At 21, Taylor Swift is at the top of the music charts, filling arenas with her catchy melodies and thoughtful lyrics. But, as Lesley Stahl reports, that's not the only thing that makes the singer-songwriter extraordinary. Swift has an uncanny knack for business and a willingness to take brave risks when it comes to her career. And, unlike many starlets and pop stars, she's committed to serving as a role model for her millions of young fans.
The following is a script of "Taylor Swift" which aired on Nov. 20, 2011. Lesley Stahl is correspondent, Shari Finkelstein, producer.
Five years ago this fall, a 16-year-old girl released her debut country music album and dreamed of making it big. Well, today that girl at 21, is as big as it gets. She has sold more albums over those five years than any other artist in any genre. Taylor Swift's has been a meteoric rise.
She seems to know, even at her young age, just the right notes to hit - in her songwriting, and in her business. In an era of declining record sales, Taylor Swift appeals to people that pay a lot for music: girls and their moms. She's held onto her country fans even as she's gotten huge in pop. And then there's her image. In a welcome deviation from the all-too-familiar story of early success gone wrong, she has been in the spotlight without a single public misstep.
Take a look at the crowd at the Staples Center in Los Angeles - where Taylor Swift sold out four shows within minutes.
[Taylor Swift on stage: Well hello, Los Angeles...(huge screams)]
The decibel level here reminds you of the Beatles! It's almost as if she's their spiritual leader, with her message that you can be a good girl, a nice person and still have fun.
Taylor Swift writes her own songs, about love and heartbreak and being the ordinary girl next door. She's been called "the poet laureate of puberty."
Lesley Stahl: Are they great songs in your opinion?
We spoke to Bill Werde, editorial director of Billboard.
Bill Werde: Maybe if she looked different, like let's say she wasn't young and cute. I think people would be talking about her as a great songwriter.
Lesley Stahl: So, you think that the persona and the fan base and all that almost diminishes--
Bill Werde: Yeah, I definitely think it does. You know, I think that it's hard for critics to look at an arena of screaming 12-year-old girls and say, 'This is really credible songwriting.'
Lesley Stahl: But you say it?
Bill Werde: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, no doubt.
All Taylor Swift's songs are autobiographical. "Love Story," grew out of a teenage argument she had with her parents over a boy. They thought he was a creep...
Taylor Swift: And he was but I, at the time, just thought he was amazing.