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At small Nashville club, Taylor Swift surprises fans — and downs Fireball shots

Taylor Swift performs at a 2017 Super Bowl party in Houston. | John Salangsang/Invision/AP

NASHVILLE – Taylor Swift may be a global pop icon these days, but she hasn’t abandoned her country roots.

About 40 patrons settled in for an Easter eve concert at Bluebird Cafe on Saturday night. Songwriter Craig Wiseman topped the bill, but it was an unannounced appearance from Swift that stole the show.

Wiseman, who met Swift at a charity show when she was a teenager, was in on the surprise and welcomed Swift to join him. She received a standing ovation.

“I wanted to say a big thank you to the Bluebird Cafe,” said Swift, 28, perching on a stool beside Wiseman. “I think any songwriter in town would echo my sentiments and say that this is kind of the only place where this exists — this particular place where you get to come and hear the writer’s take on the songs they’ve put out into the world.”

Wearing a black turtleneck and her blond hair pulled into a ponytail, Swift strapped on a black acoustic guitar and launched into “Shake It Off” with a fervor reminiscent of an arena show.

However, her superstar status didn’t excuse her from a good-natured stroll down memory lane with Wiseman. The songwriter, famous for songs including Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” and Kenny Chesney’s “Young,” recalled a CMT after-party at his office that left Swift complaining about a headache the next day.

“I got her a shot of Fireball (Whisky), and then I got her another one,” Wiseman recalled, explaining that Swift retreated to a balcony in a VIP area. “For the rest of the party, I would go get a shot of Fireball … and snake my hand through the people [on this balcony] in her general direction. I don’t even know if she took it, but it disappeared.”

The songwriter pulled out a silver insulated mug, popped the lid and unpacked several tiny bottles of Fireball.

“For old-times’ sake,” Wiseman said.

“Should we play another song?” Swift asked the crowd, strumming her guitar. “Did you want to hear music tonight or did you want to hear about CMT after-parties?”

“I’ll tend the bar,” Wiseman quipped. “I’ll be ready for you.”

After performing “Better Man,” a hit she wrote for Little Big Town, she joined Wiseman in doing shots of Fireball straight out of the tiny bottles.

The performance was filmed for a documentary in honor of Bluebird Cafe’s 35th anniversary. The cafe is particularly sentimental for Swift: Big Machine Label Group’s Scott Borchetta saw Swift play the room when she was an eighth-grader and offered her a publishing deal. She launched her career in 2006 with her song “Tim McGraw.”