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The Outside

Taylor Swift (2006)

“The Outside” is a song on Taylor’s debut studio album, Taylor Swift (2006). It was written by Taylor about loneliness when she was just 12 years old, soon after she’d received her first guitar. That makes it her oldest song to ever be released on a record.

Background and Lyrical Theme

Taylor wasn’t popular in middle school and felt like a complete outcast. “All the girls at school were going to sleepovers and breaking into their parents’ liquor cabinets at the weekend, and all I wanted to do was go to festivals and sing karaoke music. All of a sudden there were all these little cliques. There’s cool girls and they have straight hair and you don’t – things start dividing you up and I was really fascinated by that. I would go to school and not have anyone to talk to, but what I could look forward to was going home and writing something about it.” At a concert gig in 2006, she said:

«I wrote this song about the trouble I was having at school when I was younger. You know, I'd go to school some days and not know if I was gonna have a conversation with anybody. I mean, I was really sort of an outcast and spent a lot of time on the outside, looking in. And I think this song is really sort of the basis of why I started to write songs. Because I was at a point in my life where I just said, 'You know what? People haven't always been there for me but music always has.' So this is one of the first songs I ever wrote.»

Taylor Swift
She further elaborated: “For me, I was facing a lot of things at school where I found myself on the outside looking in. I was not included. I would go to school some days, a lot of days, and not know who I was going to talk to. And that’s a really terrifying thing for somebody who’s 12.”

In one of her editions of Lover (2019), Taylor shared her journal entry from February 14, 2004: “I woke up and perfected/tweaked this new song I wrote yesterday called “Someone Loves You” — It basically says that no matter what you’ve done or where you are in life, somewhere someone loves you. I wrote another one called “Outside” — It’s about being left out in the cold and being — well, an outsider. I don’t know if it’ll go anywhere, but it made me feel better.”

Lyrical Theme

“The Outside” centers on loneliness. Throughout the track, Taylor makes it clear that loneliness is not only felt when one is in an empty space, but can be duly felt in the presence of hundreds of people. Another theme in the song song is that people who seem to be ‘different’ from the majority are more likely to face rejection in their lives. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Taylor said:

«I wrote that about the scariest feeling I've ever felt: going to school, walking down the hall, looking at all those faces, and not knowing who you're gonna talk to that day. People always ask, 'How did you have the courage to walk up to record labels when you were 12 or 13?' It's because I could never feel the kind of rejection in the music industry that I felt in middle school.»

Taylor Swift
She elaborated: “A lot of times back then, when I was 12 or 13, I would write songs about relationships, when I wasn’t in relationships, because I would look at other people and try to observe what they were going through. But in the case of ‘The Outside,’ I was writing exactly what I saw. I was writing from pain. And I’ve always felt so lucky because I’ve never needed an escape like drinking, or drugs, or anything like that to escape from the bad days. Music has always been that escape for me.”

Live Performance

Taylor performed “The Outside” once, at an acoustic gig in 2006. Since then, she has never sung this song in concert again.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
I didn’t know what I would find
When I went looking for a reason
I know I didn’t read between the lines
And, baby, I’ve got nowhere to go
I tried to take the road less traveled by
But nothing seems to work the first few times
Am I right?

[Chorus]
So how can I ever try to be better?
Nobody ever lets me in
I can still see you, this ain’t the best view
On the outside looking in
I’ve been a lot of lonely places
I’ve never been on the outside

[Verse 2]
You saw me there, but never knew
I would give it all up to be
A part of this, a part of you
And now it’s all too late so you see
You could’ve helped if you had wanted to
But no one notices until it’s too late to do anything

[Breakdown]
So how can I ever try to be better?
Nobody ever lets me in
I can still see you, this ain’t the best view
On the outside looking in

[Final Chorus]
I’ve been a lot of lonely places
I’ve never been on the outside
So how can I ever try to be better?
Nobody ever lets me in
I can still see you, this ain’t the best view
On the outside looking in
I’ve been a lot of lonely places
I’ve never been on the outside

General Information
ArtistTaylor Swift
AlbumTaylor Swift
ReleasedOctober 24, 2006
WrittenFebruary 14, 2004
GenreCountry
Length3:29
LabelBig Machine Records
SongwriterTaylor Swift
ProducerNathan Chapman
Robert Ellis Orrall
TAYLOR SWIFT CHRONOLOGY
Cold As YouThe OutsideTied Together With A Smile
Hidden Message
You are not alone
Song Artwork
Journal Entry
Live Performance
Official Audio