Taylor Swift hit the road in mid-March, and The Red Tour -- named after her fourth and latest album -- has been doing, not surprisingly, sell-out business at arenas around the country.
But the trek takes a leap this weekend, when the multi-faceted singer, songwriter and occasional actress plays the first of the tour's several stadium dates at Detroit's Ford Field.
"I like for it to be big," says Swift, 23, who also played Ford Field on her 2011 Speak Now World Tour. "I really hope that people buy tickets and sell out really big venues and feel like they got their money's worth when they leave the show."
"Big," of course, is synonymous with just about anything Swift does -- and has done since the Pennsylvania native began putting out records in 2006. She's sold more than 26 million albums and 75 million digital downloads worldwide. Her trophy case houses seven Grammy Awards, 11 American Music Awards, seven prizes from the Country Music Association and six from the Academy of Country Music. She's notched 17 Top 10 country singles, seven of which hit No. 1, and 19 Top 20 hits on the Billboard Hot 100.
"Red," meanwhile, debuted at No. 1 in October with first-week sales of 1.2 million and has sold nearly six million copies worldwide. She became the only female artist to ever sell more than a million first-week albums with two consecutive releases, logged the highest ever iTunes first-week sales (565,545 copies), the top one-week sales ever by a country artist and the best single-week sales for Target. Swift
Forbes magazine estimates her worth at more than $165 million, and Swift makes news with everything from boyfriends (the list includes Joe Jonas, John Mayer, Taylor Lautner, Jake Gyllenhaal, Conor Kennedy and One Direction's Harry Styles) to home purchases -- including last week's buy of a $17 million, 11,000-square-foot waterfront mansion in Rhode Island.
The shows are big, too -- theatrical affairs loaded with her hits and the odd cover (the Lumineers' "Ho Hey" has been incorporated into Swift's "Stay, Stay, Stay" for The Red Tour). She calls it "a big representation of this record," but more than the size Swift says she's most intrigued by the impact of the new music.
"I am so excited to see what songs the fans like the most because that's the first step," she explains. "We always see which songs are really the passionate songs and the ones the fans are freaking out over the most, and those are the definites, those are the ones that are definitely in the set list. It's really amazing to see which ones jump to the forefront."
But, she adds, there's also plenty of eye candy to make sure the shows live up to her fans' expectations.
"I just want to be able, in this economy, to make a show that for fans is definitely a guarantee that they will be entertained enough to warrant them leaving their house, spending their evening with me, parking their car, waiting in line, maybe buy a T-shirt," Swift notes. "I want them to be so happy that they decided to spend their time with me -- I think that's my biggest objective.
"And the element of surprise is still really important in a concert and showing scenes and images and visuals that are magical. I really like to take people to a different world and change things up constantly, never showing them too much of the same thing too many times in a row."
With the songs from "Red," meanwhile -- including hits such as "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," "Begin Again," "I Knew You Were Trouble" and "22" -- Swift tried to give her fans something fresh to listen to as well. Unlike 2010's self-contained "Speak Now," the distinctively pop-focused "Red" found her collaborating with hit-makers such as Jeff Bhasker, Butch Walker, Max Martin, Shellback and Dan Wilson, as well as previous pal Dann Huff, and dueting with Ed Sheeran ("Everything Has Changed") and Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody ("The Last Time").
"This one is for the sake of adventure," says Swift, who will be on the road in North America through Sept. 21 and is expected to announce international dates soon. "I tried to veer away from whatever comfort zone I developed in making my last record. This time I wanted to challenge myself as a writer. I wanted to challenge myself as an artist. To say it's eclectic would be pretty dead-on, because track-to-track there's nothing that sounds like anything else on the record.
"It was definitely an opportunity for me to push the limits and paint with different colors. I'm still very much a student of music and on my way to where I'm going to end up someday. But along the way it's really fun to take risks because you look at some careers and you see people make the same album twice, and I never want to do that.
Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Austin Mahone and Brett Eldredge perform at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Ford Field, 2000 Brush St., Detroit. Tickets are sold out. Call 313-262-2013 or visit www.detroitlions.com.
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