Although daydreaming in math class could result in a bad grade, for high-school freshman Taylor Swift it actually led to a Top Ten single, a Number One country album with U.S. sales in excess of five million, and, well, pretty much world domination, all of which began on June 19th, 2006. That’s the day Swift’s record label, Big Machine, released the then-16-year-old’s bittersweet and nostalgic debut single which shares its name with another music icon: “Tim McGraw.”
Written with Liz Rose during Swift’s after-school job at Sony-ATV Music, the song would be just the first of many to invite speculation as to the specific person who inspired it. But at the time, Swift willingly confessed that this one was all about her college-bound boyfriend and the realization that they would soon be breaking up. As she considered all the memories they had shared throughout their relationship, the first thought that came to mind, she says, was the music of Tim McGraw. In particular, Swift thought of the couple dancing to McGraw’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’.”
In spite a grammatically incorrect title that suggests someone may have been daydreaming in English class, that track from McGraw’s 2004 LP, Live Like You Were Dying, inspired not only Swift’s first single but also a lasting friendship that would eventually lead to the pair collaborating on the award-winning “Highway Don’t Care,” which also features guitar work from Keith Urban.
Less than a year after she released the single, Swift met her song’s namesake for the first time while she was performing at the 2007 ACM Awards in Las Vegas. Strumming acoustic guitar as she sang, the teen casually strolled up to McGraw in the front row and serenaded the country superstar and his wife, Faith Hill. After she finished, she walked up, stretched out her hand to McGraw and said, “Hi, I’m Taylor,” which is, in all likelihood, the last time she ever had to introduce herself to anyone by name.
Today, both McGraw and Swift are signed to the Big Machine Label Group, although the release of her entirely pop LP, 1989, effectively put an end to Swift’s country hits. . . for now, at least. Whether she pens another tune with a specific name in the title, Swift will no doubt continue to keep fans guessing about the subjects of her daydreams and the songs they inspire.