With five smash albums under her belt, she’s “swift”-ly become one of the biggest music stars in history, but that greatness didn’t come from nowhere: Taylor Swift has been influenced by countless musicians along the way. Take a look at the artists who have touched Taylor at varying point in her journey as an artist, and let us know who you think should have been #1 on our list in the comments section.
20. Paul McCartney
The former Beatle, according to Taylor, is a prime example of an artist who managed who take risks without changing who he was as an artist. Swift took a big risk with the full-blown pop album 1989, but she’s the same Taylor we’ve known and loved for nearly a decade.
19. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Swift says, “I had a lot of female characters that I was inspired by growing up. I read this book called Stargirl that is about this girl that is very different than everyone else in her school. And some people call her weird, but no matter how much they make fun of her she just continues to be herself.” Swift was bullied as an adolescent, and uses themes of empowerment in her music to fight against bullying.
18. Miranda Lambert
“Did she just say that?” is how Swift describes Miranda Lambert’s lyrics. As Taylor becomes bolder and bolder in her work, the same can be said of her.
17. Tori Amos
Taylor’s iconic Grammys performance of “All Too Well” reminded a lot of people of an equally memorable performance of “Winter” by Tori Amos. Sonically, the two are pretty different, but Amos opened the door for the honest and occasionally self-serving songwriting style Swift is famous for.
16. Saving Jane
Taylor caused quite a controversy when two of her songs were noted for their striking similarities to Saving Jane’s “The Girl Next Door:” the melody inspired Swift’s “I’d Lie” and the lyrics are mirrored in smash hit “You Belong With Me.” Surely Swift didn’t intend to plagiarize, but this was one influence we just couldn’t ignore.
15. Kelly Clarkson
Taylor became a fan of Clarkson in her high school years. Both artists have a penchant for spot-on man-bashing, but have plenty more to offer.
14. James Taylor
Crooner James Taylor helped close out Taylor Swift’s “Speak Now Tour.” She had previously performed with him before achieving fame.
13. Emmylou Harris
Swift has said that she admires Harris’ later career, saying, “It’s not about fame for her; it’s about music.”
12. Carly Simon
For decades Simon left people guessing who her song “You’re So Vain” was about. Today, the same speculation surrounds nearly everything Swift writes. Taylor has often cited Carly Simon as a reference.
11. Stevie Nicks
The similarities between Nicks and Swift are mostly in their aesthetic. The two sang together at the Grammys, and Swift’s performance was widely panned. (The barrage of criticism inspired the hit song “Mean.”) Stevie said of Taylor: “Taylor reminds me of myself in her determination and her childlike nature.”
10. Ingrid Michaelson
Good friends Michaelson and Swift have never collaborated professionally (that we know of), but they’ve certainly influenced each other. A lyric in “Back to December” references Michaelson’s “The Chain,” and Ingrid begged Taylor to let her record “Clean,” the final track on 1989.
9. Michelle Branch
Taylor says that after hearing Branch’s The Spirit Room, she “felt like [she] knew her.” She was clearly inspired by that vulnerable brand of songwriting, as Swift is known for the honesty of her own lyrics.
8. Simon & Garfunkel
Taylor’s parents played the legendary duo for her from a young age. Their simple sound in mirrored in much of Swift’s early work.
7. Joni Mitchell
Taylor has often been called today’s Joni Mitchell, and was once rumored to be playing the songstress in a biopic. The rumors never panned out, but Mitchell’s autobiographical storytelling was still crucial to, directly or not, developing Swift’s style.
6. Def Leppard
Wait, what? Def Leppard? Taylor says that Def Leppard’s music could always be heard in her household growing up. Their influence is found in the “bad girl” Taylor we first heard on “Picture to Burn” and still hear today on songs like “Bad Blood.”
5. Dolly Parton
The woman behind “I Will Always Love You” is one of the greatest and most prolific songwriters of all time. Swift says that Parton is “an example to every female songwriter out there,” and we agree!
4. Dixie Chicks
They’re outspoken feminist badasses with a very apparent soft side for true love. Taylor’s a true lover with a very apparent soft side for badass outspoken feminism.
3. Faith Hill
The “Shake It Off Singer” lists Faith Hill as one of the core country artists that shaped her as a songwriter. “I fell in love with the story telling of country music,” Swift says. Notably, Hill’s husband, Tim McGraw, was the namesake of Swift’s debut single.
2. Garth Brooks
Along with Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks, Brooks is cited by Taylor as one of the three artists that “sealed the deal” for her in her love of country music. Countless people Taylor’s age learned to love music through Garth Brooks.
1. Shania Twain
Twain’s Come On Over is such a solid country-pop album that it plays like a greatest hits record. The same can be said of any of Taylor’s albums, which weave genres together to create a universally-appealing blend.