“I’ve always been very aware of my own relevancy and mortality,” the star said on a new episode of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums podcast
Taylor Swift is reflecting on how “Everything Has Changed” since the release of her landmark 2012 album, Red .
In the second episode of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums podcast , the singer, 30, opens up about how the record, which ranked 99 on the magazine’s list, helped her successfully crossover from country to pop, making her the star that she is today.
“I’ve always been very aware of my own relevancy and mortality,” Swift said on the podcast, which aired Tuesday. “My career started when I was 16 putting out albums, so by 22, I was already feeling like old news.”
“I was already watching newer, cooler artists come out every week. I was already feeling like, ‘You know, s—. I’m on my fourth record, what can I offer people?’ That was sort of when I was like, ‘No, you know what? I don’t want this to be the part of me that stays in this one place musically forever and bores people to death,'” she added. “It was an interesting wrestling match with my own fears of remaining stagnant that made Red the kind of joy ride that it ended up being.”
Red featured a mix of genres, from country songs like “Begin Again” to pop hits like “We Are Never Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.” She also said on the podcast that it was her only true breakup record.
“I really do see this album as my ‘splatter paint album,'” she said. “Just using all the colors and throwing it at the wall and seeing what sticks. When the album came out, it had a lot of people that were criticizing it for its — the fans make fun of me for saying this so much over the course of [the] years — lack of being sonically cohesive. It was absolutely not cohesive. But it was sort of a metaphor for how messy a real breakup is.”
“I look back on this as my only true breakup album — every other album has flickers of different things,” she added. “But this was an album that I wrote specifically about like a pure, absolute to the core heartbreak, and you do a lot of vacillating and changing when you’re going through something like that. So this record actually is an accurate depiction symbolically of that.”
Swift recalled how she wrote the first song on the album, “All Too Well,” during a rough patch in her life.
“I was like a broken human walking into rehearsal, just feeling terrible about what was going on in my personal life,” she said. “I walked in, and I remember we had just hired David Cook, who [has been] my band leader ever since then. I ended up playing four chords over and over again, and the band started kicking it. People started playing along with me. I think they could tell I was really going through it.”
“I just started singing and riffing and ad-libbing this song that basically was ‘All Too Well,'” she continued. “It was that song but probably had seven extra verses. I included the f-word, and I remember my sound guy was like, ‘I burned a CD of that thing you were doing in case you want it.’ I was like, ‘Sure.’ I ended up taking it home and listening to it and was like, ‘I actually really like this, but it’s 10 minutes long. I need to pair it down.'”
So Swift decided to reach out to songwriter Liz Rose, whom she worked with on songs on her debut album like “Teardrops on My Guitar” and “Tim McGraw,” to help narrow it down.
Swift’s collaborations with country mavens like Rose, in addition to pop geniuses like Ed Sheeran , songwriter Max Martin and producer Yohan Shellback, were keystones to Red’s success, she said.
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” Red was sort of like a wellspring of really important relationships that I carried with me for the rest of my career,” she said. “I became best friends with Ed Sheeran. He’s still someone that I talk to every week, and Max Martin was the person who taught me more about writing than anyone I can imagine ever meeting. So this was a really important record for me in terms of, I guess, the origins of things that I carried with me.”
As she stood at the crossroads between country and pop, Swift said “the challenge was thrilling.”
“I really felt like I was standing on a state line, and I had a foot on either side of the borderline,” she said. “I was just getting to exist in both worlds, which for me at the time was really thrilling.”
Swift — who most recently released her eighth studio album, Folklore , in July — said that Red was the reason she decided to make her follow-up pop album 1989 , which went on to earn her album of the year and best pop vocal album at the 2016 Grammy Awards .
"I felt so proud and still feel so proud of my origins in Nashville,” she said. “But at a certain point, I started to feel like am I allowed to color outside the lines here. It really was amazing on Red to realize, like, ‘Oh, I’m allowed in these rooms. I’m accepted in these rooms.'”
“That was something that freed me up for a world of change and challenge and innovation, and I never would have had the bravery to make the full leap into pop music if I hadn’t been able to do what I did with Red and to work with people that I worked with,” she added. “I will always look back on it and just think, ‘Wow, that was really sort of the beginning of everything that I'm doing now.'”
“I have recently begun re-recording my older music and it has already proven to be both exciting and creatively fulfilling,” Swift said, promising “plenty of surprises in store” for fans.
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