To say Taylor Swift had a remarkable year would be a comic understatement.
She sold more albums than any artist not named Michael Jackson. Her first headlining tour, Fearless 2009, sold out every show within minutes. She became the youngest woman to win the Country Music Association's entertainer of the year award, and she set seemingly every chart record that exists.
But most important, she proved herself a graceful, timeless celebrity, handling hosting duties on Saturday Night Live and a rampaging Kanye West at the MTV Video Music Awards with equal aplomb. Billboard caught up with her on the phone from London to discuss her exhilarating last 12 months.
Billboard: Have you spent much time reflecting on your growth in the past year?
Taylor Swift: I do a lot of reflecting. I'll be driving down the streets I used to drive down in Nashville and my song will come on the radio or I'll pass my high school and something will remind me of how my life was before all of these crazy dreams started coming true. We wished for this, my parents and I, every single day without actually believing it would come true.
Billboard: You've set a ton of records this year and won a slew of awards. I'd like to run down a couple. You became the youngest person to win the entertainer of the year award at the Country Music Association Awards.
Swift: I'd have to say that was the most mind-blowing experience, hearing my name called and winning that award. That is an award I had placed in an unattainable spot in my head. To be the youngest to win it makes me love country music even more for being so open-minded.
Billboard: And you spent more weeks on the Billboard 200 than any other artist this decade.
Swift: It's really hard for me to wrap my mind around that one. In a business where longevity is what you aim for and hope for and strive for, having my album on the charts that long just absolutely floors me. That is such a long time. That's another one of those times where I've gotten a phone call and I really had to ask the person several times if they were serious and if they had really checked the math.
Billboard: You were the 12th person in 35 years of Saturday Night Live to host and perform, and the first female country star in 20 years to do so, the last being Dolly Parton.
Swift: Hosting Saturday Night Live was the best week of my life. I started as a theater kid, so SNL has been up on a pedestal for me and I've always wondered what it would be like to actually experience it. You don't even notice you're so busy that you have to eat while walking to your next meeting. I was at 30 Rock at 7 a.m. until 1 or 2 at night a lot of times. I didn't want to leave.
I was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone in terms of how people have seen me in the past. To see the reviews come in and them being positive and the ratings come in, and the fans were so wonderful and made a point to watch, it made me so thankful and so happy.
Billboard: Do you have a single favorite moment from the past year?
Swift: The high moment of this year was my Fearless tour. Every night of that tour felt like a celebration. I never expected it to be as successful as it was.
Billboard: And what about a low point?
Swift: (Pauses) I've had a few days -- and everyone has them -- where you feel humiliated or you're shocked by something or something knocks you down a few pegs. But in those moments I've been very quick to realize and remind myself that there are people out there with real problems. To get hung up on any bad moment that happened this year would be unfair to all the good moments I've had this year.
Billboard: Are there careers that came before you that you tried to learn from?
Swift: When I was growing up I didn't watch much kid television. When I was 10 I watched a special on Faith Hill and how she went to Nashville and made it in country music. I watched how Garth Brooks kept his ticket prices low. I watched how Shania Twain was able to be a blend of different genres. I just love what I get to do so much that there's never a moment of my day when I'm not thinking about a certain aspect of it, and there's never a point when I feel like I know all I need to know about the music industry.
Billboard: Have you had time to write amid all this craziness?
Swift: I actually am best writing on the road. I only have time to write the songs that hit me the hardest. Those are songs like Fifteen -- that's one I wrote on the road. It hits me and I needed to write it, so I found time to write it, whether it's 15 minutes between meet-and-greets or at 4 a.m. If they haunt me throughout my meet-and-greets and interviews, and all I'm playing in my head is this song, then I know I've got something.
I'm well into writing my next album. I think my biggest goal for this next record is to write in real time, as I always have. I want to continue to write about things that I'm going through. My first record was my diary from my early teens. My next was my diary from 16 to 18. My biggest hope for this next record is that the feelings I'm feeling right now will be accurately portrayed.
Billboard: So what's left for you now? Will we see an album next year?
Swift: My next goals are to continue on with the Fearless tour. I'd love to be able to perform on the Grammys again. They gave me a unique opportunity last year to perform a song I hadn't even released as a single. Obviously I'll be making my third record. I'll be taking time to make it everything I've got dreamed up in my head so far. I like to have about two years between records -- so possibly next year.