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Taylor Swift Exclusive
Taylor Swift Exclusive: Taylor Swift's USA WEEKEND photo shoot
Joseph Anthony Baker for USA WEEKEND
Opening night of the Speak Now tour in Birmingham, England, March 23 / Dave Hogan, Getty Images
Swift with her mother, Andrea, at the Country Music Awards in Las Vegas. / Kevin Winter/ACMA2011/Getty Images
Swift with a fan before the Country Music Awards in Las Vegas. / Christopher Polk/ACMA2011/Getty Images

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In a rehearsal space near downtown Nashville, Taylor Swift is working on songs for her summer tour. Dressed casually in a summery blue and tan dress with her hair pulled back in a single braid that hangs below her shoulders, she plays a crystal-studded guitar while she sings a sad waltz, then switches it out for a banjo as her band kicks into her latest country hit, Mean.

Now 21 and living on her own since moving out of her parents' house 20 miles away last June, Swift calls her midtown Nashville penthouse “a wonderland” of barn-wood floors, reclaimed brick walls and mismatched kitchen décor.

“The best thing about being on your own is having that sanctuary,” she says, settling her slender frame into a leather couch. “That place that's yours.”

This week, Swift lands in Columbus, Ohio, on the first leg of an ambitious, six-month North American tour that takes her to 30 states and Canada. And Wednesday, the country star is up for three awards at the CMT Music Awards.

Before she hit the road again, we asked the country sensation if she would answer some of the thousands of questions submitted online from USA WEEKEND readers.

Here's what she told us:

Now that you have moved out, what do you miss most about living with your mom?

Ashleigh Soden, Sydney

I don't miss that much about it, honestly! We see each other all the time still.

You have lived in your own place for almost exactly a year now. What has your first year on your own been like?

USA WEEKEND

Living on my own felt like a really natural transition. I moved out when I was 20, so it was a really good age for me, and a really good time in my life to do it.

I moved out and planned the house and did all the construction while I was making the album. So Iíd go and record, then in my time Iíd go to the construction site and see everything. It was fun putting it all together.

How often do you see your parents when you're home?

USA WEEKEND

I see my parents almost every day when Iím home. I love them; I think theyíre really great people, and smart and fun. With my brother off at college, when we get the four of us all together, itís like this rare, amazing thing. Having that be a new dynamic in our family is really kind of cool. It used to be that Austin was in high school, I was 18, we all lived at home, and we saw each other every day. Now, when we all get together, itís really special.

(Page 2 of 6)

What's the best thing about living on your own?

USA WEEKEND

The best thing about being on your own is having that sanctuary, that home, that place thatís yours. When you go all over the world, you can buy something and know exactly where youíre going to put it. I love collecting things from traveling the world and going on tour, buying little things here and there that remind me of the places weíve been.

Do you ever regret not going to college?

Elsilyn Zeider, Plymouth, Ind.

No. In order to keep perspective and to not be the girl who wants one thing her whole life then gets it and complains, I'm cool with the path I've chosen.

Do you think of your world tour as your semester abroad?

USA WEEKEND

Thatís a very funny way to think of it. The world tour was just unreal. It was so fast-paced. We saw so many incredible places. It was like this whirlwind of city after city after city. But somehow they were all so different from each other that we would go out exploring.

Iím so stoked that I got to go to Norway and stand on a dock and look out over this icy fjord. And going from the hotel to the airplane in a gondola in Venice.
I really, really want to go to South America. As of right now, we donít have anything carved in stone, but Iíd really like to go.

When you write songs about your relationships with people, do you consider what their reaction will be?

Amber Nichter, Crestwood, Ky.

The only thing I'm thinking about is the person I'm writing about. It's a little message in a bottle. Sometimes, the purpose of writing it in the first place is what the person will do when they hear it. The fact that other people come into the equation, that happens 50 steps down the line.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Gabby Leigh, Rye Brook, N.Y.

Yes. For some reason, when you are with some people, you'd rather be closer to them than further away. You want to know everything about them. This crazy, immeasurable, intangible, magical chemistry happens with certain people. When you have that, you have to know how rare it is. If you let it slip away, it's such a shame.

(Page 3 of 6)

Describe your perfect date.

Tim Olund, Minneapolis

It has nothing to do with the date. It's all about who you're on a date with.

Do you manage to go on dates that don't get reported?

USA WEEKEND

Oh, yes. Just depends on who youíre going on a date with.

If you're not going out with a celebrity, can you pretty much do what you want?

USA WEEKEND

I would never be presumptuous enough to think I can do whatever I want, but I donít really know when it gets written about and when it doesnít. I just try to keep that out of it. The more you think of it, like your personal life affecting your career, or people thinking youíre with someone and what does everyone think of that, thatís letting too many people into the whole equation. Itís whether you like a person or not.

Why do you think guys still treat you badly if they know you'd write a song about it?

Taylor Negron, Branford, Conn.

That's an excellent question!

Your song lyrics have allowed the world access into your private life. Is there anything you wouldn't write about?

Rebecca Malone, Wilmington, Del.

If something has affected me deeply, I'm going to write about it. I don't put much of a filter on.

I've written songs that were just anger rants. I don't usually play them for anyone, but it's nice to write them and rhyme that person's name with literally every horrible thing you can think of.

What will happen to your career and music when you finally meet the guy of your dreams?

Milena Bozovic, Wood-Ridge, N.J.

Well, it hasn't been a problem so far, so I'll address that if or when it ever happens.

I'm a songwriter starting college soon. Music is my life, but I'm torn between pursuing it or a more realistic goal.

Sarah Stawski, Pittsburgh

If you love something more than anything else in your life, that's the path you should follow. At the same time, nothing says you can't have two paths. It just depends on how much work you want to put into it.

