Seeing 16-year-old Taylor Swift in North Texas gym turned Arlington woman to lifelong fan

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Kelly Morris wasn’t keen on going to an early morning concert at Arlington High School back in 2006.

Morris describes herself as “not a morning person,” but decided to check out the free show anyway. Little did Morris know she was about to see an early performance from one of the biggest music artists of her generation.

A 16-year-old Taylor Swift.

“I was like, ‘I guess I’ll go see this girl’,” Morris jokes. “Which is hilarious to me now, because I’m actually still a really big fan and would do anything I could to see her.

It’s been over a year since Swift performed three sold-out shows at AT&T Stadium on “The Eras Tour.” The singer-songwriter is still on “The Eras Tour” and is also gearing up to release her latest album on April 19 — “The Tortured Poets Department.” When Swift visited North Texas last year, the Arlington Museum of Art crafted an exhibit dedicated entirely on her career.

Morris, a freshmen back in 2006, didn’t know much about Swift before the Arlington High School concert. That changed soon after.

“I wouldn’t say that I was a fan before she came to the school,” Morris said. “I knew who she was and that was pretty much it.”

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Early days of global superstar performing in North Texas

Swift’s Arlington performance came just a few weeks after her self-titled debut album hit the airwaves in fall 2006.

In fact, the Arlington show was sponsored by 99.5 The Wolf and as Morris recalls, the high school texted into the radio station to secure the performance. Morris said she remembers doubting it would happen.

But Arlington did and the then 14-year-old Morris was soon in the presence of a future global megastar.

“She was really personable,” Morris said. “She’s just open like how she kind of always has been and that’s what endeared her to me.”

Morris remembers Swift playing a few songs from her debut album including “Teardrops On My Guitar” and “Tim McGraw”.

The young Swift told the young Arlington crowd that while the song is called “Tim McGraw,” it was about something else.

“[Swift] was saying like, ‘This song is not actually about Tim McGraw and also I’m not a stalker’,” Morris said. “Which I thought was hilarious, because I had no idea what was happening.”

Taylor Swift performs Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince during her first sold-out concert of three nights at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Friday, March 31, 2023.
Taylor Swift performs Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince during her first sold-out concert of three nights at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Friday, March 31, 2023.

A Swiftie now and forever

Morris, now 32 and living in North Carolina, said the Arlington show was a catalyst on her road to be a Swift fan or as they’re called — Swiftie.

In the over 17 years since the Arlington pep rally, Morris has seen Swift on every one of her solo tours — 14 times in all. On last year’s “The Eras Tour,” Morris went to all three AT&T Stadium shows.

Wherever Swift goes, Morris said she is likely to travel.

“I’m probably always going to be right in it with her,” Morris said. “Just obsessed with everything she puts out.”

On Morris’ fandom journey, she recalls telling fellow Swifties about the Arlington pep rally show.

The retelling is less of a brag and more of Morris simply being excited about the experience. There isn’t a ton of people that saw Swift perform back then, especially at their high school.

Having that connection and Swift’s inherent relatability is what’s kept Morris a fan. Swift is only two years older than Morris and as she tells it, that small gap means they’ve likely experienced similar circumstances.

“Every time she put out an album, ‘I’m like, oh, this is like my life too’,” Morris said. “Which is what makes her so universal.”