For more stories like this, subscribe to InStyle now. Taylor Swift has declared her independence. And if the extremely poised and polished young woman with the bright red Kewpie-doll mouth and big-city blunt cut had been wearing white gloves when we first shook hands in the entryway of her gigantic New York loft, it wouldn't have been surprising.
She reminds me much less of a country-star cutie than of a cool and collected aspiring Grace Kelly. At 24, Swift is very much in control—of herself, her music, and her empire. Newly transplanted to Manhattan and surrounded by a coterie of girlfriends mostly famous ones , the singer is consciously uncoupled from boyfriends or even dates. Though her previous album, Red, was a paean to specific lost loves, bitterness, and heartbreak, her new, totally pop album, , is a rebuke to all that—to the naysayers, to the cattiness, and even to her country roots.
Named after her birth year, the album "is based on me learning to care less about what people think of me," says Swift, though she admits that it's hard to do in your early 20s. This heightened awareness not only shields Swift from "the public meltdown they are all waiting for," but it also equipped her with the confidence to change her life completely.
In my case, you move to a city you've never lived in, you cut your hair, you build your life around your girlfriends, and you write songs about whatever you feel like writing songs about. InStyle Cover We are sitting in the large open living room of Swift's new two-story, five-bedroom TriBeCa apartment, which was built as a warehouse in the 19th century and previously owned by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.
It still has the original exposed-beam ceilings running throughout, and Swift has filled the generous spaces with comfy sofas and piles of antique luggage used as side tables, some accessorized with nature curios, like a pair of stuffed birds under glass. The effect is more Harry Potter than Girlie Modern: Her favorite room, however, is the bright rectangular kitchen, with a long center island topped in white marble, where she can indulge her love of baking.
The only acknowledgment that a star lives here is the cluster of unobtrusively displayed music awards she won in —unless you count the framed black-and-white Polaroids of friends Lena Dunham , Karlie Kloss , and Lorde on the walls of the TV room.
Swift recently acquired one of Polaroid's vintage models. The loft is their gathering spot for impromptu dance parties or games of pool. Also on the walls are pictures of her dapper year-old brother, Austin, a senior at Notre Dame, along with her best guy pal, English singer Ed Sheeran, giving the finger, but mostly it's girls' night out in the bachelorette pad. Greg Kadel Swift, crossing her legs in a chic black-and-white Autumn Cashmere mini and lace-up black stilettos, emphasizes that girlfriends are her primary social life.
Amusingly, when I ask her to list her best friends, she easily rattles off four or five and then checks her texts for more. Not agewise, but I know myself, so why try to meet someone right now when I know I'm too young to do something serious?
In Red, Swift spared no emotional devastation and stopped just short of naming the names of her loves-gone-wrong but nevertheless provided tantalizing clues in special code in the album notes. Among the most-guessed-at targets were actor Jake Gyllenhaal and boy-band lothario Harry Styles.
She herself claims, "I've only had three real relationships, and none of them lasted more than four months. Name-calling becomes a problem when you have 44 million Twitter followers, as Swift does, and many are young teens. The accusations bothered her terribly.
She came to a realization: There are usually 15 paparazzi waiting outside my house, so if I'd had a guy over here, there would have been photos of him," she says. When asked how she manages to keep all the social-media chatter about her straight, she rather innocently tells me her publicist, Tree Paine, has a Google alert on her. But in the midst of all the hubbub, her best shrink is still her mom, Andrea.
She made us study, she made us learn about manners and how to clean a house and get ready for company and entertain guests—all those things my brother and I used to roll our eyes at, things I am now so thankful I possess.
Then one day you wake up and you feel like you finished this album. Still, this time around, Swift has to be mindful of country-music fans and radio stations feeling deserted by her. The album drops October 27 and crashed her Web site with the massive demand for preorders.
Country music remains her "emotional profile," however, and she's done so many country-radio tours, she can recite the names of the DJs' kids. I am never going to write a song about going to a club for no reason But this is a pop album," she insists. Apart from the genre concerns Swift faces, gender issues are also ahead of her.
There aren't many, and I wish there were more," she says. Though Swift admits she thinks about it a lot, she says, "I don't know if I'll have kids. It's impossible not to picture certain scenarios and how you would try to convince them that they have a normal life when, inevitably, there will be strange men pointing giant cameras at them from the time they are babies.
Who wins, the song or the guy? Right get in the way of her lyrics? With Swift, it's hard to know which one to bet on. Because I don't ever edit now," she admits. Unless that happens, I am so good alone. It's not sad; it's not tragic. Still shy of 25, she is a juggernaut, so adept at communicating on a global level and preternaturally savvy about thinking big with multiple moving parts.
I ask whether she has ever considered going into politics—given her skills in anticipating the moment and connecting with a huge audience—or running something even more complicated than the business of being Swift.
I've thought about if I were to be passionate about something political, stepping forward and speaking about it. At this point I have my hands full, but as with everything in my life, when I come upon something I'm passionate about, I'm very vocal about it, so we'll see.
There's not a stage that hasn't been won over by the force of Taylor Swift.