The Taylor Tape

Taylor Swift’s father was her best promoter, and maybe the most dedicated father ever.

Taylor at 14I met Scott Swift in 2004, just a while after he moved his family to Nashville to pursue Taylor’s country music career. He was a frequent guest at the hotel where I worked, doing business at a nearby Merrill Lynch office.

His eyes would light up when he spoke of Taylor. He brought 8 x 10 glossies of this 14 year old aspiring artist that made us pause; she looked to be about 25 in those photos, and absolutely stunning. He left a few copies at the front desk, I’m still not sure who claimed them, they might have even been trashed.

We were amazed. This man had so much faith in his child’s dream, he gave up his home nearby and moved his family and financial business to Nashville.

Who does things like that ?

On one of his visits, he brought us an audio tape. She did not yet have a record deal, but he was still confident.

I have to admit, I set the tape aside, convinced that this was just another over zealous father who might have lovingly exaggerated her potential.

But still…he moved his life to Nashville ! There had to be something there.

My son was a musician of a very different nature, he composed music and played bass in a hardcore punk band. My daughter was home from college for the summer.

We all listened to the tape together.

It was dreadful.

I’m sure there was value in her songwriting, we didn’t have a copy of the lyrics. But the voice was so dissonant that it was distracting. We gave up after one song, smiled at each other at this father’s folly, and maybe felt a bit sad for the lives that he’d changed in a pursuit that seemed sure to fail.

We were wrong.

proud dad

Taylor and Scott Swift

What happened to Taylor over the next few years was almost unprecedented in the music industry.

She conquered Nashville in short order and moved on to become, well, Taylor Swift !

The tape is still somewhere in the basement, buried in a storage box.

It will turn up one day, I’ll surely give it another listen.

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42 Responses to The Taylor Tape

  1. Amy says:

    What an interesting story.

  2. George says:

    What an interesting story. I guess you just never know why or how some people are successful. She’s certainly talented and markets herself very well. I’ve heard better voices for sure who have never made it in the business. Sometimes it’s arbitrary, sometimes luck and sometimes talent. You just never know which, when…:)

    • If I/we could have gotten past that untrained voice and on to her lyrics, we’d have felt differently, I’m sure, George. Her authentic writing is the most impressive to me.

      • George says:

        I agree. Even early on her career her voice was erratic during live performances. But her songwriting has always been top shelf.

      • She might have had some vocal training in there somewhere. Her maternal grandmother was an opera singer…so a bit genetic as well. She just needed to mature a bit.

  3. These stories never get old! I live near Nashville, and there is no shortage of people who move here to pursue a career within the music industry. We see superstars during their times of concerts in parking lots or in bars! You just never know!!!

  4. Erika Kind says:

    He always saw it. He blieved in his daughter and recognized her talent. She has come an enormously long way!!!

  5. Cute story. And find that tape…it’ll be worth millions some day!

  6. Great story. Not a fan really but I do admire what she has accomplished at such a young age.

    • Same here, John. She is a very respectable role model for a lot of young (and maybe, not so young) girls. I have a niece who is legally blind, multiple liver transplant recipient. A relative in the music business told Taylor what a great fan she was, and she sent her a backstage pass to one of her concerts. Sweet and genuine. ☺ Van

  7. Nurse Kelly says:

    Wow, what a great story and illustration of a parent’s devotion. Thanks for sharing this!

  8. Maybe it’s a good thing that the tape remains hidden – if it is truly that gawdawful – it might get her fans thinking about her voice, rather than her message, and derail her career.

    Weirder things have happened. I’ll leave you with a paraphrased quote out of one of my favorite books:

    “The adoration of the masses is fickle. They take just as much pleasure in destroying their idols as they did in elevating them in the first place.”

    From ‘River God’ by Wilbur Smith.

  9. writerinsoul says:

    Van, do you mean she got better? Or better-produced (not to mention whoppingly well-packaged and presented)? I find her image overshadows her music but I got on board last year with that catchy “Shake it off” ditty. I’m a’thinking we’re not really the Target Audience.

    The others were right – such an interesting story!

    • She wouldn’t be the first or last pop “star”, so I guess it works, for a while. They are often exposed in live performances, but I guess those can be enhanced as well.

      Target Audience…lol. I’m a’thinking you’re right. ☺

  10. and post it on here, I hope! What a great story Van! ❤
    Diana xo

  11. Angie Mc says:

    Fun story, Van! I’ve been aware of Swift for a long time because of my daughter and her friends. She’s fearless and oh so smart. It has been fun to watch her grow up and her current album is a gem.

  12. lbeth1950 says:

    Sounds like a great dad and daughter.

  13. Elyse says:

    WHat a great story. If I were you, I’d find that tape. It might just quadruple your retirement account!!!!

  14. Terrific background.

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