Country music star Taylor Swift the new country music is all about keeping it real

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The Nashville star tells Charlotte Cripps about the goodness and honesty in the music industry

Tonight on BBC One’s singing contest The Voice, the country singer Mike Ward will battle it out in the live final to face the public vote. The “streetwise boy from Salford with a surprising country voice”,  according to The Voice’s website, wants to promote country music in the UK and bring it into the 21st century. Could this 23-year-old who wears a neck-tie and waistcoat be the man to make British country music cool?

He is the first UK homegrown solo country act with pop crossover potential for the past decade. Could things be changing for country music in Britain? Taylor Swift has of course led an international resurgence in country music, bringing country pop music to a new audience in the UK. Her latest album Red has just picked up Top Country Album in the 2013 Billboard Music Awards, where she won Best Country Star,  and it also secured her first UK number one album in October.

This week she spoke to Radar about her love of the genre and her desire to see it spread.

Click here or on "View Images" for Taylor Swift's career in pictures

“I grew up on country music especially Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton,” says Swift, who, aged 17, scored her first number one single on the US country chart with “Our Song”. “At an early age I would perform their songs around my hometown, at festivals, fairs and karaoke contests.”

Swift soon found that using her failed relationships as  material for her confessional songs was a hit formula. She tells me: “I think I first realised I wanted to be in country music and be an artist when I was 10 years old. Shania Twain came out and she was just so strong and so independent and wrote all her songs. That meant so much to me. She is one of the most successful female artists to ever hit country music and I was inspired by her.

“I also saw a VH1 Special on country singer Faith Hill and I was sure that country music was what I wanted to do. After watching that TV programme I was obsessively, obnoxiously bugging my parents every day about it until finally we planned a trip to Nashville.”

The first song Swift learnt to play on guitar was the 1999 Dixie Chicks song “Cowboy Take Me Away”. Swift and her family upped sticks and moved from Pennsylvania to Nashville when she was 14,  so she could pursue her country career. It worked out – each of Swift’s four studio  albums has sold in excess of five million copies worldwide and she has an estimated wealth of more than $165 million. Swift is still a main player on the country scene despite sounding more like Britney Spears than Dolly Parton. Earlier this month, she performed with a banjo at the CMA festival in Nashville, the Glastonbury of country music, where a reported 80,000 people attended the four day festival, a 15 per cent increase from 2012.

“Country music is the place to find reality in music, and  reality in the stars who make that music,” Swift says. “There’s kindness and goodness and honesty in the people I look up to. I’m always going to love Keith Urban [Nicole Kidman’s husband], Twain and Hill. I’m always going to love people like that, who I feel are truly authentic. I’m inspired by people who I feel know exactly who they are, and that inspires me to continue to figure out and inform who I am as an artist.”

The lead single on Swift’s latest Red album, “We are Never Ever Going To Get Back together”, was Swift’s first number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart – but she is not getting hung up on genres. Instead, she still reigns as the country superstar.

“I leave the genre labelling to other people. I really do. If I were to think too hard about it that would stifle me creatively. I think if you sit there and think, ‘I have to put this instrument on this song because if I don’t people will think that I’m in a different genre,’ then I think that is possibly overthinking what I do.”

But as yet there are still no British country stars in the charts – although country music is becoming more popular in the UK. The US drama, Nashville, about country singers is pulling in significant ratings in the UK on More4, and its accompanying soundtrack Nashville Vol 1  has sold more than 50,000 units in the UK to date, according to Decca.

In March, the largest gathering of country music fans ever took place in London with the first big, two-day festival dedicated to country music, C2C: Country to Country, at The O2. The American country  superstar Carrie Underworld sold out the Royal Albert Hall in 90 minutes in June 2012 – another milestone.

“Things have begun to change for country music in the UK – primarily as a result of a group of new artists who are shining new light on the genre from a variety of angles,” says Mike Bartlett, director of Decca Affiliated Labels in the UK. “These include Taylor Swift, whose country roots were built upon before her dominance in the pop arena, and Lady Antebellum whose massive hit “Need You Now” has drawn a huge new audience to the music. In the wake of Lady Antebellum’s success, US country pop acts are now viewing the UK as a fertile market,” he says.

But as the UK charts fill up with more country artists from the US, it seems there is a gaping hole for British acts to fill. The American Kacey Musgraves, who signed to Mercury Records last year, is poised to do a “Taylor Swift”, with A-list fans including Katy Perry. Her third album, Same Trailer Different Park, reached number 39 in the UK album charts in March. Justin Timberlake is a fan of the American country sibling trio The Band Perry’s second album, Pioneer, which was released in the UK earlier this month on Decca/Universal.

If The Band Perry can sell out London’s Koko in a few hours last autumn off the back of their self -titled debut album, surely the UK could produce a few country  pop stars? 

Country music has certainly had its moments of being cool. The painter Stuart Pearson Wright, who directed Keira Knightley in a low-budget film Maze, recorded a limited-edition LP of country and western covers, Lonesome Stu & the Gearshifters Sing Good’Ol Country which he sold with his Wild  West paintings.

Gwyneth Paltrow also tried her hand at getting a record deal as a country star. Her husband Chris Martin wrote a song “Me and Tennessee” recorded by Paltrow and Tim McGraw for the soundtrack of her 2011 film Country Strong, which reached number 63 in the UK singles charts.

But what about the British country pop scene?  “What is holding them back is that no major labels in the UK are nurturing them,” says Alan Cackett, editor of Maverick, the UK’s leading country music magazine. “Also country music in the UK still has a bad image – it’s all ‘Yeehar’.”

The Band Perry’s album, ‘Pioneer’  is out now. Taylor Swift’s new single, “Everything Has Changed” featuring Ed Sheeran, is out 15 July.

*This article appears in tomorrow's print edition of Radar magazine

 

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones