had a lot of fears that people wouldn't like me stepping out of boxes and allowing all of my musical influences to show. I had so much fun making this record, but I often feel like when things are too much fun, how can they turn out well?
Do you typically think that way? If things are going well there must be another shoe about to drop?
I always feel like there must be another shoe about to drop, the ceiling must be about to cave in, the floor must be about to drop out from under me. That's why I'm so grateful for good times. I was sitting at the kitchen table talking to my mom last night and I was like, "I'm so content right now. How am I this content?" I've learned to value those moments when my life feels balanced, when everything that I've put forth musically has been completely understood by my fans.
Taylor and mom Andrea Swift
It must be nice that you can talk to your mom that way.
Oh yeah, my mom and I have a really, really close relationship. She's the main reason I've been able to find a center emotionally. Because I do deal with a lot of anxiety-not crawl-up-in-a-ball-and-rock-back-and-forth anxiety, but doubts and insecurity, about everything. And I try to be as self-aware as possible, which ends up making me question things. So to get back to your original question, I guess the way that I would describe this year is that all of my hopes and dreams about this album came true, surprisingly to me. [laughs]
Taylor and Selena GomezWould you describe yourself as an anxious person?
I wouldn't say so, no, but I've watched so many people's lives and careers and read so many stories and biographies that I never want to make that crucial mistake that starts you on that downward spiral. I always want to be super self-aware about where I am in life, work hard, and try to do the right thing. And sometimes when you're trying to do all those things, it can make you kind of nervous. But I also really like to have fun and hang out with my friends. I love living a life that I can then write about. You have to have magic in your life if you're going to write about it.