How long does it take you to write a song? Stacey Klemstein JOHNSBURG, ILL.
Most of the time, songs that I write end up being finished in 30 minutes or less. "Love Story" I wrote on my bedroom floor in about 20 minutes. When I get on a roll with something, it's really hard for me to put it down unfinished.
What's the story behind "Love Story"? Madison Parker PORTLAND, ORE.
"Love Story" is actually about a guy that I almost dated. But when I introduced him to my family and my friends, they all said they didn't like him. All of them! For the first time, I could relate to that Romeo-and-Juliet situation where the only people who wanted them to be together were them. That's the most romantic song I've written, and it's not even about a person I really dated.
How do you manage to appear so genuinely happy when, according to your songs, you've suffered so much heartbreak? Amelia Walker, LONDON
I have ways of channeling the heartbreak. Also, it's been a really awesome year. I get so excited when a song I wrote that's very personal to me goes No. 1 and I look down and see people singing the words back to me. That makes me so much happier than anything could ever bring me down.
Who's your biggest musical influence? Morgan Phelps LEICESTER, ENGLAND
Shania Twain. She came out, and she was just so strong and so independent and wrote all her own songs. That meant so much to me, even as a 10-year-old. Just knowing that the stories she was telling in those songs--those were her stories.
I grew up listening to heavy metal and rock, yet I find your songs really catchy. What sort of music do you listen to? Vinaya Lal Shrestha KATHMANDU, NEPAL
I've always loved Def Leppard, ever since I was little. I got to do a TV concert called CMT Crossroads with them, where they pair up a country artist with legends in rock 'n' roll. I was singing Def Leppard songs, and they were singing my songs. It was just a complete out-of-body experience.
What advice do you have for aspiring songwriters? Milo Victor, MANILA
Write your songs not for a demographic or for getting on the radio. Write your songs for the person you're writing that song about. When I sit down, I say to myself, "O.K., who is this about? What would I say to him right now if I could?"
You have so many unrecorded covers floating around on YouTube. Do you think you'll ever make an album of just covers? Catherine Hearit KALAMAZOO, MICH.
I don't think I'd ever make an album of just covers because I love writing my own music. In concert, I love doing pop covers like Beyoncé or Rihanna--things that people wouldn't expect. But I usually try to cycle them through every couple of months, because if I didn't write it, it's easier for me to get tired singing it live.
Do you think you have influenced the younger generation to appreciate country more? Stefanie Yeung CHADDS FORD, PA.
So many girls come up and say to me, "I have never listened to country music in my life. I didn't even know my town had a country-music station. Then I got your record, and now I'm obsessed." That's the coolest compliment to me.
What other artists would you like to do a duet with? Earl S. Worthington, CHICAGO
I would like to do a duet with Taylor Hanson, because I have loved Hanson since I was 8. And Taylor Hanson has an amazing voice. And also we're both named Taylor.