Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Taylor and Company: Just Good People

You've probably heard stories of demanding, ego-maniacal superstars. You know the type. They want caviar and champagne and only the green M&M's in their dressing room. They treat fans, agents and stage crew alike with disdain. Especially prevalent are the young female stars like Lindsey Lohan or Brittany Spears who party all the time and end up in rehab. Maybe that's why it's especially cool that just when you think the age of big stars with small egos and treating the people who made you famous nicely is a thing of the past, you meet someone who brings back your faith in humanity.

That is the phenomenon that is Taylor Swift.

I'm blessed to have a job where I meet a lot of talented, famous people; some nice, and some not so nice. On many occasions (mostly when I was in pop music radio) I met a lot of the latter and wondered how they got so successful. And then, you meet someone who seemingly has it all together. They have talent, beauty, brains, business acumen, and a wonderful, kind personality. That has been my experience in the past with Taylor, and more recently in New York City when I witnessed her magic in front of the sold out Madison Square Garden.

Although I've had the pleasure of spending time with Taylor several times over the past couple of years, it was so refreshing to see this (still) young lady is as down to earth today as she was when she and her mom visited stations like WQMX to introduce her to country radio.

Back then, all those 3 years ago, after singing songs that were real, true to her age and life experience, (because she wrote every one of them) Taylor treated every person she encountered like gold. When at WQMX for a Rising Star Showcase, she met each listener with a smile. She didn't just sign a photo, she wrote a note, or drew a heart, or did something to make each person she met feel special. She thanked then, and continues to thank now, radio people for playing her songs, and listeners for listening to them. She seems genuinely surprised that people like her as much as they do, and always makes it seem like it was a privilege for her to play for us. Back then, several people remarked that there was something different about this girl from the hundreds we meet.

And 3 years later, there still is.

Taylor's stats are more than impressive. Her self-titled debut album produced five hit singles and was certified 3times Multi-Platinum. The New York Times described Swift as "one of pop's finest songwriters, country's foremost pragmatist and more in touch with her inner life than most adults". She was the biggest selling artist of 2008 with combined sales of more than four million albums. Her latest Fearless was the first album by a female artist in country music history to log eight weeks at #1 on The Billboard 200. According to the 2009 issue of Forbes, Swift is ranked as the 69th most powerful celebrity with over $18 million in earnings this year.
And she's 19.

Sometimes, talent, fame and fortune can mess with a person's head. How could it not? But so far, there is no sign of that with Taylor. Yes, she is worldlier. But she is surrounded by an amazing mom and dad, and a record company that feels like a mom and pop shop: Big Machine records, headed by President Scott Borchetta.

And speaking of Big Machine, the record rep I deal with in our region is a guy name Erik Powell. Erik is an example of being true to the company he keeps. I was standing next to him at Taylor's concert in New York. Erik is way taller than me, and at one point he scrunched down next to me so he could witness the view from my perspective. He said, "Sue, you can't see anything". I said, "Erik, welcome to my world!" He then guided me to the front near the stage, where I stood where I could actually see the concert. Talk about putting yourself in someone else's shoes.

Then, Erik did something really special. He made eye contact with Taylor's guitar player, who had been tossing picks into the audience of screaming girls all evening. Erik went to the edge of the stage and the player handed him several picks. He then went to the area of wheelchairs and made sure each young disabled child received a pick. Apparently, the two of them do that for most shows.

Pretty cool.

Customer service, kindness, and just being a "good people". That describes Taylor Swift and the people in support of her, starting with her family, to label exec Scott, to my friend Erik.

It's nice when success comes to good people.