CMAs: Taylor Swift's Big Night Out
NASHVILLE -- Taylor Swift had a minor crisis midway through her meal at last night's BMI Awards: Her Shirley Temple was served in a lowball glass that might have given people the impression that the 18-year-old crossover country star with the squeaky-clean image was throwing back an Old Fashioned.
"Look at it," she said of the nonalcoholic drink. "I just can't do it. I need a straw."
The head of Swift's record label secured one, and Swift finally took a celebratory sip.
There was much for her to celebrate on Tuesday.
Though Swift had trouble going to sleep the night before because, she said, "I didn't know if anybody would buy my album," the early indicators were excellent: Big Machine Records honcho Scott Borchetta -- who'd signed Swift to his nascent label and then watched with amazement as her self-titled debut sold 3.5 million copies -- said last night that first-week sales looked to be "north of 500,000."
In fact, he said, based on release-day data from major retailers, 600,000 was well within reach. (One of those release-day buyers: Miley Cyrus, who told Swift that she'd gone to her local Wal-Mart at midnight to pick up the album. "That is so awesome," Swift said.) Anyway, Borchetta joked: "I'll have to go back and look at my original projections, from when this was just starting, but I think we're ahead of schedule."
There were also the writing awards from BMI, a performing rights organization: Swift received two, for her hits "Our Song" and "Teardrops on My Guitar."
And then, near night's end, came the sweet coda for the country star of the moment: "Teardops" was named BMI's country song of the year.
Swift was stunned, gasping when her name was announced. On stage, she was equal parts exuberant (lots of hugs) and incredulous (it didn't take an expert lip-reader to see that she was saying "Oh. My. God."). When she returned to her table, etched glass trophy in hand, Swift reacted in typical teenagerly fashion. "Woah!" she said. "Whaaaaaaaat?" (Her publicist captured the moment for posterity -- and, of course, Swift's MySpace page -- with a digital video camera.)
"I did not see that coming at ALL," Swift said of the award. "It didn't even go No. 1 country. It's because of the crossover, all those spins." She playfully stroked the trophy. "I walked up there and Hank Williams Jr. was going like this to me," she said, thrusting her thumbs in the air. She looked at her iPhone and there was a text message from a friend sitting on the other side of the room. "Congrats," it said. "I love you. Kenny." As in, Chesney. "Awesome," Swift said as she showed the message to Borchetta.
Her table was wedged between Brooks and Dunn's and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's. Keith Urban was two tables over, with Nicole Kidman at his side. (Swift had yours truly at her side. Urban wins.)
All night, Swift had been fidgeting with the good-luck ring she's worn since 2006. She'd made more than a few random observations and asides. "Bucky has the same hair as me," she said as Bucky Covington bounced onto the stage for an award. "Meals on Wheels and Jeffrey Steele -- that rhymed," she whispered after BMI president Del Bryant riffed on country songwriters and community service. In between bites of beef filet, Swift leaned over to tell me that when she attended her first BMI Awards, she was seated with Toby Keith. "He and his manager had a speed-eating contest," she recalled. Keith won. "It was awesome."
Swift mouthed the words to just about every BMI-honored hit, from the likes of Rascal Flatts, Miranda Lambert, Sara Evans, Jason Aldean and Dierks Bentley.
"I probably know them all," she said. "Radio is like a science. You have to be familiar with what's working in country music."
And elsewhere, too, apparently: One of Swift's current favorites is the pop singer Katy Perry. "I think she's awesome. And I met her -- she's sooooooo nice."
She asked me if I'd seen Kid Rock in the room. (I had.) She asked me if I'd seen a particular video on her MySpace page. (I hadn't.) Run don't walk, she suggested. It's good.
Swift's fans know to check the page regularly: In a blog post Monday, she included a post-script that hinted she'd be at the Wal-Mart in Hendersonville, Tenn., at midnight to buy her new album. (She was, and so were more than a few of her fans.) Better yet, she recently posted a video that was mostly about the release of "Fearless," but included a surprise reference to Joe Jonas, the teen idol who'd broken up with Swift on the telephone. Holding up a Joe Jonas doll that she'd received as a joke gift, Swift said: "See, this one even comes with a phone, so he can break up with other dolls." Then, holding up a female doll, Swift jokingly cautioned: "Stay away from him, OK?"
Swift hardly seemed bereft on Tuesday. Not even close. "This is my favorite time of the year," she said cheerfully, even though she'd been in a full-on promotional sprint, having done radio interviews all day ("I went from 8:30 to 4") before working the red carpet at the BMI Awards. This after spending most of Monday in New York ("Good Morning America," MTV, Letterman, etc.) and then flying home and making a midnight run to Wal-Mart.
Tonight come the Country Music Association Awards; Swift is up for female vocalist of the year, and she'll be performing, too. First, though, a pre-party: "Miley and I are going to hang out beforehand," she said. Drinking Shirley Temples through straws, no doubt.
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