You were bullied in school and wrote songs to help you cope. What advice can you give to young people about dealing with bullying?

Hillary Henderson, Hillsboro, Ore.

(Page 4 of 6)

The most talented people I know and some of the most fascinating people I've met were the most uncool kids in their school.

The trials and tribulations in your life make you stronger. If I had the girls in front of me now who got up and left the lunch table when I sat down in fourth, fifth or sixth grade — they did it a million times — I'd give them hugs. The biggest lesson of all is that I never want to make anyone else feel that way.

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed and want to be alone?

Grace Dougherty, Seattle

I sit on my couch under a giant quilt and watch Friends. My 10-disc DVD set has made me feel at home in places I had never been before. Halfway across the world, I put in Friends, and I am suddenly more at home.

Do you ever miss being able to go out in public without being swarmed by fans?

Jill Page, University Place, Wash.

I can totally go out in public. It's a more social experience now, but it's all good. I never want to be weird about privacy or look at things from an unhealthy perspective, like people coming up and complimenting me on my music is a bad thing. And I make a lot of new friends. I go walking all around my neighborhood and all around Vanderbilt University, and I've met some really cool people.

When you go out in public, do you wear sunglasses, a cap or something that helps you avoid getting noticed?

USA WEEKEND

I donít wear dark sunglasses and hats and put my hair up. That disguise may work for some people, but then thereís going to be somebody that recognizes me, and their immediate opinion of me is going to be, ďOh my God, sheís trying to hide from us.Ē That just makes you seem kind of stuck up.

Is the paparazzi an issue for you where you live?

USA WEEKEND

No. I get suspicious whenever they come around Nashville, because Iím like, ďWhat is being written about me right now? What exciting thing do people think is going on in my life?Ē I donít get a lot of it, so it never feels like Iím trapped. You can find ways to escape from them. I donít really think about it very much until I have to deal with it.

(Page 5 of 6)

What is it like to be living your dream? Is it everything you expected it would be?

Brittney Hedrick Bonita Rd, Calif.

Is it weird to say yes, it is everything that I wanted? I have the comfort of knowing that if I write something and I love it, other people will hear it some day. I didn't always know that. I used to get finished writing a song when I was 12, 13, 14 and 15 and think to myself, “Well, no one's going to hear it.” That was a sad thought.

Who are your top three music idols?

Lila Scher, 14, St. Paul, Minn.

Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Tom Petty Ė because they all are authentically who they are. Itís just real authenticity to me, and I believe them when they sing.

If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be?

Alyson Gelinas, 20, Hanson, Mass.

Healing people. Being able to heal people would be an amazing superpower. You donít really need mind-reading. If you had mind-reading, youíd go crazy from what people actually think of you. That was what I thought of first, but I couldnít handle mind-reading. Nobody ever give me mind-reading!

What are the most-played songs in your iPhone right now?

Andy Rose, 38, Cumberland, R.I.

A Little Bit Stronger, Sara Evans; Everybody, Ingrid Michaelson; Hands Down, Dashboard Confessional; Evening Kitchen, Band of Horses; Love Lost, Mindy Smith; Energy, Keri Hilson.

I am traveling to Nashville to see your tour on Sept. 16! What restaurant do you recommend?

Lizzie Gregory, 15, Ridgewood, N.J.

Bricktopís.

Looking back on your life so far, what's one thing you'd like to remember? What's something you'd like to forget?

Sarah Stansky, Pittsburgh

The one thing Iíd most like to remember is how much fun weíve had through this whole thing. A lot of my heroes that Iíve met have said, ďDonít let it pass you by. Itís going to move really fast, and itís going to be hard to remember a lot of the details. Donít let it pass you by. ď

This group of people that Iím with, my band and I, we certainly havenít let it pass us by. Weíve had amazing celebrations. Thereís so much love that goes around here and so much appreciation on a daily basis that we get to actually do what we love doing. I think thatís what Iím most proud of, that none of the people around me have taken anything thatís happened to us for granted.

(Page 6 of 6)

As far as what I would most like to forget, if I didnít know better, Iíd say certain relationships. But I know that Iím going to end up writing about them and learning from them and learning lessons. So even the worst things that happen to you end up being something.

Some of the most pain and rejection that Iíve ever felt produced a song called Mean that I canít stop smiling when Iím singing. So seeing that happen makes me feel very strange about regrets and having them, because a lot of times they end up being the best thing that happens to you. You just donít know it at the time.

You have accomplished many things in life so far while still being so young. Do you have another goal or accomplishment that you want to achieve?

Theresa Trousdale, 19, River Grove, Ill.

Oh, yeah. Weíre playing in eight stadiums in this tour. Iíd really like for those shows to have people walking away really, really entertained. When you have that many people together, thatís just crazy to me, that so many people want to go see one concert. So I really hope that they like what they see and they like what they hear. I hope that they feel like we really, really tried to put on a great show for them. Because thatís all Iím thinking about.

And Iíd really like to, I donít know, go to the Grammys again?

You're voicing a character for an upcoming animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. Have you enjoyed that?

USA WEEKEND

Oh, yeah! Thatís been a really fun experience. I think theyíre going to put together a really, really beautiful movie. Itís a wonderful story, and I love having a part in it.
This is really wonderful, because the voiceover stuff you can do anywhere, in any studio. It just takes a few hours, every time you go in and do it. And I love the part, because it wasnít in the original book, The Lorax. But Dr. Seuss wrote the book for his wife, and his wifeís name was Audrey.

The Audrey character is a girl whoís sort of the catalyst for the main character, Ted, to save these truffula trees. Sheís obsessed with them and she loves them and she tells them the story of what they are. Theyíre this forgotten thing that no one in society knows about Ė trees. People have long forgotten trees except for her.

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