Eleven years ago today was an unforgettable day for Taylor Swift: It was on that date (Sept. 1, 2006) that the then-16-year-old made her debut on the Grand Ole Opry.

At the time of her Opry debut, Swift was just beginning her rapid ascent to stardom: She had recently signed to Big Machine Records, a then-recently formed independent label, as one of their very first artists; her debut disc, Taylor Swift, wouldn't hit the shelves until Oct. 24, 2006, a little more than one month after her first Opry performance. During her time on the Grand Ole Opry stage, Swift, wearing a white sundress and sporting her natural curls, sang "Tim McGraw," her debut single.

It didn't take long after Swift's performance at the Grand Ole Opry for her career to skyrocket, though: "Tim McGraw" barely cracked the Top 40, but her following singles, "Teardrops on My Guitar" and "Our Song," were both Top 20 hits. Taylor Swift ultimately sold more than 5 million copies.

For several years following her Opry debut, Swift remained a regular performer on the famous stage. But as she began leaning toward a pop career, especially with the 2014 release of 1989, she moved away from her country roots and the hallowed country venue. Still, Swift remains grateful to have started her career in the country music genre.

“I made those choices. I did that. It was part of me growing up. It wasn’t some committee going, ‘You know what Taylor needs to be this year?’” Swift says. “And so with 1989, I feel like we gave the entire metaphorical house I built a complete renovation, and it made me love the house even more — but still keeping the foundation of what I’ve always been.”

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