From the time she was 2 until she was 14, when her family left for Nashville, Taylor Swift's parents had a summer house on the bay in Stone Harbor. Though all of 19 now, Swift has had quite a year. Her album, Fearless, spent 11 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard chart, and "Love Story," its main single, was a rare crossover country/pop hit. She's been on magazine covers from Rolling Stone to Allure and seemingly every TV awards show possible.
Preparing for her spring/summer Fearless tour a few weeks ago, Swift joined in a peppy e-mail exchange about her summer days at the Shore. She is scheduled to play the Wachovia Center on Aug. 1 and doesn't have another concert until six days later in Minnesota. Sounds like a surreptitious build-in for a chance to do some time at the 100th Street beach in Stone Harbor and maybe an opportunity to gossip while standing in line at Springer's ice cream.
Question: Where did you go to the Shore as a kid?
Answer: I spent my summers at the Jersey Shore from the time I was 2 until we sold the house in Stone Harbor when I was 14. It was a pretty magical place to grow up.
Q: I heard you did karaoke there as a kid. Where did you do that?
A: I used to sing karaoke at Henny's [on Third Avenue] and play acoustic shows for hours on end at Coffee Talk, a little cafe on 98th Street. I used to drag my parents into those places all the time, and all of their friends would show up and put dollars in my tip jar. When I was younger, I used to play for hours and hours in cafes like that. When I would run out of material, I'd just start making up songs on the spot.
Q: Do you have any songs that were inspired by the time you were at the Shore?
A: There was a little demo I made when I was 11, and I think it's floating around the Internet. It's called "Smoky Black Nights," and it's all about being at the Shore. Then there's the song "Invisible," which is about the son of my parents' friends. They were always at my house and their son was my age, and he would always tell me about other girls he liked. I felt, well, invisible. Obviously. So I wrote that song about it, and it was a bonus track on my first album.
Q: Everyone has rituals at the Shore. What were yours?
A: It was really cool living on the bay, and we have so many stories about it. We used to all gather together on the dock when the boat parades would go by on July 4 and we'd shoot water balloons at them.
I made a clubhouse in the room above my garage and made a filing system of members of the club. Everyone had a profile that I would write on tiles I found. I painted the whole room different colors and used to spend all day in there just doing nothing but sitting in my little club. Because it was mine.
We lived across from the bird sanctuary and I had a pair of binoculars, and some days I'd just stare at the window, looking for birds. Or the boy who lived next door to me, whom I swore I would marry someday. One summer when I was 11, I wrote a novel. I was allowed to be kind of weird and quirky and imaginative as a kid, and that was my favorite part of living at the Shore.
Q: Do you have any favorite Shore food?
A: My favorite Shore food was going to Italian Garden on 96th Street. That was my favorite place to eat. I loved the giant Caesar salads and the white pizza. I went back there the last time I was in New Jersey.
Q: When was that time you were back?
A: I went back to Stone Harbor two summers ago, when we were on tour with Brad Paisley. We had a day off, so I took my whole band back to my little summer town and we went out to one of the islands in the inlet and swam and tubed and went water-skiing. It was really cool seeing it all again, walking around and going to Springer's and Donna's. I kind of felt like I was 10 years old again. Except, this time a few more people knew me.
Q: Speaking of Springer's, the ice-cream place on Third Avenue in Stone Harbor where everyone on the island seems to wait in line on a weekend night, what was your favorite flavor there?
A: I loved the cookies 'n' cream they have there. And I've always been a huge cookie-dough fan. I remember when I was little, I used to walk in there and just stare up at all the flavors and toppings, completely frozen and unable to make a final decision. I was always so overwhelmed when I went in there. This question makes me really hungry, by the way.
Q: Will you be playing Atlantic City any time soon, with another chance to come to the Shore?
A: I'm sure we'll play there soon. I saw LeAnn Rimes in concert in Atlantic City when I was 8. She touched my hand. I bragged about it for a year.