The singer, who personally donated $500,000, was joined on a telethon by Keith Urban, Vince Gill and more
The country star, 20, donated $500,000 to flood relief, calling into a star-studded telethon Thursday on a local NBC affiliate station that raised more than $1.7 million.
“It was the craziest thing that I ve ever seen, Swift said on the telethon. “I was at my house in Hendersonville, we were staring out the window, thinking it didn’t seem like rain. It just seemed like something in a movie. It was really emotional for me because those are the streets I learned to drive on. People’s houses are just ruined. It was so heartbreaking to see that in my town, the place that I call home, and the place that I feel most safe. I just send my love to my friends and neighbors who got hit harder than I did.”
Swift wasn’t the only star to lend their support (and voice) to the event. Vince Gill hosted the telethon, and Keith Urban, Alison Krauss and Darius Rucker performed, worked the phones and pitched in their own donations, too.
A "Chilling" Sight
Seeing the photos of the Grand Ole Opry House underwater was emotional for Urban, who called the image “chilling.” The Nashville-resident also took calls after his impassioned performance of “Somebody.”
“Our daughter was born here so my wife [Nicole Kidman] wants to send her prayers out too,” said Urban, who along with many country artists lost most of his musical gear in the flood. “It looks like everything I own musically is probably gone. But our family is safe and our house is okay, so there are people much worse off than us.”
Gill, who along with wife Amy Grant were inspired by Reba McEntire’s $100,000 donation to the Red Cross and donated $100,000 of their own to the cause, echoed the sentiment. “Everybody [in the music community] is on pins and needles about our stuff and how it’s going to be but then you look at someone sitting on a roof, waiting for a boat to come by and come and get them and it puts it all in perspective,” he said.
Nashville Comes Together
Other music benefits popped up across the city, including a show organized by singers Michelle Branch and Holly Williams – daughter of Hank Jr. – at trendy denim boutique and live music venue Imogene + Willie in Nashville s 12 South neighborhood. The benefit raised $20,000 and drew about 300 attendees. Branch and Williams took turns at the mic and then in true Nashville style, opened the stage to other musicians in the crowd.
“I met a man yesterday in a pretty poor area of town who was selling his grandfather’s gun collection to buy a refrigerator,” Williams, who has been helping with clean-up efforts in devastated neighborhoods, told PEOPLE. “This show seemed like an ideal way to raise some money quick and get it directly to those people who need it right now. We are going to go out there tomorrow and distribute money so people can get appliances or fans or whatever they need.”
In addition, the city’s musical institutions, including the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, are opening again and more music relief is ahead.
Country cable channel GAC will hosting a telethon on May 16 with Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Lady Antebellum and others. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that they are organizing a benefit to be held next month. And Nashville native Ke$ha, who already pitched in with supplies for pets displaced by the flood, announced she is putting on a benefit concert in Nashville on June 16.
• Reporting by Kay West
To help the victims of the Tennessee flood, donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund or call 1-800 RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). You can text the word "RED CROSS" to 90999 on your cell phone to make a $10 donation.